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Washington DC Area Grocery Stores


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Watergate: Slater Safeway

On another note, I heard from a reliable source that the manager of each Whole Foods store gets $100,000 per year to spend however (s)he wishes, be it pocketing the money, giving bonuses to employees, extra advertising, etc.

I also heard that the amount of money Whole Foods accepts each year for "bought shelf space" is a grand total of ... zero, and heard (but cannot confirm) that for Giant and Safeway, this is a large source of revenue. If this is true, can they ever be any good?

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Wood floors get just as dirty as tile and I always feel like Safeway is dingy - even the new ones.

We had an ongoing thread over the last few weeks that evolved into a discussion of the various safeways here.

read carefully Bill.

It said "wood GRAIN floors", not wood floors.

Most likely a faux paint job over concrete and then a pile or two of polyurethane on top.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I also heard that the amount of money Whole Foods accepts each year for "bought shelf space" is a grand total of ... zero, and heard (but cannot confirm) that for Giant and Safeway, this is a large source of revenue. If this is true, can they ever be any good?

Don,

That is indeed a large part of revenue for major grocery chains. If you really wanted, I could probably track down several reputable sources confirming this.

Surprised that Whole Paycheck does not do this at all. No wonder their prices are so freaking high. Without the extortion, I mean "stocking fees", they can't afford to have any loss leaders.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Here's an article from January's SF Chronicle or Wash Post - can't tell but on the SF Gate site all about slotting fees, and by the Post's Margaret Webb Pressler:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file...BUGDK4D4JS1.DTL

.... products on supermarket shelves are largely determined by the fees that suppliers pay -- and retailers demand -- to get their wares into the nation's grocery stores.

These so-called slotting fees have become standard. A two-year study by the Federal Trade Commission, concluded in November, found widespread use of slotting fees and the sense among manufacturers that such fees are "part of the cost of doing business," said FTC staff attorney Patricia Schultheiss, who worked on the study.

But that doesn't mean they're good business or good for shoppers.

Edited by Emily Kaiser (log)

Emily Kaiser

www.emilykaiser.com

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Which brings to mind a game - anyone else want to add to the list, fun names for DC Safeways? These are the ones I've picked up over the years -

Georgetown: Social Safeway

17th and Q: Soviet Safeway

Columbia Road: Slumway

I've heard the Social Safeway also called the Singles Safeway... then there's the Secret Safeway, the one up Wisconsin tucked behind a car dealership.

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I had to run into the Safeway on Conn. Ave. last week.

I crowning that one the Sad Safeway. The whole tiny, dirty, little place is just sad both in products and atmosphere.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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  Surprised that Whole Paycheck does not do this at all. No wonder their prices are so freaking high. Without the extortion, I mean "stocking fees", they can't afford to have any loss leaders.

Well, but Walmart doesn't charge them, either, and, well, they're pretty cheap ...

Emily Kaiser

www.emilykaiser.com

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The CEO is a vegan which might explain their late arrival to the meat party.

I've been racking my brain to come up with a smutty rejoinder to the "meat party" concept, but it's 5:30 on a Wednesday. My brain power is half gone, like the week. :huh:

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

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I had to run into the Safeway on Conn. Ave. last week.

I crowning that one the Sad Safeway. The whole tiny, dirty, little place is just sad both in products and atmosphere.

Also, there's the White Bread (a.k.a. Sorry) Safeway near Chevy Chase Circle.

...

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I had to run into the Safeway on Conn. Ave. last week.

I crowning that one the Sad Safeway.  The whole tiny, dirty, little place is just sad both in products and atmosphere.

Also, there's the White Bread (a.k.a. Sorry) Safeway near Chevy Chase Circle.

They are one and the same.

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Fascinating thread. Absolutely fascinating.

I grew up on Garland Avenue, two blocks from the Giant on Arliss. Not only do I remember when it was built but I also remember when the Co-Op was built at Piney Branch and Greenwood. I've also been in Publix all over Florida from Sarasota to North Miami Beach along with Harris Teeters all over Georgia and both Carolinas.

1. The Giant on Arliss has nothing in common with many other grocery stores in the Washington Area. The fact that it is disappointing is more a reflection of where you live than of the chain or the area it is in. The Giant at Rockville Pike and Randolph or the Giant in Baileys Cross Roads are both exemplery.

2. There is not a grocery store in the states of Florida, Georgia, North or South Carolina that can compare to the Wegmans on route 28 in Sterling. There are many specialty items that I cannot find anywhere in the Atlanta, Miami or Tampa metro areas that I CAN find in D. C.

