Safeway Community Markets Come to North Berkeley

A wave of change has just occurred in North Berkeley that surprises us, has some of us scratching our heads while others may be delighted. Safeway recently bought out the family-owned Andronico’s Markets on Solano Avenue and Shattuck at Cedar, re-branding them as Safeway Community Markets.

In the Gourmet Ghetto, the locale and birthplace of the foodies’ credo of sustainable, organic and local, one might more likely have expected a Whole Foods or a larger version of Berkeley Natural Grocery to step in to fill the needs of the neighborhood’s ethos. But what has happened instead is that Safeway Corporation bought out the two stores just a block away from their long established stores on both streets. How is that sustainable, business smart or useful to local consumers, we must ask?

Andronico’s closed it’s doors in the East Bay for good in January 2016 and reopened on March 1, (with a “soft opening” on Feb. 26), closing for several weeks to install Safeway systems, do minor repairs, stock the store and provide employee training. The stores were in business since 1929, expanding from Berkeley to open 14 stores across the Bay Area, though recently declaring bankruptcy in 2011 on the locations in Berkeley. Regarding the hand-over, CEO for Andronico’s, Suzy Monford, said, “We are most proud of the high retention rate of Andronico’s staff during the transition to Safeway.”

Suzy Monford, CEO of Andronico’s

The two stores in Berkeley, located at 1550 Shattuck Avenue (at Cedar) and 1850 Solano Avenue (at Fresno), have a similar look to the Andronico’s markets they replaced, however, there is an obvious shift to more mainstream products, design elements that include providing more product per square inch and a revision of the products made in the bakery and deli. In addition, the wine and spirits section has changed a bit as have personal body care and household goods inventory. The produce and bulk bins area, too, have had a serious make-over and the offerings may seem similar enough to most shoppers, if not more organized or aesthetically appealing.

Gone are the specialty crackers and gourmet chocolate bars, select high-end vintners, unbleached paper products and sundry artisanal goods. For now. What you will notice is  lower prices overall than Andronico’s and an increase of products from the Safeway Organics line that is more sparse at the other Safeway stores down the street. But if you’re averse to change or just plain disappointed or perplexed, check-out clerks will hand you a request form to fill out with the assurance that they will try their best to bring your favorite products back. They truly do seem sincere in their efforts to retain the loyal customer base of the former Andronico’s.

And something that might impress community minded patrons: During the grand opening celebration of the Berkeley stores on March 1, two local non-profit organizations – Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) and The Center for Ecoliteracy – were each presented with a $5,000 charitable contribution from The Safeway Foundation. Mayor Jesse Arreguin was present for the ribbon cutting and Tom Schwilke, President of Safeway Northern California, said “We are excited to introduce Safeway Community Markets and welcome the employees to the Safeway team. Customers will find tons of local, fresh and organic options with everyday low prices. These stores will resonate well with the needs and wants of the community.”

 

 

 

* All photos courtesy of Safeway*

 

Mary Corbin

Mary Corbin

Mary Corbin is a writer and artist who has lived in Berkeley for 32 years. She is always amazed with finding something new around the next corner while out on a walk, biking in the hills, or chatting with locals about food or fun events around town. Visit her cycling blog at MommaWheelie.com and drop her a line. And view her work as an artist at marycorbinart.blogspot.com
Mary Corbin