Safeway Montage

If you grow up in DC, it’s hard to imagine a location, store, or neighborhood that doesn’t have a nickname. I grew up solely referring to Adams Morgan as “AdMo”, Georgetown as “G-town”, and the Washington Monument as “the pencil”. The 17th and Corcoran Street Dupont Circle Safeway has always been the “Soviet Safeway” and I can’t remember calling Capitol Hill anything other than “CapHill.” We love nicknames in DC almost as much as the Federal Government likes Acronyms. There are nicknames for most buildings, monuments, neighborhoods, and stores. You name it and we nickname it.

While I still use some of these nicknames, I’m pretty sure some no longer apply, and people would stare at me like I have two heads if I used them in conversation. Even so, my inner child refuses to budge on the “the pencil.” It’s just too good. The nickname is so iconic for so many native Washingtonians and I’m sure a day doesn’t go by where a kid  screams “look there’s a big pencil.” I won’t lie, sometimes ‘that kid’ is me…

A specific set of DC nicknames that come to mind are the Safeway nicknames.  The Safeway chain in the DC area has certainly expanded over the years since its 1941 inception in DC. While some have been closed and remodeled, the Safeway’s themselves have remained a DC constant since I was a kid. Since I’ve lived here my whole life, I’ve been to almost all of the DC Safeway’s. While I remember all the Safeway nicknames I used growing up and the articles I read about them, I started to wonder whether they still apply in DC today. In order to see if these nicknames still apply, the District Ninja team took a look at different sets of data like real estate and crime and their respective trends over the last three to five years.

Safeway Carto Map

For crime, we took all the Metropolitan Police Department Crime Data from 2011 to 2014 and then ran geospatial queries to determine the number of crime incidents within 100 meters of each Safeway. For real estate trends, we took the Kevin Wood provided home/condo sale data from 2011 to 2014 and ran similar geospatial queries to determine home/condo sales that were within 100 meters of each Safeway. In order to appreciate and show trends, the real estate visual includes those Safeways that averaged five or more home/condo sales per year.

The younger me remembers the following Safeway nicknames (To be fair, we only included the Safeway’s that are still open, A deserved RIP shout out to the former Secret Safeway (now home to Glen’s Garden Market) and the Senior Safeway which sat inside the Watergate Complex).

Social Safeway (Georgetown – Wisconsin Ave):
This is where people went before the advent of online dating. Prior to and following its remodeling in 2010, the mix of young professionals, Georgetown students, and those seeking “the scene” of it all have consistently frequented this location. The biggest change of late is how nice the actual Safeway has become. So drop by for a beer or wine tasting, and potentially leave with a lot more!

Does it still apply?

The Hoya recently penned a great piece on the origins of Social Safeway’s nickname. The article notes that the “aura of excitement and romantic grocery shopping adventures of the past seem to be rare now at the Social Safeway.” With a new Whole Foods built within the last several years and the advent of Tinder, it’s easy to understand why this may be the case. Thus, it may be time to work the word “former” into the nickname.

“Un”Safeway (Capitol Hill-14th Street):
While it may have been home to the site of a former District Brewery 100 years prior to, this Safeway lived up to its reputation in the 90’s. Back in the day, “Cap Hill” dwellers used to report returning to their cars to find them either stolen or broken into. The more vivid descriptions of bullets whizzing by may be dramatic but also reported widely enough to not have a grain of truth in its description.  While crime has recently been on the rise in Capitol Hill, we wanted to see if the immediate area around this Safeway (100 meters), still warranted such a nickname.

Does it still apply?

Even with the recent spike in crime in Capitol Hill, when compared to other Safeways, this nickname may not fair! The data shows that in 2011 there were 28 total incidents of crime within 100 meters with Theft (16) being the most frequent offense. Yet, that same year, Stinky Safeway (Georgia Ave) had 72 total incidents of crime, 36 of which were theft, and one homicide. That’s virtually triple the number of crime incidents and double the number of theft incidents.

We noticed similar results when we compared this Safeway to other Safeways as well. For example, the “Swanky” Safeway (Southwest) had 47 total crime incidents in 2011, 40 of which were theft, that’s slightly two times more than the rate for the UnSafeway. Similarly, the Columbia Road “Spanish” Safeway had 50 total crime incidents in 2011, 29 of which were property crime, also more than the UnSafeway. We then looked at the 2014 data and the results weren’t very different, showing it may be time for a new nickname.

In 2014, the UnSafeway had 37 total crime incidents while the Swanky Safeway and Stinky Safeway  had 67 and 72 incidents, respectively. With homes recently taking just six days to go under contract in Capitol Hill, it may be time to drop the “Un” and call this Safeway the “InDemandWay.”

Soviet Safeway (Dupont Circle – Corcoran St.):
This Safeway was always under stocked (think empty shelves) , over run with customers (think long lines – reminiscent of a lack of TSA pre-check), under staffed (think a sample sale), and had narrow aisles with poor lighting (think old Russian spy movie).