3. There is not a grocery store in Southern California or New York that can compare to either Wegmans or a better Harris Teeter here. Yes, Manhattan has better specialty shops. But New York, San Francisco and Chicago aside we can find more specialty items here than anywhere else in America.

I strongly disagree with those on this board who feel that the D. C. area is lacking. I've obsessively been going in grocery stores around the United States since the '70's (from Byerly's in Minneapolis to Larry's in Bellevue to Ukrops in Richmond to the Central Market in Austin) and am convinced tha we are indeed lucky that we have what we do here. No, it's not at Piney Branch and Arliss. But it can be found elsewhere in the D. C. area if you look for it.

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Fascinating thread.  Absolutely fascinating.

I grew up on Garland Avenue, two blocks from the Giant on Arliss.  Not only do I remember when it was built but I also remember when the Co-Op was built at Piney Branch and Greenwood.  I've also been in Publix all over Florida from Sarasota to North Miami Beach along with Harris Teeters all over Georgia and both Carolinas.

1.  The Giant on Arliss has nothing in common with many other grocery stores in the Washington Area.  The fact that it is disappointing is more a reflection of where you live than of the chain or the area it is in.  The Giant at Rockville Pike and Randolph or the Giant in Baileys Cross Roads are both exemplery.

2.  There is not a grocery store in the states of Florida, Georgia, North or South Carolina that can compare to the Wegmans on route 28 in Sterling.  There are many specialty items that I cannot find anywhere in the Atlanta, Miami or Tampa metro areas that I CAN find in D. C.

3.  There is not a grocery store in Southern California or New York that can compare to either Wegmans or a better Harris Teeter here.  Yes, Manhattan has better specialty shops.  But New York, San Francisco and Chicago aside we can find more specialty items here than anywhere else in America.

I strongly disagree with those on this board who feel that the D. C. area is lacking.  I've obsessively been going in grocery stores around the United States since the '70's (from Byerly's in Minneapolis to Larry's in Bellevue to Ukrops in Richmond to the Central Market in Austin) and am convinced tha we are indeed lucky that we have what we do here.  No, it's not at Piney Branch and Arliss.  But it can be found elsewhere in the D. C. area if you look for it.

Sorry, Joe, you are wrong if you talk about the chain stores here in the district. I shop regularly at the Watergate Safeway. In an upscale area, you would think that Safeway would have an "A" store there. Not the case. New products that are advertised on TV and in newspapers take 6 months to a year to show up on the shelves there. To say that the Wegmans in Sterling is better than any store in New York is nuts. I went to school in Rochester, New York where Wegmans originated. There are plenty of large Wegmans in New York and New Jersey.

Edited by Mark Sommelier (log)

Mark

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The Giant at Rockville Pike and Randolph or the Giant in Baileys Cross Roads are both exemplery.

This is the Giant closest to my new house, and I agree that it's much better than the rest. Don't know if I'd call it exemplery though. They still sell wilted herbs.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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And for some of us who live in the city, the Wegmans in Sterling might just as well be in the moon.

Exactly. All this talk of Wegman's has me jealous and saddened. Saddened because a store like this will never grace DC. Of course, I don' think what DC needs is a HUGE store. We just need some regular grocery stores that are decent. We either feast (Dean, Whole Paycheck) or famine (Safeway).

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Mark--I think Joe might be referring specifically to NYC--and several on this thread have also remarked that DC supermarkets and grocery stores are better than those in NYC. Our urban supermarkets are better than their urban supermarkets generally and many who have posted on this thread agree with Joe. That living, density, shopping and culture is completely different in "the City"--NYC--versus here in DC is another matter.

Even in terms of the NY and NJ metropolitan area I think Joe might ultimately get the Sterling Wegmans wrong--yes it is the newest, the largest square-footage-wise and perhaps so far even the highest grossing store within the Wegmans chain--as Joe mentions often, but that doesn't make it the best in the chain. Volume and square footage hardly determine quality. It's just the "best" in our area because our area has been underserved--we haven't had a Central Market, a Wegmans, a Draegers, or even a superior national-class Whole Foods, etc. (But then that's not surprising--anyone ever been to a Trader Joes in southern California? They rock compared to our Trader Joes, which are feeble imitations.) In some categories key to Joe--like finding more specialty items--a truly great Wegmans store like Princeton, NJ surpasses Sterling and clearly, to me, has deeper selections and more shelf space devoted to those products. I was surprised at the lack of depth of the specialty and ethnic grocery items at Sterling given what we locals can find elsewhere and what can be found elsewhere within the chain. I think Sterling also has to work just a little harder to pick up its prepared, steam table and takeout food performance--something which Princeton does better and I have eaten at these stores multiple times since I'm in NJ a lot. But then the management, chefs and staff of the Princeton kitchens have had a longer time to get their quality control down. If enough customers at Sterling comment to management there, and then we give them a chance to effect change, then we might end up with an even better Wegmans performing above the level of Princeton in terms of quality as well as gross.

