Wednesday, November 29, 2023

In A Parallel Universe...

Safeway #3411

Chambers Creek

8611 Steilacoom Boulevard

Tacoma, WA 98498

Hello and welcome to The Albertsons Washington Blog!  I am your host, The Sing Oil Blogger, and today we are going to take the trek through a 1980's Albertsons Superstore to see how it has fared over the years.

Located in the city of Lakewood, this store is nestled in a commercial district between the historic Fort Steilacoom and Interstate 5.  The supermarket serves customers from several south Tacoma suburbs to the north of Joint Base Lewis-McChord but is primarily convenient for the western section of Lakewood and the waterside community of Steilacoom.  Unfortunately, the nearby Puget Sound doesn't boast quite the same white sandy beaches and warm water as the Gulf of Mexico; however, the scenery is still spectacular, nonetheless.

Albertsons originally announced the 42,000 sq ft "superstore" in 1983 as the first store in the Tacoma area following a 17-year absence for the company.  

Maybe I should write about more Albertsons stores because it isn't often I can feature supermarket ads with portable cassette players and VHS tapes!  This Albertsons officially opened its doors on February 15, 1984, as the perfect outing for lavishing lovebirds looking to seal the deal with a Dazey Foot Saver or distraught divorcees looking to settle things once and for all with a Silverstone frying pan.

The News Tribune ( - February 15, 1984

Just one page back, there is even a headline that reads, "Bounty on prostitutes hits snag in Legislature.  Witness claims pimps would retaliate against people who turned their hookers in to police."  I guess that goes to show that you never know what you'll uncover when reading old newspapers! 

I don't even want to attempt to guess what interior this store opened with since I'd guess it predates Blue & Gray Market, but the 2012 photo I found on Foursquare reminds me more of a Walmart than anything else.  I'm sure somebody reading this post will know though!

The News Tribune ( - March 8, 2015

On the other hand, big changes came about for this store in 2015 when it was announced that Albertsons would divest a number of locations as a condition of the pending Safeway merger.

"At an undisclosed price – Haggen is privately held and not required to disclose figures – the grocer with fewer than two dozen stores suddenly grew by a factor of eight with the purchase of 146 Safeway and Albertsons stores, and 106 pharmacies throughout the West.  The deal was precipitated by the merger of Albertsons and Safeway and it was approved in January by the Federal Trade Commission . . . The two-day conversions at each store will include changes both cosmetic and among the items offered for sale." - The News Tribune

This store was seemingly closed and converted to a Haggen between 3/12/2015-3/15/2015 shortly following the acquisition.  While I couldn't find any interior photos of the building between 2015 and 2016, the exterior indicates that some kind of conversion took place.  I still can't imagine a 3-day "remodel" producing any sort of drastic results (especially based on what I've seen from some of Publix' 6+ month conversions).   

Furthermore, having no personal experience with Haggen, the name always makes the think the place exclusively sells faux Danish ice cream.  I'll take some cookie dough, please!

The Olympian ( - November 11, 2015 - Page 2

Well, that didn't last long!  By September 2015, Haggen was drowning in blood from its own self-inflicted wounds and seemed to be at a loss as to what to do.  (I suppose not buying those 146 Safewaysons stores never came to mind for the company?)  The grocer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection that month which led to the fire sale of its new bounty of locations.

"Haggen is currently auctioning off 95 stores, 18 of which are in Washington.  Of those 18, five are in Pierce County and another is in Federal Way.  Among early bidders for those stores was Albertsons, which had entered bids on 36 stores." - The Olympian

Needless to say, this fiasco presumably turned out wonderfully for the newly combined Albertsons-Safeway.  Not only were the companies able to sell off stores at market value to allow the merger to go through, but they also got to buy them back Northwest Fresh outta bankruptcy for a discount several months later!  That sounds like a great business deal, and an easy way to clean up the books!

The Olympian ( - March 30, 2016

This location, along with the 28 remaining Haggen stores, was sold back to Albertsons just over a year after its conversion away from the Idaho brand.  While Albertsons promised to keep the Haggen name alive, it opted to convert 14 of the acquired locations to the Albertsons brand.

What really confuses me is how this store's banner was swapped away from Albertsons again in 2021.  For some odd reason, the powers that be determined it would be beneficial to remodel the Lakewood Albertsons into the Lakewood Safeway.  I guess they thought that since the same strategy was so successful in Florida, why not try it in the Northwest too!  Regardless, this marked the return of Safeway to this stretch of Steilacoom Boulevard as the company had vacated a building directly across the street a number of years prior.

As a recap, here is a rough timeline of this store's history:

Albertsons: 1984-2015

Haggen: 2015-2016

Albertsons: 2016-2021

Safeway: 2021-Present

 Now that we know a bit about the history of this store, let's take a look at it for ourselves!

