Some Castro Valley Patch readers may recall that I wrote lamenting the fact that we were going to get another Safeway store in town, specifically in the same location as the old P.W. Market. I really liked P.W. Market and was sad to see it go. It was just one more hit to small businesses in Castro Valley.
Unfortunately, the community had no say in the matter, so the deal was signed. While we waited as construction began, most of us drove around and around looking for a parking spot and braved the crammed aisles at the existing Safeway located at Castro Valley Boulevard and Redwood Avenue.
Now that all is said and done, the new Safeway is open for business. I have been in the store a few times, so here is my assessment:
The Good: Lots of Space to Shop
The aisles in the new store are wide and free of merchandise displays. It seems very open with lots of room to shop. Even on a Sunday at 5 p.m., the store does not feel overly crowded. This is a very welcome experience compared to the existing Safeway, especially during holidays when there are oodles of displays crowding the aisles. No more bumping into people a million times with your cart.
The Bad: Selection is Horrible
I remember reading somewhere that the new store would provide a different selection of products. From what I can tell, it appears to be the same, if not less. Take the aisle with chips, for example: It is about one-third the size of the other store yet it doesn’t offer anything new or different. I had the same experience in the frozen food aisle and the meat counter.
If you have a favorite product, it may not be at the new store, so you’ll have to go to the other one and squeeze your way through the too-small aisles.
The So-So: Same Layout, Different Name
OK, the new store is in no way like P.W. Market (see above) but it “feels” almost the same because the layout is identical. The deli, produce, cheese display and meat counter are all in the same place, but there isn't the same variety of gourmet products.
I was hoping there would be something different. Like a new coffee shop area, a gourmet olive bar, organic bulk nuts and grains or maybe even a "to die for" bakery department. But alas, no.
The parking lot at the new Safeway is full and people are buying their groceries, so it appears as though the executives at Safeway guessed right: There is a market for another store in Castro Valley. I have to ask, however, what exactly is the purpose of the new store? To be the not-so-spectacular little brother of the other store? To accommodate overflow? To be a glorified convenience store?
From my experience, the new Safeway was not designed to give the community access to anything other than a run-of-the-mill grocery store offers. So, I’ll be driving out of town to get my gourmet olives and bulk organic items, thank you very much.