Councilmember Vincent Gray to Meet With Safeway Executive Thursday

Safeway Requests Meeting After Gray’s Unscheduled Inspections of Ward 7 Safeway Stores Last Thursday

Councilmember Vincent C. Gray speaks with Jerome Jackson, Assistant Manager at the Safeway at East River Park Shopping Center (322 40th St NE Thursday August 17. Gray said that the grocery store has not met goals they set in April for improvement of the customer shopping experience at the two Safeway stores located in Ward 7. Photo: Elizabeth O'Gorek

Councilmember Vincent Gray (Ward 7-D) will meet with executives for Safeway’s Eastern Regional Division and Albertsons Companies (Safeway's parent company) Thursday August 23, his office said on Wednesday. The meeting was requested by Safeway after the Councilmember conducted unscheduled inspections of the Safeway grocery stores located in Ward 7. The inspections took place Thurday August 17 at Safeway stores located at East River Park Shopping Center (322 40th St NE) and Good Hope Marketplace (2845 Alabama Avenue, SE).

Gray had previously met with Safeway executives in April to discuss community concerns with conditions and service at the two locations. After that meeting, Safeway produced an Action Plan for the two stores which outlined a plan and timeline to make the stores better and improve customer shopping experience at those two locations.

On his visits to the stores, Gray found spoiled produce, discolored meat and long lines of customers waiting to pay. Further, he noted the recent change to operating hours at the East River Park location, which two weeks ago were reduced by two hours every day, from 6 a.m. open and 10 p.m. close to a 7 a.m. open and a 9 p.m. close, making it even more difficult for residents of Ward 7 to purchase groceries.

“If Safeway wants to be a respected part of the retail community, then they have to respect the people who they want to serve in the community,” he said in an interview.

The Councilmember said at Thursday's meeting he wants to hear how Safeway plans to change the shopping experience for the Ward 7 community at the two Safeway stores. “I want to hear timelines,” he said. “They’ve got to be not 90 days from now, they’ve got to be now.”

“What’s really needed is competition,” he added. Gray said four pieces of legislation he had introduced were an effort to address the lack of competition in the area.

These include the East End Health Care Desert, Retail Desert, and Food Desert Elimination Act of 2017, which provides assistance in the construction of flagship retail stores in the East End, and the East End Grocery and Retail Incentive Program Tax Abatement Act of 2017, which provides tax incentives to retail, including groceries, looking to do business east of the river. Public hearings for both bills were held in the spring, and Gray is hopeful that the Council sees that such legislation is needed.

Gray says that he will continue to press Safeway on improved service and accountability to the community. His visits to the two Safeway stores last Thursday caused quite a stir, both among customers surprised by his presence and eager to speak with him, and Safeway management who said that cameras would not be permitted in the stores.

Gray continued his inspections, refusing to dismiss the cameras.

"There needs to be a stir,” he said.