Out front, we are greeted by a typical Albertsons sign post that now boasts the Safeway "S".  By this point, I'd hope anybody reading this blog could have caught this relic!

I'd like to draw our attention to the solid wall behind the stacks of bottled water.  I believe that was originally in the center of a split vestibule setup (similar to the slightly newer Albertsons here), before Albertsons reconfigured this store during an expansion. Now I wish I had seen a better angle of the pharmacy entrance to know for sure!  At least the street views seem to support my theory; just look at all that wasted space on the right side of the store.

As for the front of the signage, we find the typical Safeway pharmacy lettering and drive up logo, joined by the Starbucks emblem indicating what else we may find inside . . .

Poof.  Here we are.

Once inside, we find a scene that looks strikingly similar to what I've seen from the Albertsons Florida Blogger's run-ins with Safeway a few years ago.  I guess Safeway's "Modern" décor continues to live on despite being dead (or at least shanked by a giant Publix butcher knife) in The Sunshine State.

Turning to the left, we find the Starbucks counter located just in front of the checkout lines . . .

. . . which reminds me of a caffeinated controversy that was brewing at this store in 2004.  Back then, regulars were outraged by the decision to oust local barista Sandy Monsees, owner of the Columbia Café, in favor of an outpost of the Tully's Coffee chain.  The locals went so far as threatening to boycott the Albertsons if the grocer did not reverse its decision to evict Monsees.  I guess that goes to show that you shouldn't mess with Seattleites' coffee—there's a reason they are always sleepless!

It appears that Haggen was the one who added the Starbucks based on exterior signage in the Google Street Views, and the franchise has remained ever since.  I'm not sure what came of the Columbia Café controversy, but the Trenta latte fish ended up coming out on top in the end.

Continuing on, we find a display of nuts, berries, charcoal, and dragon fruit?  Something seems out of place here, and it ain't the cantaloupes!  Maybe they wanted to remind us of a familiar song:

Red berries roasting on an open fire

Dragon fruit nipping at your nose

Yuletide carols being sung by a cantaloupe

and folks dressed up like Safeway clerks

Everybody knows, a turkey and some watermelon

help to make the season bright

I generally like to cluster photos in roughly the same order I took them, but this Safeway's atypical grand aisle layout forced me to make some changes (just bear with me).  We'll quickly jump to the rear of the produce department for this nice overview shot before snaking our way back up front.  I appreciate how the designers at least opted to place a department sign above the produce cooler, even if it looks like the bottom part of the "E" was cut off.

In retrospect, I can't think of another store I've been to recently where the produce department is technically part of the grand aisle yet has a full row of shelving separating it from any service departments.  Some Harris Teeters and Publixes have a similar layout, yet they still leave plenty of open sightlines from the deli and bakery.

We're loyal to local, that's why we buy bananas from Guatemala.  Everything is just a matter of perspective!

As for the produce displays in this store, I appreciate how Safeway provided fixtures with integrated produce bags, twist ties (something I haven't seen in a Publix in over a decade), and a produce scale.  I just wish the company had gone the extra mile and left the cardboard boxes out of the picture.  They really detract from the otherwise upscale look (and what's the deal with Mt. Cardboard on the other side of the Panama Canal?  You better not leave those boxes out too long or else Kroger will scoop them up for its next decor package).

Turning around, I was a bit surprised to see how Safeway swapped from Dietz & Watson to Boar's Head at some point following this store's conversion.  At least we know that Winn-Dixie still has our backs.

Let's swing on by the delicatessen and pick up a pineapple along the way.  Those strawberries and containers of cut fruit seemed to be a hit as well!

Does that "ReadyMeals" branding look out of place to anybody?  I feel like it is something I would see in a cafeteria using low-budget signage from a food service vendor, namely due to how none of the design language melds with anything else in the shot.

I'm also intrigued by the fact that the strip lighting over these service departments gives way to fixtures inset into the dropped ceiling.

The baked goods continue along the right wall of the store and are separated from the produce department by some gondola shelving filled with bread. This department layout reminds me of something I've seen before . . . maybe Vero Beach?  It's also amazing how much the faux wood flooring does to dress up this space!

One striking difference from Die Rindfleischleute is how is how Safeway stores its coolers above cold juice rather than cold beer.  At least we can still find Florida's Natural here!

I'm also surprised by the selection of bulk foods we find, even if they aren't in bulk packaging.  Regardless, it seems odd that the juice is isolated from produce by these displays of chocolate covered pretzels and baked goods.  If I were to take a guess, I'd presume that the produce department was shifted from this corner at some point of this store's life—we'll see more supporting evidence in a bit.

Looking along the rear aisle, we find fresh meats along with some freshly-polished vinyl tile.  This checks out for a mid-1980's Albertsons.

