Nichole Dumps Safeway For Harris Teeter


I’ve been kicking around this idea for a while now, that I would talk about how and why I’m still a dedicated Safeway shopper, even though Harris Teeter came to town. I had all of these noble (“Harris Teeter prevents its employees from unionizing!” “The prices – the prices! Just across the river at the VA HT’s everything’s 30 cents less!”) and not so noble (“The HT after work is full of the kind of psuedo-food snobbery that I fully admit to participating in, and frankly, I’m unemployed and want to grocery shop in my sweats and not have to bump into my fancy employed professional acquaintances with a cart full of ramen.”) reasons that I was going to outline and declare my undying devotion to the Safeway Formerly Known as the Unsafeway. I was… I really, really was.

But lately I have to admit… I’ve been fervently cheating on Safeway with the new kid in town. It started innocently enough around the holidays. HT has some swankier goods, and it was just one time. I kept coming back to Safeway to do my weekly “big shop” though. With all the time on my hands though, I started cooking for myself more and more and getting back in the kitchen, happy to have time to pursue one of my favorite hobbies. I’d go to Safeway, and they just wouldn’t always have what I needed. Slowly but surely, it made less and less sense to even bother with Safeway, since I knew I’d have to make two trips anyway. (Not to mention the trips to Balducci’s and Dean & Deluca for the occasional treat or far flung ingredient. I am happy to report I haven’t set foot in a Whole Foods in at least 6 months, but that’s a whole different, irrational issue.) Then Lent rolled around, and the Harris Teeter seafood department is truly far better than my dear old Safeway’s, and so every Friday I’d hit the HT to see what was on sale, or to pick up their passable sushi. Since Easter, I’ve been really lazy what with Spring sort of, kind of teasing it’s way out, so I’ve been all about the (exorbitantly priced) salad bar at the Teet. And that brings us to today…

I have desperately needed to go grocery shopping for a couple of weeks now. And as I was gathering up my things and getting ready to go, I never even considered my old friend the Safeway. And I realized that I’m one of those people. Those people who dump the old reliable when the new and shiny comes to town. I have shopped at the Safeway for 7 years. The staff was no longer surly to me. I’d seen it transformed from the Unsafeway into a real, live, modern grocery store complete with a Starbucks, an olive bar and a decent produce section. (Once, many years ago, I went to the Safeway on a Sunday morning looking for tomato juice for bloodies. They had none. What the fuck, I thought. Now, I can get a variety of tomato-based juices, including my preferred Clamato.) Continues after the jump

I’ve never claimed to hate gentrification, or yuppies, or any of that stuff. In fact, I quite like those things. I like that I live in a neighborhood that, had my mother ever visited me she would have called “cute” and where I feel safe walking my dog alone past 11pm, and where all of my neighbors are doing the same. I was thrilled when the Safeway remodeled and upgraded, and sure, it was a little more expensive than it had been, but it was so, so worth it. But I’d stuck with the Safeway through thick and thin, and even when it seemed like everyone else in the neighborhood abandoned the Safeway for the Teet, I stuck with it. I’d made do for many years, I sort of had relationships with the employees (okay, they’re cordial – but that took A LOT of work), I knew where everything was and I understood the layout. The Safeway was MY store.

The Harris Teeter has lovely lighting. The Harris Teeter has been my devoted supplier in something I’m calling the Great Box Wine Experiment of Aught Nine. The Harris Teeter has a better selection of goat cheese than Safeway. And a superior selection of prepared foods. It’s arguably a better all around shopping experience, and yet, I feel so, so guilty shopping there. Not because its workers aren’t allowed to organize (truth be told… I don’t care that much, but please don’t tell that to my friends who work for organized labor), not because the prices are so high that it obviously only caters to the more affluent in the neighborhood, none of these things are the source of my angst. It’s the startling lack of loyalty that I am displaying by abandoning my Safeway. I consider myself to have a good deal of “sticktoitiveness” when it comes to my friends, and I considered Safeway my friend, and now… well, I’m trading her in for a younger, hotter model. What’s next? A red corvette convertible?

