The Safeway at Petworth celebrated its grand opening on June 28, bringing the community a sustainable new store nearly three times the size of the previous grocery. The long-awaited structure, developed by Duball LLC, measures more than 62,000 square feet and serves as the anchor for a mixed-use project, providing a friendlier and more accessible urban shopping setting.

Many Washingtonians remember how inadequate the old Safeway store was, especially when compared to several other newly remodeled ones in areas where a high concentration of Whites in the District live. “I used to work off Wisconsin Avenue. The Safeway store there was state-of-the-art. Even the one near my place in the Capitol Hill area was upgraded years ago when the area began to gentrify,” said Rhonda Newton, a mother of three. “It seemed at this Safeway they waited until the area gentrified before it invested money to bring life into this store. It’s beautiful though.”

Newton’s assessment echoed that of other nearby residents. “We watched all these new high-end apartment buildings being built while we waited and waited decades for a remodeled store,” said Lolita Little, a fifth-generation Washingtonian. “We knew it was coming. If Safeway wanted to compete with Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Giant, and Trader Joe’s it had to upgrade. These stores are not here because of Black folks. They are here because of White folks and their money is back.”

Safeway officials view the delayed process differently. “What I believe people may be confusing is that we had numerous conversations with the community about our desire to redevelop the store for several years, some going back before the market tanked in 2006 or 2007,” said Craig Murkle, manager, public affairs and government relations at Safeway Stores.

“We had to submit a planned unit development in order to build this store as part of a mixed-use project on the site which, in itself, takes a lot of time to achieve,” Murkle further explained. “Additionally, part of the time was spent attempting to identify a developer who was able to take on this project and obtain the financing needed to do it. The recession made it more challenging, but we were able to move rather swiftly through the process once we partnered with Duball.”

The store carries more variety and quality, with over 35,000 items, twice what the old store carried. Its features include a sushi bar, a cheese monger, wine steward, and Starbucks. The expanded produce section will feature 1200 items, including a bulk selection and approximately 125 different organic products.

The store’s scratch bakery bakes more than 15 varieties of breads and rolls each day. It will also feature Taste of Safeway offerings daily in the store, and offer a variety of community events.

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO