The End of an Era: Safeway Closes After 30 Years in Tenleytown

by: Zach Blank

At the end of March, Safeway, Inc. announced that, 30 years after its opening, the grocery store’s Tenleytown location would be closing within a month. This news was met with astonishment from many–and quite a few tears. Safeway patrons cherished this “secret” store; from its never-ending stock of freshly-made meals to its department of sartorial excellence in the apparel of local sports teams, the chain supplied it all.

For many of Safeway’s patrons, the news of the store’s closing was totally unexpected. Laura Singletary, a frequenter of the store, was “really disappointed” when she heard the store was closing. “I read it in the paper yesterday and I knew nothing about it,” she said. “The store has always seemed quite busy and popular to me, and the staff are really nice so I was just really surprised by what I heard,” Singletary added. Steve Holt “didn’t know what to feel” about the store’s closing. “This is my first time here,” he informed me, “a friend told me that the store was closing and I heard that they had some good deals so I came to shop.” Some customers blamed GDS for the hasty departure of their beloved store. Lloyd Hamilton, who had been a regular shopper at the Safeway for nearly 10 years, believed that GDS students diminish the average purchase price at the store, a metric which he thought to be important in determining its success. “As you know, GDS does not have a cafeteria, so students either bring lunch to school or come to Safeway,” he said. “And the GDS kids come in here at lunchtime and pay a buck or two for something and drag down the average purchase price,” Hamilton added. Esther Phillips thought that GDS had disrespected senior citizens in its decision to buy the Safeway property and tear down the store. “What benefits do senior citizens have? No benefits,” she said. “I have brought people here that live in Friendship Terrace that don’t have any other ways of getting here, and now all of that is gone. Now the only other option nearby to go get groceries is Whole Foods, and that is very un-affordable,” Phillips said, adding that, “the demographics of neighboring people aren’t being taken into consideration when GDS makes these types of decisions…There are other ways of doing things besides just tearing down stores.” The opinions of most of the shoppers in the store generally pointed towards a mutual disbelief in the store’s closing.

For the staff at Safeway, the store’s exit from Tenleytown is bittersweet. Ed Jackson, who had only worked at that location for three weeks, said that he was “actually kind of excited” about the store’s closing. “I’m going to get transferred to a store that’s closer to me, so that will be more convenient,” he said. Willy Greene, who had worked at the store for three years, had mixed emotions about Safeway’s closing. “I’m going to miss the crew I work with because we’re like a family and everything but I’m boosted because I’ll get to go to the store of my picking when we close,” he said. Greene is even going to miss us GDS kids, too: “The students come here and get their food in the evening…We know they’re always going to come through,” he said proudly.

For members of the GDS community, Safeway’s adieu marks the end of a well-fed era. Jazz teacher Brad Linde proclaimed that Safeway’s closing is “a freakin’ shame.” “Safeway is my second favorite restaurant in the area after the vending machine in the Internet Cafe,” he he said, adding, “I’ll be sad to see it go and I hope that the community can survive without it.” Freshman Alan Goldfarb believed that the store’s closing was a bit premature: “I could be wrong, but maybe they could have kept it open a little while longer,” he commented. “The vending machines just don’t have as much variety. I’m sad to see it go.”

The Tenleytown Safeway has affected many lives, and its departure leaves few unwounded. While we wave goodbye to Ted the cashier, last-minute lunches and buy-one-get-one-free boxes of donuts, shoppers, employees, and GDS students can all agree on one thing: the address 4203 Davenport Street NW will always have a special place in our hearts.

Thank you, Safeway.