About 8:30 a.m., an elderly, diminutive couple walks in the front door, and there is an immediate reaction. “Hi, Mike. Hi, Wanda,” say two of the regulars closest to the front door.
Mike and Wanda Luciani, as expected, have arrived. There are very few weekday mornings they don’t. They are among the most faithful — and arguably the most popular — people to frequent Barista’s at that time of day.
As Wanda makes her way to one of the vacant tables lining the eastern glass wall, Mike, the more outgoing of the two, calls out “good morning” greetings to those already seated or standing in line — and shakes a few hands in the process.
“Tracy is the most friendly town we’ve ever lived in,” Mike said, as he places his order with Shaan Patel, son of proprietors Hus and Nini Patel. “We’ve lived in other towns, but they don’t compare to Tracy.”
Mike, a retired supermarket produce manager, and Wanda, a homemaker, by their regular presence and friendly demeanor, are doing their part to continue what they call the Tracy tradition.
The Lucianis have lived in Tracy for the past 10 years, coming here from Belmont on the San Francisco Peninsula, but they hail from different parts of the world.
Mike, 83, was born in Delhi, a small town in Ontario, Canada. His family ran a small grocery store there, and that’s where Mike learned to handle produce.
“I was actually born across the river in Niagara Falls, N.Y., so I had to choose to be either an American or Canadian,” he said. “I decided to go with the USA.”
He came to California in 1967 to visit a cousin in Riverside. With his experience in the family market, he got a job working in the produce department of an Alpha Beta market and along the way met Wanda. They were soon married.
Wanda, 80, is a native of Pordenone, Italy, a town near Venice. After two of her brothers came to the U.S., she followed them at the age of 24.
After several years in Riverside, Mike and Wanda moved to Belmont when Mike became produce manager for an Alpha Beta store in Redwood City. The small grocery chain was then acquired by Lucky Stores, and Mike was produce manager in Lucky markets in Burlingame, San Bruno and Daly City. He retired in 2003 after 35 years.
“Working in produce can be a strenuous job at times, when you unpack the produce, trim it, wash it and display it,” he said. “But the best part was dealing with the public.”
Mike recalls that one day a nanny from Hillsborough came in the Burlingame store with a young boy in tow. While the woman was shopping, she and the boy became separated.
“I took the boy — he was 4 or 5 years old — to the back room and gave him some hot chocolate,” Mike recalled. “The nanny found a happy kid.”
Mike said that every time the boy came into the store, he headed for the back room for a cup of hot chocolate.
“He turned out to be Nathanial Crosby, Bing’s son,” Mike said with a laugh.
The Lucianis made their way from Belmont to Tracy a decade ago to be near their daughter, Lisa Reichgut, who was working with a firm developing websites.
“We didn’t know about moving to Tracy at first, but the people were so friendly, we soon became glad we did,” Wanda said.
Their daughter and her husband, Steve, have two children, so Mike and Wanda are also close to two of their grandchildren, Zackery, 6, and Austin, 2.
When she arrives at Barista’s, Wanda still has an espresso topped by whipped cream, but Mike no longer drinks coffee.
“It’s now hot chocolate for me,” he explained. “I have a heart condition — two open-heart surgeries to implant six stents in clogged arteries — and spent a couple of days in the Sutter Tracy hospital a month ago. I’m feeling better now.”
Sutter Tracy Community Hospital is hardly strange territory for Mike. He spends seven or more days a month there as a volunteer, helping patients arriving or being discharged.
“And people at the hospital are really friendly,” he said as he sipped his hot chocolate. “That’s the way it is in Tracy.”
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at email@example.com.