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FINALLY! Grocers compete in D.C.

(Published October 21, 2002)

When Giant Food recently opened its new Northeast Washington store, D.C. consumers got more than just another neighborhood supermarket.

Giant’s new site, located essentially across the street from a Safeway store on Rhode Island Avenue, creates the only head-to-head competition in the District of Columbia between the area’s two largest grocery chains.

"I think it will be a good thing," said Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle, commenting on Giant’s new 53,000-square-foot store that opened Oct. 10. "Competition is always good."

Muckle said he especially expects the competition to be good for D.C. consumers, who he said will "absolutely" see special events and specials deals offered only at Safeway’s Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center store in the District to attract shoppers. Giant is offering numerous "grand opening" specials at its new Brentwood store.

Typically, shoppers in suburban Washington can find Safeway and Giant stores located near one another. But in the District, which has relatively few large supermarkets, the two chains’ stores have – until now – controlled the marketplace surrounding their stores. Safeway operates 15 stores in the District, while Giant’s new store is only its fifth.

Giant, founded as a locally owned chain but now owned by a European food company, plans to build another new store in Columbia Heights and to significantly expand its Cleveland Park store on Wisconsin Avenue NW. Giant also is negotiating to build additional stores as part of development projects planned for the former Camp Simms site in Ward 8 and the easternmost end of East Capitol Street in Ward 7.

A Giant store built at Camp Simms, on Alabama Avenue SE, would be in close proximity to California-based Safeway’s newest store at Good Hope Marketplace in Ward 7, but not as close as the two Rhode Island Avenue stores’ locations. Safeway is located at 514 Rhode Island Ave. NE and Giant is located at 1050 Rhode Island Ave. NE, on the other side of the Metrorail tracks.

The impending competition between grocers in Northeast Washington has been apparent to Safeway shoppers, as Giant prepared to become the second retailer to open a "big box" store on the site of the District’s former Brentwood Road vehicle impoundment lot. Home Depot opened its first D.C. store there in June.

Safeway invested about $1.3 million in renovations to its 42,000-square-foot Edgewood store during the past year, Muckle said, including the replacement of most of the nearly 20-year-old store’s refrigerated and frozen cases. A seafood steamer, a rotisserie in the deli department, enlarged floral and produce departments, and a new customer service counter also were added, he said.

Damon Moody, manager of Safeway’s Edgewood store, said he has seen an expected slight decrease in shoppers at his store as nearby residents satisfy their curiosity about the new Giant store. But Moody and Muckle expressed confidence that the Safeway store’s sales would rebound soon, especially with the addition last week of beer and wine sales – items that also are featured at the new Giant store.

In addition to attracting some Safeway shoppers, Giant expects its new Brentwood store to attract many Brookland area residents who previously drove to Maryland to shop at Giant’s Queens Chapel Road store in Mount Rainier, Md. –Kathryn Sinzinger

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator