They came by the dozens on Wednesday to pick up items on their holiday shopping lists and to say goodbye to a place that has been beloved by generations.
George Traverso, tall and dressed smartly in an apron and tie, greeted them all warmly, many with hugs, as he rang up purchases at the Fountaingrove store that bears his family's name.
"It's a sad ending to a long run," he said, referring to the store closing next week after nearly 90 years in operation.
Wednesday was the final day customers could go to Traverso's Gourmet Foods to pick up cartons of holiday raviolis or purchase made-to-order sandwiches, including those made by Elena Colombana, who has worked at Traverso's for 22 years.
Colombana fought back tears as she accepted hugs from customers. The 69-year-old Santa Rosa woman said she has no idea what she'll do after next Wednesday, when the deli closes for good.
"This is my life," she said. "I love doing what I'm doing."
She and the store's five other employees are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
But with only four years under his belt, Fred Thumhart said he hadn't worked there long enough to be vested.
Thumhart, who is married and has a three-year-old daughter, said he'll take some time before he looks for another job.
"There's nothing easy about it," he said. "I know it wasn't easy for the family to close the store."
Charlie Traverso and his sons, Louis and Rico, opened the gourmet food and wine store in Santa Rosa near Railroad Square in 1922. The store moved downtown in 1973 and relocated to its Fountaingrove location in 2009.
The family last month announced plans to sell the market to a San Rafael couple, who planned to operate the market in a similar theme but with a different name. But that deal fell through.
Michael Traverso, George's son, said others have expressed an interest in purchasing the business and continuing to run it as a market and deli. But barring a last minute deal, everything in the store will be liquidated, starting on Friday when many items will be marked down for clearance.
Michael Traverso said that no matter what, the Traverso name will not be sold.
"It's our history. It's like selling ourselves," he said.
Several customers on Wednesday expressed sadness about the store's closure.
Clutching a bag of sliced meats, Richard Herrero said he first started patronizing Traverso's after he returned to the United States from the war in Vietnam and moved to Santa Rosa.
He said the market "reminds me of better times and better ways of doing business."
Hannelore Hogendijk credited the Traversos for introducing her to her favorite brand of olive oil. She bought two bottles at the store on Wednesday.
"When you walked into that downtown store, the smell of salame and ham, it was a part of Santa Rosa history," she said.
Santa Rosa dentist David Harris, who stocked up on alcohol Wednesday, compared Traverso's to the sitcom "Cheers."
"You can buy booze anywhere, but here, they know your name," he said.
George Traverso said he's unsure what comes next for him. He mentioned teaching and volunteering, including playing the accordion at nursing homes.