As of Wednesday morning, the transformation of the former Andronico’s Community Markets into Safeway-branded stores — as first reported by Berkeleyside in November 2016 — is now complete. The new Safeway Community Markets, at 1550 Shattuck Ave. and 1850 Solano Ave., held small grand opening celebrations this morning.
Representatives from Safeway’s charitable arm, The Safeway Foundation, and the store managers were on site at both stores to present $5,000 checks to local nonprofits Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) and the Center for Ecoliteracy. The Safeway Foundation is also making donations to nonprofits in Los Altos and San Anselmo, where its two other Community Markets (formerly Andronico’s) stores open today.
(A fifth location, in San Francisco, is also open, but is continuing to operate as Andronico’s Community Markets; its name will transition to Safeway Community Markets, “pursuant to obtaining the necessary formula retail permits,” according to Safeway spokesperson Wendy Gutshall.)
The donations are part of a gesture to build a bridge between the large grocery company (Safeway itself is part of Albertsons Companies) and the Berkeley community.
Indeed, Safeway has said, in a statement, that it intends to “keep alive the heritage of a local specialty market,” with its new Community Markets stores. It has kept the layout of the Andronico’s stores intact, as well as much of the original stores’ “unique offerings,” said Safeway in the statement.
“These stores will resonate well with the needs and wants of the community,” said Tom Schwilke, the president of Safeway Northern California, in the statement. “Customers will find tons of local, fresh and organic options with everyday low prices.”
Safeway Community Markets offer products such as Mary’s Free Range Chicken and they have retained the stores’ extensive bulk sections, certified butchers and full-service delis. The Shattuck Avenue store has an “acai bar.”
Both locations also include an expanded wine, liquor and sake section, plus local craft beer.
In November, Andronico’s CEO Suzy Monford told Berkeleyside that no jobs would be lost as a result of the purchase, and that the union representing both Safeway and Andronico’s staff “wholeheartedly support[ed]” the move.
Gutshall told Nosh that the store has retained more than 350 of Andronico’s union employees across its Community Market stores.
Safeway intends for the Community Markets brand to function as a locally focused niche within the larger Safeway brand, and, as such, also intend to keep both Community Markets, as well as the neighboring traditional Safeway stores, open.
“We continue to grow and we have invested more than a million dollars into the new Safeway Community Markets in Berkeley,” said Gutshall. “Customers will find these stores are common to Safeway’s values and have unique offerings, including: in-store prepared entrees from our skilled chefs, large full-service butcher block with certified Angus beef, a greater offering of organic produce, and a different product assortment of specialty items. In addition, the stores offer full-service catering with fresh and seasonal menus made by our trained chefs in our kitchens.”
In November, Andronico’s also told Berkeleyside that the proximity between the stores would not be a problem: “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.”
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.
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.
Its sale was announced in November, and Andronico’s held its final days of operation in January, ending with an “everything must go” sale in January.
Correction: This story was updated after publication to correct the fact that the San Francisco Community Markets store is, in fact, open.