Moving back to the front of the store, we'll begin our journey through the various grocery aisles.  First up is unlucky 13 which backs up to the produce department.  I'm still thrown off by stores that number aisles from left to right rather than right to left!

If the produce department was too stressful, just walk on over and grab a beer to take off the edge.

Wait, what?!  Liquor in a supermarket! 

If you're sleepless in Seattle, Safeway has just the nightcap!  I suppose Safeway cares for its customers and wants to ensure they have a fast, easy, convenient, and shake-free shopping experience—that is, if you can find whichever employee is holding the keys to the kingdom on that given day.

I'm not sure if these locked doors were installed as a theft deterrent or to comply with state liquor laws, but it seems like it would be easier to just have a separate liquor store than to make customers find an employee to unlock a door.  I know having to hunt down a Walmart employee to unlock the case to buy an SD card annoys the stew out of me, and it seems like these liquor cases would be just as bothersome.  At this rate, we might as well go back to the counter-serve supermarket model!

This photo also brings us to our next segment of the show: The Price is Right?  For today's cost comparison, let's examine the current (November 2023) Smirnoff vodka prices between this store and Total Wine:

Smirnoff Vodka Prices

750 mL

1 L

1.75 L


$12.99 / $13.99


$21.99 / $23.99

Total Wine (WA)




Total Wine (FL)




Total Wine (GA)




Note that the bold prices for Safeway require a membership card, while the other price is the "regular" cost.  

From what I've seen, Total Wine tends to have the cheapest alcohol prices for a given state, so I'm not surprised that they fall several dollars below what Safeway is charging.  What I am surprised to see, however, is how alcohol prices at Total Wine in Washington are right in line with what you can find in Florida!  I would have thought everything would be more expensive in The Evergreen State, but this example turned out to be quite the contrary.

The alcohol aisle did receive its own signage above the beer cooler, it just wasn't as inclusive as Jack would have hoped.  I guess he'll have to call up Captain Morgan to rescue him from drowning in his sorrow.


To add insult to injury, wine isn't even on aisle 13:  it's on aisle 12.

You'll notice the different tiles in this department, and it may not be a coincidence.  I learned that certain types of vinyl flooring are used in some bars / liquor stores / wine departments to allow bottles to bounce rather than break if they fall.  This particular flooring appears to be a bit cushier than your standard vinyl found throughout the rest of the store, so that may have been a consideration here.

Those are also some big jugs of water!

Back at the butcher block seafood counter, we catch a glimpse of the mezzanine office windows just above the department signage. 

At this point, I took an oath; I'ma stick it out 'til the end.  Frozen foods are the next articles we'll examine, in addition to more coolers and some nice patio furniture. How do they expect a shopper to get that patio table from the top of the freezer, much less fit it into a buggy?!

Under my umbrella we find breakfast meats of all sorts—I never sausage a thing!

While I did catch Corona in the store, I was thankfully able to find the pharmacy soon thereafter.

But not before a stop at the creamery in the back of the store.  That's clever how Safeway opted to use vertical stickers instead of category markers on the coolers; the only problem I see is that the labels aren't legible when looking for an item further down the aisle (like we see here).

Next up is aisle five, complete with popcorn, crackers, cookies, juice, sports drinks, and snack nuts.

We'll dip into aisle 4 for a wide assortment of chips.

And we'll find trash bags, bleach, light bulbs, and motor oil on aisle 3.

In anticipation for precipitation, stack chips for the rainy day.

As for aisle 1, the yogurt looks a bit shaken (not stirred).

Today's fun featured product is some clearance ground mace.  While I initially thought it was being sold for people who want to make their own pepper spray, I have since learned that the spice we see here has no relation to the defensive mist.  It is, however, made from the flaky outer coating of a nutmeg seed:  you learn something new every day!

We'll take a quick overview of the impulse (organic) banana tree from the back left corner . . .

. . .  before mooving on to the remainder of the dairy coolers along the left wall.  I appreciate how these category signs are hatching out of the right side of the refrigerator doors.

While the vodka may have been priced roughly in line with what I'd expect, this local Washington yogurt wasn't quite as lucky—what a steal at $4.49!  And I thought I was paying a lot for full-priced Chobani at a buck-fifty, but I can buy a four pack of the national-brand Greek yogurt for roughly the same cost!

Anybody want some cook-gadgets?

Heading back to the front, we find the pharmacy isolated in its own alcove differentiated by a lower ceiling.  It appears that Albertsons took over some of the neighboring storefronts at some point to expand the store into what we see today.  I'd have to imagine this was also when the produce department was shifted to its current configuration.  

I'm not a huge fan of how they decided to curve the florescent lights around the pharmacy—then again, I've come to appreciate recessed lighting fixtures as opposed to surface-mounted strip lights.

Before this store was remodeled away from its final Albertsons package, it had some interesting category markers in this part of the store.

