LANHAM, Md. — The “social Safeway” in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., just got more sociable with the store's grand reopening earlier this month.
As a hub and meeting place for Georgetown locals, the so-called “social” Safeway — a 48,000-square-foot store that was 30 years old when it closed in late April 2009 — reopened earlier this month as a 71,000-square-foot lifestyle store.
It is the largest store in Safeway's Eastern division and the only store in the division that offers every amenity in the lifestyle package (other than a juice bar), including a wine cellar, gelato bar, nut bar, plus a lounge with indoor and outdoor seating.
Because the property is on a grade, the store — originally set back from the street with a parking lot in front — was moved to the second level of a new building on the same site, with several leased shops scheduled to operate below it at street level, Greg TenEyck, the chain's director of public and government affairs, told SN. And where the old store had a suburban look, the new store has a more urban feel, fronting on Wisconsin Avenue with parking below and on a second level in back.
The nickname of “social Safeway” was given by local residents, he explained. “Of the 16 Safeways in the District, several have nicknames — one in the downtown area where people like the way it looks was dubbed the ‘sexy’ Safeway; another in the Watergate complex that has a lot of older customers is the ‘senior’ Safeway; and one that's hard to see from the main road is the ‘secret’ Safeway.”
The store is housed in a brick building, in keeping with the look of the neighborhood, with Safeway's logo and a row of broad windows looking into the store indicating there is a supermarket at the location, TenEyck pointed out.
Customers who take the escalator or elevator from the street or underground parking lot up to the store find themselves facing the large wine and beer section just inside the checkstands, extending from one side of the store to the other, offering 2,500 different types of wine, including some in a walk-in cooler, and 400 varieties of beer, TenEyck said — the largest selection in the city, he added.
“This store has always done a big wine business because of its location, and it expects to continue to do a lot of business in that category,” he noted.
The store features two wine stewards to assist customers.
On the left side of the wine section is a 24-foot fromagerie featuring approximately 250 varieties of cheese, including some flown in from Europe, TenEyck said, with a cheese expert on duty to help people make their selections, to place special orders or to offer samples.
Adjacent to the cheese shop — and extending around toward the back of the store — is a series of fresh food counters, with a large Starbucks cafe occupying one corner, with indoor and outdoor seating.
The fresh side of the store is almost like a separate room, TenEyck said, with the variety of counters, a gas-burning fireplace, two high-definition televisions and complimentary WiFi. The windows along the side of the store, which look out over the store front on Wisconsin Avenue, are designed to let light in without letting heat out, Ten Eyck added.
Just past the fromagerie is a fresh sushi bar with stools for customers; a gelato bar featuring 24 flavors; a scratch pizza counter with a brick oven, where pizza is available whole or by the slice; and an “At Your Table” deli section that offers the chain's Signature sandwiches, plus an expanded assortment of heat-and-eat meals, salads and side dishes, “where we do a lot of sampling,” TenEyck said.
At the end of the fresh food run is a service counter featuring Asher's chocolates, a local favorite, that includes such offerings as almond bark, chocolate-covered pretzels and nonpareils.
In the back corner of the store is the bakery, featuring an open-flame hearth oven for baking artisan breads, plus facilities for a scratch bakery for doughnuts, bagels and patisserie-like desserts, TenEyck noted.
The store's back wall features a conventional dairy case; a 24-hour pharmacy, which is a first for the area, TenEyck said; and meat and seafood service counters. The store offers shoppers the option of having any fresh meat and seafood item seasoned or marinated at no cost.
Along the store's other side is produce, featuring approximately 1,200 items, including 160 organic selections in a separate section.
At the end of the produce section, near the front of the store, is the floral department and also a nut bar with 40 different types of nuts, all of which can be ground into fresh nut butters or spreads.
The Georgetown store is the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) supermarket in the District of Columbia and Safeway's second LEED-certified store (the first being in Santa Cruz, Calif.).
Safeway's Eastern division operates 173 stores, including 73 Safeways in Maryland, 42 in Virginia, 16 in the District of Columbia and five in Delaware, plus 37 Genuardi's Markets in southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.