But so it goes. Neighborhoods change and grow, and we change and grow with them. Choices are good, and the addition of Harris Teeter to the neighborhood is a good thing for all of us, including the Safeway. There’s room in my life for both of these stores. AND the Florida Ave. Market AND the H St. Farmers Market AND Eastern Market. I know that I’ll always identify first as a Safeway shopper, and I look forward to watching my friend get even better now that she has a little competition. And there are things HT can never give me. (Like for instance, those delicious little frozen appetizers called Bags of Gold. I LOVE those things.) But, I’ll always feel a little sad on the days that I drive past my old friend to pay a visit to my new friend.

So, my question for you is: How do you incorporate the new and the old? Do you immediately abandon your old haunts for newer ones? How much of an effect does nostalgia have? Or work put in to develop a relationship? When you watch your neighborhood change and grow before your eyes, how do you participate in that process? (I don’t mean in terms of gentrification – that’s really not what this is about, nor is this intended to stir up that conversation for the millionth time.) Do you maybe miss out on new things because of your loyalty to the old?

35 Comment

  • I choose the Safeway on 14th Street SE over the new-ish Teet three blocks away nine times out of 10, simply because the Teet’s prices are absurd.

  • Teets is overpriced? my word. I shop there all the time and while I may be no comparison shopper I think its pretty damn cheap. Not to mention everything is always on sale. everytime i shop there its “Sir your VIC savings today total 15 dollars” and i leave scratching my head how I saved 15 bucks on a 40 dollar tab. In addition even if it is a little more expensive than safeway id pay the few dollars extra just to not have to set foot inside safeway. in fact I live 2 blocks north of the columbia rd safeway. My walking route to Harris Teeter takes my right past it. and I never look back. though I confess I go to safeway if I wake up and realize im out of coffee. but thats about all its good for.

  • It’s the produce that really gets me to shop at Harris Teeter. It justifies paying more when I get something that looks and tastes delicious. Safeway and Giant don’t compete with Harris Teeter (or Whole Foods) on produce and meat. HT’s service is better too. You get what you pay for.

  • agree with posters so far…HT has much better produce and I don’t find HT over-priced at all.

  • That’s just from my experience. I find I’m able to spend less and buy more at the Safeway. I’ve also found that the club-card discounts at Safeway are bigger and more numerous than the Teet.

    Wegmans is cheaper and nicer than both of them, if you’re in the mood for a long drive out to the ‘burbs (anxiously awaiting the one that’s supposed to open in Landover next year, which will be the closest Wegmans to DC proper).

    Plus, the Safeway on 14th Street SE has a liquor store attached, with club-card discounts on beer/wine/booze that put the Teet’s club-card discounts on beer/wine to shame.

  • Does a person’s choice of grocery store typically cause people this level of angst? I had no idea. Maybe since I tend to move every year or two I don’t get as attached to such things — I shop wherever is most convenient via public transportation.

  • i haven’t gone back to the petworth safeway since the time i went in and could barely breath, b/c they could not find the rat(s) that had died and was decaying….

  • Jackie W., a cashier at the Piney Branch Safeway, verbally attacked me a couple of weeks ago. I ended up in the most unexpected and absurd fight I’ve ever been in as a customer. It’s now Harris Teeter and Whole Foods for me. After that experience I don’t mind so much paying for short lines and sane, polite cashiers.

  • My bills are always higher at HT than at the Safeway on Columbia. Often by a large margin. My methods aren’t scientific, but if I shop for the week at HT I seem to spend about 40-60 bucks more than a similar trip to Safeway – which is absurd. The price discrepancy holds true even for quick, shopping-for-tonight-only trips.

    That said, everything other than price is better at HT. Produce and meats are far better in quality and options. Service, cleanliness, no question. I find myself going a lot more now that I am employed. When I was a student and broke and really counting coin it made no sense for me to even consider it.

  • HT doubles coupons under a buck. Sexy!