There was an additional watermelon float between the pharmacy and dairy department. This store sure did have a lot of beach gear for those brave enough to endure the frigid waters of the Sound!

What is it with former Albertsons stores having mountains of water?!  At least Safeway was creative in adding the inflatable shark to the mix.

Speaking of mountainous Safeways, the first (and only other) time I encountered the chain was on a trip to Colorado 15-years ago.  While I don't remember much from my visit (I'm still shocked I managed to dig up the store on my first guess), I noted how odd the Safeway name was in the first place.  Was this the supermarket version of a Safe Place?  What was the deal with the funky "S" logo?

Anyhow, I had plenty of time to marinate on my thoughts of that store as I continued my trip.  The Leadville Safeway turned out to be a safe refuge following miles driving on rough gravel due to road construction on US 24.  The car I was in also kept making all sorts of beeps, presumably from driving on the dirt road, that simply would not cease.  It was years later when I finally discovered what (or whom) was the true cause of my beeping distress—and it was not the mini van's fault.  At least I can laugh about it in agony now!

We may have escaped the beeping van and narrowly dodged the inflatable shark, but we still managed to get caught amidst a sea of seasonal balloons back in Washington.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Florida anymore.

Toto: grrr ruff ruff (Then why do I see a flamingo?!)

I recently read an article discussing the plethora of flamingo sightings along the Gulf Coast of Florida following Hurricane Idalia's landfall. The tropical bird was previously little more than myth in The Sunshine State, but several of the fowl have recently taken up residence in the area (I guess they don't like state income taxes either).  I saw a lone flamingo amongst a flock of pelicans several weeks ago and it was quite the sight to behold!

Regardless, 's no birds I know of who would take the trip from Seattle to Florida.  That would be a long flight to escape the Floridian heat!  Also, Seattle hardly gets snow in the winter.

If you can't tell, I'm grasping at straws for captions, just as Safeway was grasping at large box displays to fill the wide open spaces inherited from Albertsons.

I figured I had to get a souvenir from my first visit to an "Albertsons" store, and I thought it would be best that it takes the shape of a place out west.

Does anybody else find it ironic that the store manager's name is Joey Skaggs?

Now, which Northwestern Safeway bag would I chose?  Well, I figured the colorful Seattle skyline would do me best.  But while I won't be coming back with the rest, I do know somebody else who picked up a bag with Mt. Ranier (just out of view to the right) to add a little zest to their collection . . .

The side of my bag features both the Albertsons and Safeway logos, so at least I now have one (full) piece of Albertsons memorabilia.

This store shockingly had the old rotating checkout stands until the 2021 Safeway conversion.  Nowadays, all of the lanes have been replaced by belted lanes that even feature advertisements printed on top (which I haven't seen before).

As if this store needs another Winn-Dixie comparison, The Beef People use the same springy wire to close off check lanes.  A manager recently approached me as I was waiting to check out, causing me to worry he had seen me photograph the store; thankfully, all he did was lean over to grab the wire in order to close off the lane.  I'm not sure they couldn't just turn off the lane lights!

What better way to round out this Safeway than to browse the display of costume jewelry and scarves!

Oddly enough, this is the closest thing to an authentic Albertsons I've ever experienced; I was hoping to find a suitable store in Washington but had to settle for this Safewaysons instead.  At least the (outrageously thick) plastic bags still made me feel like my trip wasn't a total loss, and the store itself had a layout reminiscent of what some Floridians saw in the 1980's.

Now that I've completed my humble quest, let's circle back to how we ended up here.  I obviously jetted off to Washington last summer.  After all, you should have realized that I like to travel by now!  

While I sat on these pictures for some time, I eventually offered them up to AFB in case he wanted to see what a "Modern" Safewaysons was like.  We then decided it would be fun to ask "what if" Albertsons remained in The Sunshine State, and if so, how would such a store look.  Although the last three Floridian Albertsons Safeway stores closed with the same interior we saw today, it's still interesting to see what would have happened to the other stores (like #4357) had they lived on under the Idaho grocer's control.

That's all I have, but I hope you enjoyed this break from the norm!  It has been a privilege for me to help The Albertsons Florida Blog, the inspiration behind my work, celebrate its 10th anniversary.  It's amazing how one person can keep a blog going for so long and still show no signs of slowing down. I propose a toast to 10 more years of food, fun, and plenty of puns; after all, he can't just leave us hanging on the eve of Florida's largest supermarket shakeup since 2008!  

As for me, I also look forward to what I can share regarding the pending AL-Dixie merger.  Even if America's Supermarket were to cease to exist, rest assured that AFB and I have plenty of Winn-Dixie content up our sleeves to satisfy any hunger for cheesecake Blanche may have.  I also plan for this to be my final post of 2023, but make sure to check back this Sunday for AFB's next celebration post and check back with me in January for some exiting new content.


- The Sing Oil Blogger