I suspect we all agree with Joe's point #1--there's tremendous variability between stores within practically all of the chains--whether those chains are union like Giant and Safeway or non-union "Best Companies to Work For" like Wegmans and Whole Foods. Point #2 I can't address because I just haven't food shopped enough in those states.

I think where Joe missteps also is in linking Harris Teeter with Wegmans in terms of quality or value or depth of selection, frankly there's no comparison except in ambience--and I join with the others on this thread who slot Teeter barely above a decent area Safeway or Giant. One store that hasn't been mentioned by anyone else--a superb small chain of stores in Northern California--is:

http://www.draegers.com/

In my mind Draegers (there) surpasses Whole Food (here, in this area), even the supposedly superior Vienna Whole Foods. Anyone ever been? In-house cooking theater, in house restaurant and cafe, very deep selection of specialty products, very deep wine, etc. Which brings me naturally to the Whole Foods in San Francisco--has anyone ever been? Once I set foot in that store--amazing, well-managed, customer-oriented--it became clear to me that Mid-Atlantic Whole Foods were a differently managed and run entity entirely. I've written about this before but take but one example: WF SF sells all the best artisan breads of the region--not just the house-made crap as "our" WF does. The problem for me is once you realize these local places could be doing much better--because they ARE doing much better elsewhere--it is harder to swallow the mediocrity, indifference and high prices Whole Foods throws our way here.

"And for those of us who live in the city, the Wegmans in Sterling might just as well be in the moon"--believe me, I know the feeling, when I was at Georgetown I thought going across the Key Bridge might as well have been to a foreign country. It all depends on your frame of reference. But what I think gives weight to this assessment that grocery stores in DC suck is that now there is a deep, stunning and good Wegmans relatively nearby--teasing and taunting everyone who shops at a Whole Foods or Giant or Safeway, with or without a nickname.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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  Surprised that Whole Paycheck does not do this at all. No wonder their prices are so freaking high. Without the extortion, I mean "stocking fees", they can't afford to have any loss leaders.

Well, but Walmart doesn't charge them, either, and, well, they're pretty cheap ...

I did not know that, but it is (especially these days) in a much different business situation. Apples and oranges. And yes, I do know that WalMart Supercenters are being built that have grocery stores within. But comparing them to Safeway, Kroger's, Giant, etc. is just not supportable.

WalMart basically calls reps from providers into Bentonville and dictates prices. It's rather like supplicants seeking an audience with the king. If you don't meet their price, you don't have access to the largest retailer in the world. You also don't get a second chance. They're like elephants - they never forget. The whole WalMart business model eveolved from getting the cheapest possible prices from producers, and now since they are the biggest, they get the cheapest prices.

There is not yet the necessary concentration in the grocery store sector for that kind of purchasing power to occur. However, there are still businesses desperate to get their products on the shelves of the leading chains. What's key here is that there are certain branded products that grocery stores *must* carry (e. g. Ritz Crackers), not really the case at Walmart. How then can groceries make money off of those products?

Option 1) Higher prices. At some point a nearby store undercuts.

Option 2) Offer them a better location for a price. Sugar based cereals fight for the lower shelves so that they are at eye level with little kids. Have you ever seen Lucky Charms on a high shelf? All products fight to be near the end of a row for more passers-by.

Don't mean to rant on you Emily, but I find your comparison of grocery stores to WalMart to be not entirely supportable.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I'm not so sure of that JPW--can't asking for stocking or slotting fees be seen as one method of extortion as very hard price negotiations on the part of a Walmart could be seen as another--and the difference is merely the matter of degree of extortion and strongarming you're going to accept to get your product into a market and onto a shelf? More alike than dislike?

I think in the case of WF, politically it makes sense for them not to slot since that fits with what they're trying to sell their shoppers on--organic is better because it is organic, private label stuff, organic crunchy-granola-type social awareness--as worth paying more for? How would it look if WF extorted its supposedly higher quality and socially-responsible suppliers?

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I'm not so sure of that JPW--can't asking for stocking or slotting fees be seen as one method of extortion as very hard price negotiations on the part of a Walmart could be seen as another--and the difference is merely the matter of degree of extortion and strongarming you're going to accept to get your product into a market and onto a shelf? More alike than dislike?