Does it still apply?
This is a tough one. A review of this Safeway’s Yelp page shows that DC Yelpers have claimed the Safeway still continues to live up to its name both in 2014 and 2015. While the shelves may be bare, the home prices around the Soviet Safeway do not bring to mind “Soviet” mentality, then again neither does Moscow in the post soviet era, having been named travel feeder’s number 3rd most expensive city worldwide. With an average price of $743,817 and homes selling for a whopping $2.75 million. This Safeway seems to have kept trends with Russian development that has struggled to provide western services but has trended towards capitalist price points. This Safeway may be due for an updated nickname, Post-Soviet Safeway may be the right one until both Russia and this Safeway fully come out of the cold war era.

Stinky Safeway (Petworth – Georgia Ave):
Closed in 2012 for renovations and reopened in 2014, this Safeway used to look like it was a store the Brady Bunch would shop at. When you shopped in it, you felt like if you turned onto the next aisle you would be met by bellbottoms, bouffant hairdos, love beads, slogan buttons (think peace & love), and mood rings.  This might just be why some people also referred to it as the Sixties Safeway. Even before it reopened in 2014, people were already talking about what it’s new nickname should be.

Does it still apply?
While the crime rate for this Safeway is certainly higher than some others others, Stroller Safeway appears to be the new nickname for this Safeway, and we couldn’t find any reason here at District Ninja to say otherwise. Plus, we will of course defer to the Prince of Popville on this Safeway’s nickname as it is his old stomping grounds.

“Swanky” Safeway (SW Waterfront – 4th Street):
By this nickname alone you would think this Safeway would be in NW. But no, it first got its nickname due to its super chic and shiny modern exterior when it opened in 2010 just steps from the Waterfront metro station. This Safeway has recently introduced a great prepared food section and a large inviting Starbucks right when you walk in which is perfect for the Civil Servants over at DCRA directly next-door.

Does it still apply?
This Safeway was elusive of any data outliers that would help us give it an updated name. Crime was about average and there is not much real estate for sale in the immediate vicinity. That said, one of the Distirct Ninja team members who hails from Southwest DC points out that with The Wharf being completed in 2017 and the waterfront station plot has recently received ANC approval, SW is Swanky as ever!

Really Secret Safeway (Tenleytown – Davenport Street):
Unless you go to Georgetown Day School (who announced in 2014 that it had purchased this Safeway  or live in Tenleytown,  you probably don’t realize that the unmarked brown building with little to no signs is in fact a fully functioning Safeway. This Safeway is never crowded because no one knows it’s there. The interior and exterior might rival that of the sixties Safeway (no extra frills here).

Does it still apply?
The data analysis didn’t yield much on this Safeway. With a very low crime rate and very few homes sold within 100 meters, the District Ninja team didn’t find it appropriate to suggest an updated nickname. That being said, with the recent purchase, we aren’t sure how much longer this Safeway will be around. When announced in June 2014, some said the Safeway would close within 10 months. Approximately 15 months later, the Safeway remains open. Greater Greater Washington recently noted that the new GDS will “supplant the bunker-like Safeway” so we expect a closure announcement any day now.

Spanish Safeway (Adams Morgan – Columbia Road):
This Safeway got its nickname because of the large Hispanic Communities in the Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan neighborhoods. While some have called it the Sandinista Safeway, Spanish Safeway is the most commonly used nickname. For years, this Safeway has stocked items geared towards the Hispanic Community (think tres leches cake, specialty chilies, Catholic paraphernalia, etc).

Does it still apply?
While the data showed this Safeway to be more deserving of the UnSafeway nickname, the demographic trends also show an interesting result. In July 2015, the Washington City Paper had a great piece on a research project that shows that while many bodegas and Spanish-language churches still exist in the area, “D.C.’s Hispanic population now mostly resides in 16th Street Heights, Park View, and Petworth.” Citing the study, the WCP notes that ” the median gross rent for Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Mount Pleasant have jumped significantly since the beginning of the century: In 2000, in those neighborhoods, it ranged from $271 to $1,200, while in 2010, it swelled to $750 to $1670.” Therefore, it may be time to start rethinking this Safeway’s nickname!

Sexy Safeway (Mount Vernon Triangle – L Street):
This nickname came about in 2008 when former Mayor Adrian Fenty announced on National Public Radio that this was DC’s first new Safeway in a decade and he was nicknaming it the “Sexy Safeway.” While at the time the new cheese counters and produces sections were better than any other Safeway in DC, other Safeway’s have since caught up!

Does it still apply?
While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, numbers are numbers, and numbers never lie. It may be time to change this Safeway’s nickname to “Condoway.” We took a look at all the home/condo sales within 100 meters of this Safeway from 2011 to 2014. Not only did this Safeway experience 94 total sales during this time period, the total number of sales jumped from 8 in 2011 to 39 in 2014, a 417% increase! With an average bedroom size of 1.28, we feel pretty confident that Condoway is an appropriate nickname.



The District Ninja team didn’t forget that there are six other Safeways that did have any nickname of record. Stay tuned for another post where we research new nicknames for DC’s remaining Safeways.


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