Safeway's new store opens with ribbon cutting, fanfareWell before today's 8 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, virtually every spot in the new Safeway's 288-space parking lot was occupied.

Inside, the store was festooned with banners, and the 17-member Astoria High School Jazz Band serenaded the crowd, which included not only dozens of regular shoppers, but the Scandinavian Festival court, the Regatta Ambassadors, the entire Astoria City Council, and members of the Clatsop County Commission, the Astoria Port Commission and many other officials.

And one young person was eager to get his name in the Astoria history books.

Keith Butenshon of Astoria said his son Skyler, 14, ran into the store as the doors opened this morning and was delighted to secure the honor of being the first customer.

"He ran in and grabbed a pack of chewing gum," said Butenshon, noting that Skyler's swift purchase beat a like-minded adult who settled for second place at the check-out. "His receipt read 5:51 a.m."

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

A bunny adds to the festivities of the Safeway Grand opening today, handing out free lip balm to customers.The fleet-footed Skyler, son of Keith and Genevieve Butenshon, is a freshman at Astoria High School.

State Rep. Betsy Johnson also arrived well ahead of time. "This is dazzling," she said. "Any morning that starts with a hug from the Easter Bunny, Starbuck's coffee and a free Scratch-It ticket has got to be a good day," she said, adding that Safeway offers family wage jobs with benefits, the type communities want to attract.

"It's a very big day for Astoria," said Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen. "We've worked hard. Safeway's been here 71 years, and it's just moving a neighbor to a bigger house, but it's a beautiful home for them. I'm very proud to represent the city and cut the ribbon for the new Safeway store."

Van Dusen presented a pewter plate engraved with the city's logo to Safeway's Lyle Waterman, division president for Oregon and Southwest Washington.

"We threw a party and everybody came," Waterman said. He recalled that Safeway has been wanting a new store in Astoria for many years and this giant one is a "new concept."

"As we go into the future, all Safeway stores will look like this - and I'm talking about all over North America."

State Sen. Joan Dukes said although she misses Skip Hauke's Sentry Market that had occupied the site, she's excited about the new Safeway, which will provide much needed additional jobs. She said it's been a long time since Astoria had a really modern store. She described Safeway as a really good partner with the community.

Other dignitaries included Dan Bartlett, Astoria's city manager, and Allen Geertz, president of the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce. Safeway spokeswoman Bridget Flanagan, acting as master of ceremonies, presented checks to local food banks: $500 to the Astoria Food Pantry, represented by Peg Christie, and $1,000 to Christy Ashley of Clatsop Community Action.

Elaine Webb, who lives in Fernhill east of Astoria, was leaving with her groceries as many were arriving. She was on her way to work, and noted that the new location is much more convenient. "Oh, yes, 1,000 times better," she said.

"It's like Disneyland," said Sharon Davis of Astoria. "I'm impressed with the flower selection, and with all the olives there are, and the amazing selection of cheeses and all the prepared foods. It blows you away," she said.

Lylla Gaebel, a member of the Clatsop County Commission, was wheeling her granddaughter in a grocery cart designed to look like a pickup truck. "She's excited," Gaebel said, "and the store is a great opportunity for Astoria and the surrounding area."

"It's a great looking store, they've done a great job on it," added Loran Mathews, who represents the east side on the Astoria City Council said. "It blends in really well with the neighborhood."

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