  • What neighborhood is this supposed to be about? I know that PoP is trying to branch out to be a city-wide blog, but at least we could get some clarification here…

    I was at the Petworth Safeway yesterday, and I know for sure that they don’t have a Starbucks.

  • I don’t really like either of these Cap Hill stores, but I LOVE the automated checkout at Safeway. Not to be unsociable, but the staff is so hugely hit or miss — I never know if I’ll have an extremely pleasant exchange or be outright insulted. It’s easy to get in and out, and Safeway has greatly improved without a big price difference. The Teet is like a shiny new toy, where the more you play with it the more obvious it becomes that it was made in China and will fall apart prematurely. Their made to order pizza seems great, but they use HFC in the sauce, the ‘fresh’ food bar consistently looks kind of tired (except for the price), and the organic produce is even more expensive than Whole Foods. It feels as corporate in their product selection and placement as Safeway, Giant, and Food Lion.

    I used to hate the Safeway on the Hill, but I now find myself making quick trips there more often there than the Teet. It’s less crowded, the product selection has improved, and the Safeway Organics line is ok for some things.

  • @Anon 12:09 I generally write about Capitol Hill; that’s which Safeway and HT I’m referring to specifically here. (the 14th SE Safeway, and the HT down the street from that)

    However, when I talk about it being overpriced, I’m referring not only in comparison to Safeways and other grocery stores (not Whole Foods, as I don’t shop there) but also to other Harris Teeters, specifically those in VA, where I would occasionally stop on my way home from work.

  • I like any grocery store that doesn’t judge me with the holier than thou BS when iIpurchase beer at 9 in the morning on a Sunday, which pretty much somes it up to Trader Joe’s (GT) right now. If I get one more church lady cashier looking at me and my ID up and down for 5 minutes I am gonna strangle the wench.

  • all the competition is going to mean you will see changes at safeway and giant – people buying high margin items are defecting to the new competitors (like me – used to shop at O street Giant, now shop at HT in Adams Morgan and Timor Market in Bloomingdale).

  • the petworth safeway smells like baby poop.

  • I’ll add that I also shop regularly at the Yes! Organic Market on 14th. Harris Teeter beats their produce too (even though Yes! specializes in organics). But Yes! is good for dry and frozen foods, and fresh breads and deserts.

  • LOL @ New Hampy.

    Truth: I’ve never, ever been to a safeway. But have you noticed, you being those from New England, that Giant, though the same company as Stop and Shop, is so much worse? Maybe it’s the nostalgia…

  • The best part of Harris Teeter, and this is reflected in the fact it is non-unionized, is that there are at least 4 check out people on at all times, even in weekday mornings. At the Safeway, there are at most 4 people working the check-outs. that makes the trip more enjoyable because it is shorter… and of story.

  • HT’s produce is as bad if not worse than the Unsafeway…I went to HT Potomac Ave yesterday and they were asking $2.99 for one red bell pepper. No, it wasn’t organic, not $2.99/lb, just one regular bell pepper…it was a whole dollar cheaper at Yes!….Harris Teeter needs to get it’s head out of its ass and realize it is not and never will be Whole Foods. And their store’s design is really unusual and is a cell phone dead zone on Verizon and ATT

  • There’s a Teets on the hill?

  • @Steve Yes. It opened a couple weeks after the one in Adams Morgan. It’s across from the Potomac Avenue metro.

  • While the Roller Rink Harris-Teeter in Adams Morgan consistently offers a more pleasant shopping experience than any of the proximate Safeway or Giant stores, my experience is that HT prices on grocery items tend to be consistently higher than either Safeway or Giant, and that promotional prices for sale items at HT tend to be less attractive than either of the big grocery chains (much less Target). On some things (such as the type of milk we buy), Harris-Teeter prices can exceed those charged by Whole Foods on P Street. (If one shops carefully at Whole Foods, there are actually some pretty good prices.)

  • Rukasu: The fact that it is a cell phone dead zone is a plus in my book. Only thing worse than a DB yapping on the cell phone in the grocery store is a DB yapping on the phone on the bus.

