Confirming a Berkeleyside story from February, Safeway’s Northern California division president Brad Street told Berkeleyside this week that the supermarket operator intends to bring back the Andronico’s Community Markets name by the end of the year.
The change will go beyond just branding, he said. As part of the conversion, the division will rename four existing Safeway Community Markets in the Bay Area as Andronico’s, and offer more local food options than what is currently sold and what is available through larger Safeway supermarkets.
The markets will also have upscale deli options and hot food bars and employ in-store chefs who will cook meals on premises daily. The hot bar will include sautéed spinach with garlic and mushrooms, buffalo-roasted cauliflower and lemon rice. Other options will include cage-free egg potato salad and fresh fruit tarts, store-made chocolate mousse and apricot mint wild rice salad. Customers should see a return of some of Andronico’s favorite offerings such as Beckmann’s pies and store-baked pumpkin breads.
“This is a big opportunity to make changes to enhance the customer experience,” said Street. “It opens up a different door [for consumers] than we can with the Safeway brand, to create an eclectic and upbeat neighborhood hub.”
Street said that each of the Andronico’s Community Markets will have between 2,000 and 3,000 new or different items than larger, regular Safeway supermarkets. Duplicate items might be reduced to free up shelf space for a wider selection of specialty foods, gourmet cheeses, desserts and wines. The selection will also be tailored to the local stores, so a Berkeley Andronico’s may have different items than other Andronico’s locations. The stores will, however, all accept Safeway Club Cards and honor coupons and other promotions, if the markets sell those items.
“Operating independent from Safeway but at the same time having the support and cost savings [will allow us to] be more nimble in the markets we operate in,” said Street. “It’s going to feel much more like a neighborhood store where decisions are made locally, rather than a big corporate store.”
In a follow-up email, Safeway spokesperson Wendy Gutshall added: “Andronico’s stores will carry more local choices, natural groceries, specialty items and inspired made-from-scratch meals and treats. The product mix and assortment will vary by store location. The stores will also offer more veggie and vegan options, including assorted vegan prepackaged salads and wraps. The focus for deli is healthier more vegetable forward dishes.”
In late 2016, Safeway Inc., a subsidiary of Albertsons, bought the local, family-owned chain of markets that at its largest included 14 stores across the Bay Area. Safeway switched the name to Safeway Community Markets in 2017. There are currently four Safeway Community Markets, including two in Berkeley — one on Solano Avenue and the other on Shattuck Avenue — and two more in Los Altos and San Anselmo. Andronico’s Community Markets currently operate in San Francisco’s Sunset District and a location in Monterey, which opened in January. Another Andronico’s location in the Richmond District of San Francisco will open sometime in early 2020 and take the place of a former Fresh & Easy supermarket, according to Street.
Safeway never changed the Andronico’s signage at the Sunset location and received requests from employees and consumers to keep it. When the company mulled what to call a new location in the Nob Hill neighborhood of Monterey, it wanted a “little more chef-inspired, foodie-type store” and decided to call it Andronico’s.
As part of deciding whether to revert all if its Safeway Community Markets back to the original Andronico’s name, the division held an all-day focus group of store managers, many of whom stayed on after Safeway bought Andronico’s. The discussion focused on what had gone well and what hadn’t during the transition. Street wouldn’t comment if the markets had disappointed Safeway in terms of sales since it bought the struggling family business. He did say that in some areas the division has performed well while in others it had not. He said that consumer research has shown that people like the market’s pricing and promotions through Safeway, but miss some of the unique offerings that made Andronico’s special.