Officials at Safeway food stores are considering building a new, larger grocery store in Great Falls to serve the community. Despite a recent multimillion-dollar renovation to the store, Safeway representatives concede it might be time to look into building a new store because the existing facility may not be meeting the needs of the residents.
“This community deserves a better food market. This is an affluent community with so many food-oriented groups. We’ve proven that we could support a better grocery store,” said Beverly Millson of Great Falls.
Millson recently launched a grass-roots campaign to further improve the Great Falls Safeway after she moved to the area from Texas and was disappointed with the selection. “This is a very affluent community. Great Falls is ranked as No. 12 in the cities in this nation with the highest median household income. Yet our grocery store, the only one in Great Falls, does not reflect that,” said Millson.
Safeway East Coast representative Craig Muckle said, “We did do a $4 million remodel job in that store over the last year. For us, $4 million is very, very significant.” Muckle says the challenge to the Great Falls store is that the company can’t build out the facility to make it larger and accommodate greater selection.
“We do see this as an opportunity to work with the folks [in Great Falls]. We’d like to work with the community and maybe find a better spot for it there. The people in the community would know where the land was available to build a new store,” said Muckle.
“The bottom line is that we try to serve the community. We’ve done [new builds] before in other communities. We do that a lot,” Muckle said.
SAFEWAY HAS TRIED to serve the community through its remodeling and through uniquely grouping food items to make shopping there easier. Nonetheless, many residents choose to go elsewhere for the bulk of their shopping.
“You never see anyone buying their weekly groceries there,” said Millson.
“We are a captive audience, so I think they figure they don’t really have to do anything. But pretty much it’s just a place to get milk,” said resident David Spears.
Millson cautions that items with an expiration date at the Great Falls Safeway have been problematic in the past. “Sadly, our only supermarket is a Safeway store that is filled with products with expired purchase dates. It’s old and tired looking,” said Millson.
She says the store is getting better and has “pulled up its socks a bit recently. It’s improved to the extent it can improve without [another] overhaul.”
Muckle said the store management is working on that aspect of its customer service. “Stuff like that is largely manageable on a store level. We do deliveries every day to our stores. We like our staff to cull through and remove the less appealing objects.”
While Safeway is mulling whether to open a new store, residents have a number of stores to shop in Reston that offer the variety that may not be available in the smaller Safeway. Millson is even considering going all the way to Ashburn to shop at the Wegmann’s that opens this month. “There are plenty of other stores in the area that people can go to and get what they need. It’s just unfortunate that we have to. I’m a supporter of the mom and pop stores, but I think we are entitled to have a nice, basic, quality supermarket here,” said Millson.