Friday, March 7, 2014

Safeway's Movement in Town Tells us Lots about Salem's History

Well, Safeway was just sold!

Would you be surprised to learn that there was a downtown Safeway for a while in the building where Shryock's is today?

Maybe more than any other kind of store, grocery stores track and index our transportation system and neighborhood development patterns, from the smaller stores of the streetcar era, to the larger stores for the post-war car and suburb, and to the big-box store near the interstate we have today.

Safeway on corner of Court and Commercial, 1938
Salem Library Historic Photos
Behind that stucco-y moderne facade of Shyrock's is a very old building!

For more on this intersection and the buildings nearby, see the note on the Moose carnival of 1913.  And for one of those Cronise scans that you can just zoom and zoom in on, see the image here of the building long before the Safeway, when it was still surrounded by wooden structures.

There were several other early Safeways of a wholly different building type as well, including the motorcycle store at Market and Broadway and the Capital Market at 14th and State. (It's not clear, though, whether they were built as Safeways or were a local chain purchased by Safeway.)

East School (later Washington School), circa 1886
on the current site of the Safeway
between 12th/13th and Marion/Center
Salem Library Historic Photos
And of course the current Safeway replaced one of Salem's first big school buildings, completed in 1886 or 1887.  And that Safeway has been wholly remodeled at least once since it was built.

There are a lot of other grocery stores from the second half of the 20th century, too.

You will recall that the old Safeway on middle Commercial was evaluated for use as a Police Station.

Vacant big box - former Safeway on Middle Commercial
(Now apparently with a pending sale or lease)

Analysis of Eugene-style Police Station
with an adaptive reuse of vacant Safeway
(These numbers have been superseded with more recent ones)
Elsewhere in town, the School District and Oregon Department of Energy both use old grocery stores converted into office space. Fitts, Santiam Wine, and the Drunken Cook have split up another - and kept the food theme.  You can probably think of other instances of adaptive reuse.  Maybe some of these were Safeway - or Albertson's stores - too.

Anyway, it's not possible to do a meaningful history of Safeway or of grocery stores generally at the moment - maybe some other time. Hopefully this will have suggested something about the way the grocery stores have moved from the center to the outer edges of the city at the same time they have grown in size.

Since they sell that essential, food, it's not surprising their history says a lot about the history of the city and its development patterns.


Jim Scheppke said...

So what do you hear about what the S. Commercial Safeway is going to become? Big Lots! ;-)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

No inside info or even juicy rumor, unfortunately. (Perhaps something has reached you?)

Last month the paper reported on the annual commercial real estate forum, and in the piece was this:

The 2014 Commercial Real Estate Economic Forum was held this morning at the Salem Convention Center. Here are some bullet points from the presentations:

Retail vacancy rates: Downtown Salem: 12.5%, North Salem: 12.7%, Keizer: 12.7%, Lancaster area: 10.9%, West Salem: 6.9%

Retail projects: 8 projects planned -- 5 in South Salem, 2 in downtown Salem and 1 in Keizer

The former Safeway building on South Commercial Street is under contract to be sold

Office space: Vacancy rate is 17%, third best year in a decade -- 2012 was the worst

Investments: SEDCOR says there was $64 million in new industrial investment in 2013

Anonymous said...

The Department of Energy building downtown is on the former site of a QFC supermarket. Atkins Thriftway on Mission, and Central Thriftway on Commercial just south of Kwans are two more close-in stores that gave up the ghost. They were the neighborhood supermarkets for our close-in neighborhoods. Of course, when *they* came to Salem, with their vast selection and big parking lots, they put the original mom & pop stores out of business. Gives a new slant to the concept of the "food chain." I'm sure there are other vanished neighborhood supermarkets that I just don't know about. And chain convenience stores have filled the void left by the disappearance of the small neighborhood corner stores I've only heard about, like Little Gem and the one that used to be at High and Lincoln. A history of grocery stores in Salem would be a fascinating project!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the names and locations! It's great to have that info posted in case that follow-up history happens here (or elsewhere!).

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's a follow-up with more detail on Safeways in Salem.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Turns out it wasn't a QFC. Originally it was built as a Berg's Supermarket. More on that here. A couple of decades later it was a Quality Food Market, but never a QFC.