Not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of the new Safeway, set to open Wednesday, 20 blocks to the east of its present site. For many shoppers, the old store's convenient downtown location will be hard to give up. And some members of the business community are concerned that its closure, and the expanded offerings at the new store, could be bad for their businesses.
"Safeway is a destination," said Chuck Meyer, co-owner of The Compleat Photographer at 14th and Exchange streets. "People go to Safeway. They don't just walk by and decide to buy something."
Although he doesn't expect the new Safeway to have much of an effect on his own business, Meyer predicts "ministrip malls" will pop up around it in the next five years and "shift the downtown a little."
And he said when the North Coast Fred Meyer opened, it devastated downtown Warrenton the first year. "It was a ghost town," he said. "But it was back to normal three years later for those who survived."
Astoria Safeway facts75 new jobs, 150 employees
10 check stands
288 parking spaces, including 8 handicap spaces
Automated can and bottle return
50,000 items in stock
58,500 square feet
Store and contents valued at over $9 million
Store manager: Jana Chilson
Assistant manager: Gallus Crook
120 Safeway stores in Oregon, 12,000 employees, Oregon's fourth largest employerLinda Mathis, who opened a full-service florist shop, Laurelwood Designs, at the end of September at 1390 Duane Street, just a block away from the old Safeway, said she's somewhat concerned about Safeway's large floral department.
"There is a convenience of, 'Well, I'm at Safeway, I'll just grab those tulips.' I understand that. I've done it myself," she said. "But there's also a positive aspect, it does get people to think more about flowers."
Neil Jenson is a mechanic who runs his business out of a rented bay at the Highway 76 gas station at 3108 Marine Drive, a block away from the new Safeway. He thinks it's the end of the road for the gas station, which is owned by Niemi Oil and has been there for more than 60 years.
"It'll probably shut down the gas pumps," Jenson said. "They sell cheaper than we can buy. They sell it for less than they buy it for."
A few blocks away at 2845 Marine Drive, Home Baking Company owners Kathy and Jim Tilander are optimistic. The bakery, known for its "Astoria cinnamon toast" and cardamom braids, was founded in 1910 by Jim Tilander's grandfather, who came here from Finland.
"When Fred Meyer and Thriftway and Costco opened, there was a drop in our business - and then they came back and said theirs was good, but ours was better," Kathy Tilander said. Her customers are loyal. "If you've ever been by here in the morning, we're full to the rafters with seniors having coffee and doughnuts and solving the world's problems," Tillander said.
Roger Rocka, executive director of the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, said he's watchful but hopeful. "If you're a shopper it's really cool. If you're the owner of a florist shop or a drug store, it's going to be interesting." But Rocka said he's excited about the possibilities of the old Safeway site on Duane Street, which he said could provide a center for downtown.
The city of Astoria is in the process of buying the Duane Street property from Safeway, with the goal of seeing it redeveloped into an attractive focal point for downtown. In the meantime, the block will temporarily be converted into a city-run parking lot.
"It's going to leave a little bit of a hole," Todd Scott, Astoria's community development director, said of Safeway's departure from downtown, "but the city's dedicated to filling that with something the community has said they want."