  • The Safeway that’s located in the Vista condos (same bldg as the new Busboys and Poets) is great. Produce selection – fantastic. So far only good interaction with staff.

  • I love these sort of justify-your-preferences posts. It would be so much more honest if people just admitted that Safeway/Giant

  • Oh bother … only the front end of my comment posted @ 4:29. Not worth rewriting in total, so to summarize: Safeway/Giant

  • I’ve avoided HT because of the issues that Nichole pointed out–both noble and less so. However, after 12 years of being a devoted Safeway shopper–first in Adams Morgan, braving the crowds, then primarily Piney Branch (the one with the Starbucks) and occasionally Petworth, I’ve left Safeway forever and now shop at Giant

    The fact that the Safeways were ALL filthy–Piney Branch was actually the worst…my feet occasionally stuck to the floor in the produce department and I had to hose off my shoes when I got home–was a bit of a deterrant, but the biggest issue for me was that I was CONSTANTLY BEING OVERCHARGED!!! Not 50 cents here or there, but often in the $5 and up range. Every visit involved a trip to the customer service window for the 30 minute ordeal of getting someone to attend me and then waiting in the checkout line for a refund.

    So, Safeway shoppers—CHECK YOUR RECEIPTS!!! Though I’ll admit the I never had this problem at the Petworth store…ALWAYS at Piney Branch.

  • @Eric: I was looking at it from a data dead zone perspective like…”Oh what was that new recipe I wanted to try? I wish I could use my phone to check it so I knew to buy swiss chard or mustard greens.”

  • while i’ve only lived in the neighborhood for a year i prefer the teet. I’m a consummate bargain shopper and i only grocery shop once a month but i can easily get 100 worth of groceries for 60 bucks at the teet, havent had the same experience at safeway. i pretty much only go to safeway if teet doesnt have something…like they were weirdly out of tofu last week.

  • Nik – I freakin love all of your blog entries! I hear them in your mildly sarcastic voice, and picture the awesome eyerolls. And your mom would have loved them, too.

  • Safeway is a real rat hole. The meat is expensive and low quality. Giant beats it by a mile. Crappy selection too.

    I’d rather gouge out my eyes with a hot iron than go back to Safeway.

  • chris at colorado corner: “i haven’t gone back to the petworth safeway since the time i went in and could barely breath, b/c they could not find the rat(s) that had died and was decaying…”

    omg x 2, i thought i was the only one who had experienced that smell. I also have never been back since that day. you know what I am almost certain that the smell was – human feces. after about 10 minutes of walking around, i remember hallucinating that everything was covered in human feces. it was so traumatizing that i think i threw away the one item i had bought. and I am NOT a grocery store snob.

  • To the HT lovers and WF haters, compare prices…. I was thrilled to have the HT a few blocks from my house, no more driving to P Street WF, lower prices, etc. etc. (I haven’t shopped at safeway since I pointed out to the manager that the carrots were literally flacid and the lettuce was turned to a rotten soup and he basically shrugged and said “so?”). But really, HT is not cheaper. Example: decent parmigiano-regiano cheese 13.99/lb at WH, 20.99/lb at HT for the same exact cheese. Sure, HT has some super fake version for $9.00lb that WF does not have, but that is not really a comparison, if you want the real stuff, you’re better of at whole foods. Same deal for decent cheddar cheese, WH $2lb cheaper for the same stuff. Red Peppers $2.99 each at HT, $4.99/lb at WF, I haven’t actually done the compare, but I’m pretty sure WF pricing ends up being less. Milk prices identical for identical products, but HT has no grass-fed option.

    You’re not saving money at HT unless you are actually substituting lower quality items for higher.

  • I drove to the Pentagon Row HT even though the unSafeway was 2 blocks away so I was thrilled when the HT opened on Penn. I am not one who cares for the yuppie foodstuffs as I don’t cook much, but when a grocery store (Safeway) cannot effectively manage their Dairy – a very, very basic staple – then to me that speaks to the entire manage their inventory and how they feel about the entire clientele of that store. The redo was great and has helped with the quality/variety and general shopping experience, but I still prefer HT.

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