Social Safeway—A Little More of Both

There’s been so much hoopla over the new “Social” Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue NW, a visit was necessary. The 71,067 square-foot Georgetown store was designed and built to be the first LEED-certified grocery store in the District of Columbia, and Safeway’s second LEED-certified store (the other being located in Santa Cruz, CA).

To make way for the new Safeway, open to the public since Thursday, May 7, the old building was razed and the new store building constructed directly on Wisconsin Avenue, making it more pedestrian-friendly. The building is two stories with Safeway located on the second level (small retail shops on the street level will open shortly). Via Wisconsin Avenue, from the Safeway lobby, shoppers access the store by escalator, stairs or elevator. The new Georgetown store has ample parking directly underneath with additional open air parking spaces located on a deck at the store’s rear customer entrance.

On to the important things…groceries.

Once inside, you are struck by how big and bright the store is. During opening weekend, Safeway employees handed out roses to every customer, most likely an effort to boost the expanded floral department located at the entrance, but a nice touch never the less. Fruits and vegetables are close at hand, with a large selection of international fruits and vegetables nearby.

At the opposite end of the store is the Starbucks café with room to relax over a latte inside the store and a separate enclosed area as well. This side of the store also houses the sushi bar, salad bar, and freshly prepared food for take-home. That area also encompasses the bread offerings, which is enormous, as well as the bakery.

The new Georgetown Safeway seems to be part old Safeway and part Whole Foods. It has a wide array of organic food products as well as a large supply of traditional groceries (although I was unable to find unsalted pretzels, despite the extensive number of snack offerings). This Safeway has a huge section devoted to wine and beer and a large wine cellar. And for nut lovers there’s an extensive area devoted to them as well as the ability to make your own “nut” butter.

One thought regarding the opening. For a store which boasts its “greenness,” wouldn’t it have made sense to hand out recyclable bags? On a weekend when Safeway and “green” should have been front and center, most customers used their Giant recyclable bags, given out for free in January, to carry out their groceries. Talk about a missed opportunity!

Safeway appears to have hired the friendliest of staffs…from the folks stocking the produce and other food to those serving up the coffee and pouring the wine to the checkout personnel. In general the new Georgetown store is certainly an improvement over the old. But bottom-line…it’s still a grocery store and, thankfully, still very social.

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