Safeway and Albertsons Companies willing to put small businesses ‘out of business’

By Peter Rosenstein - May 30, 2017 12:00 am

The Safeway at 1701 Corcoran Street, NW in the District of Columbia has made application for a license to sell beer and wine. This the Safeway long known as the ‘Soviet Safeway’ for its long lines and empty shelves. Possibly a store our current President might have been comfortable shopping in.

One must question both the need and logic for this application considering in the same intersection there are already two other stores selling wine and beer. Safeway is on the Northwest corner. On the Southwest corner is Cairo Wine and Liquors and Prego is on the Southeast corner. Then there is another liquor store one block north on 17th street. Adding wine and beer to what is sold at Safeway would have a clear negative impact on these small businesses who pay their taxes and have served the neighborhood well for many years.

So in pursuit of an answer to the question of why they would be doing this I began with the store manager. She wouldn’t give me an answer but graciously gave me the telephone number for her District Manager, Ed Tippett. He never responded to my call but I did receive a call from Beth Goldberg, Safeway’s Eastern Division Sr. Manager, Community & Public Affairs. She suggested any questions should be put into an email. Following are my questions and her generally non-responsive answers.

1. Who made the initial decision to request this change to allow Safeway to sell wine and beer and what was the reason for this? At Safeway and Albertsons Companies, providing the products our customers want is one of our highest priorities, so we constantly look for ways that we can provide great service and value to our customers. Expanding our offerings of a variety of products is one way that we can accomplish that. Across the country, our stores offer quality wine and beer at many of locations. It is our hope to extend the same convenience and value to our Corcoran Street store shoppers.

2. At one time this Safeway was known as the one that earned the most income per square foot of any in the District. Is that still the case and if not which store now holds that honor and how does this store compare? Because we are privately held, we do not disclose financials for individual locations.

3. Did Safeway take into consideration when making this request the fact that there are two stores, small long-time neighborhood businesses, selling wine and beer on the same intersection as the Safeway at 17th and Corcoran, and another store one block away also selling wine and beer? Our customers always come first – from product selection to variety to service. We strive to run really great stores, and in most of our formats, wine and beer are part of that equation.

4. When Safeway makes these kind of decisions do you take into consideration other small businesses in the neighborhood and the impact you would have on them if this new policy is approved? Our customers always come first – from product selection to variety to service. We strive to run really great stores, and in most of our formats, wine and beer are part of that equation.

5. What is the per-hour wage you now pay your cashiers who work in the District of Columbia stores? While we don’t disclose hourly wage ranges, we can assure you that we are competitive and follow union contract rates of pay.

6. The Safeway currently has no room for additional shelves –and there is no possibility of expansion. What current items will be discontinued to make room for the wine and beer you plan to sell? Our team is always adjusting our in-store offerings with a view toward providing our customers the products and services they are most interested in. The Corcoran street store is currently under renovations which will result in more shelf space for the products our customers most want. If and when we receive approval for the license, our team will incorporate these new products onto our shelves in a way that makes it easy for our customers to find the products they want.

One question her responses led me to wish I had asked is how Safeway and Albertsons Companies determined wine and beer are one of the products their customers ‘are most interested in’? Did they take a survey? I am in this Safeway about three times a week and was never asked. My admittedly non-scientific survey of my neighbors in the community showed none of them were ever asked. In fact my assumption from their responses to me was if asked by Safeway what they would want most their answer would be; open more registers when the lines get long, keep the shelves fully stocked with the goods they currently sell, keep the store cleaner, and be a better ‘neighbor’ to the community.

So I can only conclude the policy of Safeway and Albertsons companies is ‘small neighborhood businesses be damned’, it’s all about us. My hope is the powers that be in the District of Columbia; including the ANC, the Mayor and the ABC Board, will take a careful look at this application to allow Safeway to sell beer and wine. Once they do I think rejecting it would be the right thing to do sending a clear signal that contrary to Safeway and Albertsons Companies they care about the community and small businesses in the District.

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