The Safeway at the Watergate complex will shut its doors Dec. 3.
The announcement comes after months of speculation that the 45-year-old store would close shop because of increased competition following the opening of the more upscale Whole Foods Market at The Avenue, in addition to the Trader Joe’s store on 25th Street. Nearly 1,300 local residents signed a petition to keep Safeway open, citing concerns ranging from affordability to convenience and a desire for brand-name products.
Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle said the store will board up after its lease expires in December, due to issues with the property’s landlords. He said the petition was not given heavy consideration in the corporation’s decision.
“We certainly appreciated people’s support of the store, because obviously there were a lot of regular customers, but at the end of the day, this is a business decision,” he said.
A new lease would bind the grocer for another 20 to 25 years, Muckle said, adding that the “uncertainty was unsettling.” He declined to say if the store’s revenues dropped after Whole Foods opened just a few blocks away.
Trish Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Capri Capital Partners – the group that leases out Safeway’s space – declined to comment.
“It’s the loss of an important choice for neighbors to do their grocery
shopping, especially for senior citizens and people who are on fixed incomes,” Armando Irizarry, who represents the Watergate area on the local Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said.
He said there have been talks to replace Safeway with another grocery store. The ANC will bring up the topic at its meeting in two weeks.
Watergate resident Marija Hughes began collecting signatures in June for the petition sent to Safeway leaders in September. She said the store’s loss would be devastating for the neighborhood, especially the elderly who live in the complex.
“There are a lot of people who are not so affluent,” Hughes said. “Where are these people now going to shop? Day-to-day where are we going to go?”
She added that Safeway serves as an anchor for other stores in the shopping center, which she considers a “ghost city.”
For junior Alec Hemingway, Safeway’s shutdown means losing out on products that are not offered at other local grocery stores.
“Whole Foods carries all the organic stuff, and that’s great, but at the same time, you can’t get the name-brand stuff at Whole Foods,” Hemingway said.
Kimberly Bryden, a marketing and community relations team leader for Whole Foods, said a potential senior-citizen discount is on the grocer’s radar to accommodate local residents, but no decisions have been made.