Thursday, September 6, 2007

Safeway Upgraded

It would be understandable to assume that civic design approval for retail stores is a fairly recent thing – a phenomenon of the past 25 to 30 years only, or perhaps dating as far back as the mid-60’s, when Lady Bird Johnson’s “Keep America Beautiful” campaign ushered in a new, austere (shudder) era of retail architecture.

The interesting fact is that there are examples of appearance zoning that go back much earlier than this, and many of these early results were pretty nice looking. Pictured above are two Safeway stores from 1945. The top photo features the ubiquitous standard Safeway design – cement outer construction, painted white, with the famous yellow and red porcelain-coated signage. Many hundreds of these stores were built throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. The second store is an attractive example of an effort on Safeway’s part to blend in with the local area. The brick and Spanish tile are striking, and the subtle signage (while maintaining Safeway’s trademark typeface) is icing on the cake. In all likelihood, these stores were alike in every other respect. The front glass and door arrangements appear to be identical, right down to the little “Safeway” decal to the left of the doors.

Just a few notes on Safeway at the time these stores were opened – the chain had 2,442 stores in 23 states, Washington D.C., and Canada and were a key factor in the Western, Southwestern, Eastern, and Plains States’ grocery markets. They were by far the dominant grocery retailing concern on their home turf of Northern California.


  1. I'd like to know where these particular stores were located, if you happen to know.
    Interesting that the bus bench in the lower photo also has a Safeway label.

  2. Unfortunately, I don't know the location of either. The first store pictured (the "standard" one)could be one of literally hundreds of Safeways based on the lack of additional background scenery in the photo.

    Since the second one is so distinctive, I'm hoping someone can identify it for us.

  3. The second photo was located in Costa Mesa, Ca., near Bristol and Paularino Ave. It was replace by the Hilton hotel. (Red Lion Hotel)