Eighty-seven years after founding its first grocery store in Berkeley, the Andronico’s name will disappear for good by the end of 2016, after being acquired by Safeway.
Safeway is buying Andronico’s Community Markets, according to both companies, and Andronico’s five stores will be renamed Safeway Community Markets. Andronico’s two stores in Berkeley, and its other three — in San Francisco, San Anselmo and Los Altos — are slated to undergo the transition in December and each store will be closed for a short period of time during the changeover.
No jobs will be lost as a result of the purchase, said Andronico’s CEO Suzy Monford, who told Berkeleyside that the union that represents both Safeway and Andronico’s staff “wholeheartedly supports” the move, and that she herself is delighted with the development. Monford said there were around 350-400 employees in total across the five stores, with 35 in the group’s corporate office.
In a statement released to Berkeleyside by Safeway, the grocery giant said Andronico’s approached Safeway earlier this year about purchasing their stores “with the goal of preserving union jobs and keeping the stores operating in the same friendly, local way their customers have come to enjoy.”
Andronico’s, which was founded in Berkeley in 1929 — and at its peak had 14 stores in the Bay Area — declared bankruptcy in August 2011 and was bought by Renovo Capital, along with A.G. Ferrari, another local food group.
Wednesday morning, representatives from Safeway, along with Monford, were on the grocery market floor in Berkeley’s two stores talking to staff about the news and its implications.
Monford, who has been at the helm at Andronico’s for less than two years, said the rebranded Safeway Community Markets would be a special niche within Safeway’s NorCal division.
“The intention is to keep what is unique about Andronico’s, starting with the people,” she said. “I am so, so proud of all the work the team has done. I think we have innovated more in the last year than in the last 50 years,” she added, mentioning in-store initiatives such as the Fit Market and Instacart shopping. “It’s what made us a hot acquisition.”
Monford said Andronico’s had been “completely turned around” and had “rebounded out of bankruptcy” with improved market share and profits. “It was a good time to consider the future,” she said. As a privately owned company, Andronico’s does not release details of its finances. Safeway is part of the privately owned Albertsons.
Monford also stressed that aspects of Andronico’s appreciated by customers, like its prepared foods, its deli and cheese shop, and the fact it is a certified butcher, would all remain. Its emphasis on local sourcing would also be maintained under new ownership, she said. “We have been championing local before it was a thing.” Citing Safeway’s stated goals of providing quality and value, she said: “The cool thing is they can do all that while also offering best value.”
In its statement, Safeway echoed Monford, writing: “Andronico’s Community Markets have developed a well-respected brand and loyal customer base, and we are committed to keeping the local heritage alive… Andronico’s employees will continue working in their current assignments with their same union pay rates and benefits. Each store will be closed for a short period of time once the transaction closes sometime in December. The evolution of these stores will give customers new everyday low prices, and further expand the local, fresh and organic options they have come to expect at both Andronico’s and Safeway.”
An employee at Andronico’s on Shattuck Avenue told a Berkeleyside reader in the store Wednesday morning that they were informed Tuesday night that the stores had been bought by Safeway. She said that they had been told there would be no layoffs, and that the news had come as a total surprise.
Andronico’s used to have four stores in the city where it was founded. Following its bankruptcy and regrouping, the group closed its stores on University Avenue and on Telegraph Avenue in 2011, and invested in the North Berkeley store with a full makeover. It unveiled its newly rejuvenated store there in November 2012. It went on to remodel its Solano Avenue store in 2013.
The Andronico’s purchase means that there will be two Safeway stores within about a block of each other in North Berkeley. Asked what the implications of that proximity might be, Monford said via email: “Both of our stores in Berkeley are near/next to a traditional Safeway. As “Safeway Community Markets” our Andronico’s Community Markets stores will continue to provide a unique range of products, including from-scratch prepared foods, bakery, cheese shop, deli, specialty meats and seafood. But, most importantly, the new Safeway Community Markets will still have the same team of employees that staff the Andronico’s Community Markets store today. In that way, the neighborhood shop is maintained and will thrive into the future — all the while offering the same inspiring mix of products at an even better value.”
According to Supermarket News, Safeway, which completed its merger with Albertsons last year, also recently purchased G&G Supermarkets and said it would hire all 250 G&G employees from the company’s two stores located in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.
Locally, Safeway has in the past few years rebuilt and improved its stores in North Berkeley, on the Berkeley-Oakland border at Claremont and College, and in North Oakland at Pleasant Valley Road and Broadway.
This story was updated after publication with an additional answer from Andronico’s CEO Suzy Monford about the future proximity of two Safeway stores.
New Whole Foods a wake-up call for Andronico’s [11.04.14]
Andronico’s unveils rejuvenated Gourmet Ghetto store (11.19.12]
Infusion of money should spiff up remaining Andronico’s [11.30.11]
Andronico’s on Telegraph Avenue to close [11.25.11]
Andronico’s to shutter University Avenue store [10.17.11]
Andronico’s and A.G. Ferrari saved from the brink [10.12.11]
Andronico’s files for bankruptcy [08.22.11]
Andronico’s plans recapitalization with new lenders and investors [05.25.11]
Four Berkeley Andronico’s face difficult conditions [05.24.11]
A.G. Ferrari closes Berkeley store, company bankrupt [04.05.11]