I think in the case of WF, politically it makes sense for them not to slot since that fits with what they're trying to sell their shoppers on--organic is better because it is organic, private label stuff, organic crunchy-granola-type social awareness--as worth paying more for? How would it look if WF extorted its supposedly higher quality and socially-responsible suppliers?

I agree with you Steve, although it is a fine line between being a tough business person and an extortionist.

To attempt to make my point more clear - Without stocking fees, WF needs to have higher prices to generate adequate revenue. Because of their business model and market positioning they can build and maintain market share while having higher prices. I hadn't really thought about the image side of it and I think that it is a good point. We'll see what happens if competition increases on that side of the market and retail prices start getting driven down.

My disagreement with Emily stems more from her taking the position that "WalMart doesn't have stocking fees and they have low prices" as a refutation to my point that the lack of WF stocking fees is one reason why their prices are high. The point I wanted to make was that WalMart doesn't take stocking fees because they have a different way to keep retail prices low. One, that to my mind, is just as effective and slightly less close to extortion. Walmart can do this no only because they have fewer branded products that they *have* to carry than grocery stores do but because they are truly the 800 pound gorilla in the terms of purchasing power.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I was surprised at the lack of depth of the specialty and ethnic grocery items at Sterling given what we locals can find elsewhere and what can be found elsewhere within the chain. I think Sterling also has to work just a little harder to pick up its prepared, steam table and takeout food performance--something which Princeton does better and I have eaten at these three stores multiple times. But then the management, chefs and staff of the Princeton kitchens have had a longer time to get their quality control down.

That was my biggest disappointment with Wegman's as well - the "ethnic sections" carry only about the same number of Asian and Mexican/Latin American products as a good Giant. They do have more "ethnicities" represented, but I haven't been craving any British items lately.

But the thing I have already picked up on is that they are pretty responsive to requests. A few weeks ago there were two items I wanted that they didn't have. When the girl who was checking me out asked if I found everything OK, I mentioned that I couldn't find the items (slab bacon and something else I can't remember). She immediately paged a manager who came over and asked for details about what I was looking for. I haven't looked for these items again, and wouldn't expect them to respond just to one suggestion, but I can't imagine that scenario playing out at Giant or Safeway.

As for the prepared food, just like we would give any restaurant a few months to settle in, as Steve suggests, I would imagine they will pull things together in a matter of time. I still can't imagine it ever becoming a place I would choose to eat over a regular restaurant - primarily due to the crowds milling around.

Bill Russell

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They do have more "ethnicities" represented, but I haven't been craving any British items lately. 

Maybe you aren't, but it's awfully nice to have a source for HP sauce, Heinz beans, and good plain tea that isn't charging usurious prices. :laugh:

And, as far as Harris Teeter goes, it would appear that they're altering their stock in response to the appearance of Wegmans. Wegmans has the New York/New England regional foods market covered; HT looks like they're going to start doing the same thing for Southern regional specialties, more than they already were.

They already had some of the staples (White Lily flour, etc.); now they're expanding offerings across the board. Last time I was in there, I noticed they've started carrying Mayfield ice cream, which I never thought I'd see up here. They also have better raisin bread than Wegmans', which has unpleasantly mushy raisins. I'd definitely rate HT a strong second in the Reston/Herndon/Sterling grocery arms race; a little work on their produce and they'd be even closer.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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They do have more "ethnicities" represented, but I haven't been craving any British items lately. 

Maybe you aren't, but it's awfully nice to have a source for HP sauce, Heinz beans, and good plain tea that isn't charging usurious prices. :laugh:

And, as far as Harris Teeter goes, it would appear that they're altering their stock in response to the appearance of Wegmans. Wegmans has the New York/New England regional foods market covered; HT looks like they're going to start doing the same thing for Southern regional specialties, more than they already were.

They already had some of the staples (White Lily flour, etc.); now they're expanding offerings across the board. Last time I was in there, I noticed they've started carrying Mayfield ice cream, which I never thought I'd see up here. They also have better raisin bread than Wegmans', which has unpleasantly mushy raisins. I'd definitely rate HT a strong second in the Reston/Herndon/Sterling grocery arms race; a little work on their produce and they'd be even closer.

Maybe thay'll start carrying.....tasso ham.

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They do have more "ethnicities" represented, but I haven't been craving any British items lately. 

Maybe you aren't, but it's awfully nice to have a source for HP sauce, Heinz beans, and good plain tea that isn't charging usurious prices. :laugh:

I was actually thinking of you when I wrote that.

Bill Russell

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