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How Cool is your Safeway?


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If you live near one of the big, newly remodeled Safeways, you might find yourself carrying on at cocktail parties about the new sushi bar at your store. Or how you tasted wine and chatted with the winemaker, your half-full grocery cart parked just outside the velvet rope of the new wine bar. Maybe you’ll regale your listeners with your adventures of choosing just the right roasted nuts from the nut bar.

Well, la-di-da. Those of us who live near an old-school Safeway are sick of hearing it. Not all Safeways are created equal. In fact—through what is no doubt a complicated set of calculations involving income levels, store size, and local competitors—they’re quite different, as shown by a comparison of stores from opposite ends of the spectrum.

East First Street, Livermore Welcome to what is basically a Safeway mall, with Jamba Juice, an Internet café, Starbucks, panini sandwiches, various bars (sushi, wine, nut, and soup), refrigerated wine cellar (can you say 1999 Ridge Monte Bello at $159.99?), artisan bread counter, grinders to make fresh peanut butter, mood lighting, plus all the fluorescent-colored junk food we’ve come to expect in an American grocery store. The Pleasanton-based company hopes to upgrade most of its stores to this “lifestyle store” model by 2010.

Patterson Boulevard, Pleasant Hill Updating this location is obviously not first on Safeway’s to-do list. Changes to this starkly lit store have been minimal and include the stocking of a few bedraggled stalks of organic broccoli thrown into an ice-cooled case. With a merchandising scheme reminiscent of the Soviet Union, the store doesn’t offer much of a fresh meat or fish selection, yet it sells 37 different kinds of hot dogs and 67 kinds of air fresheners, not counting scented candles. Even the antiquated bakery seems picked over, with many shelves empty, as though the staff hope it’ll turn into a sushi bar before they have to make another batch of muffins.

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