The Post reports that the coming Skyland Walmart in Ward 7 may be stymied by a city pledge to Safeway that competitors can’t sell groceries in certain parts of the area. Presumably, that includes the Skyland strip mall across the street from Safeway, where the Walmart is to be located. Mayor Vince Gray is apparently trying to work out a deal, but Safeway is naturally being a bit cagey:
“We want to be cooperative, but there is a reason that the covenant is in place to protect our interests,” said Craig Muckle, Safeway’s manager of public affairs and government relations.
At the news conference to announce Wal-Mart’s new plans, Gray said the Wal-Mart stores would help address unemployment — by bringing in about 1,800 jobs — and “food deserts.”
But Muckle said the Ward 7 area where the Wal-Mart is planned may become an oasis that can’t handle two grocers. Such proximity may not be as unusual in the suburbs, where traffic patterns could necessitate and support competing nearby stores, he said.
“In the city, with one possible exception, there is no grocery store directly across the street from another grocery store,” he said. “In a city, basically you’re looking at a store coming in a neighborhood. To have more than one . . . someone may survive; someone may not.”
I was at the Skyland Safeway a couple of weeks ago doing some reporting, and by my observation, the clientele seemed largely middle-class. Shops like the Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket, which was about a mile away and a lot like an overgrown corner store, may actually have more to fear from a coming Walmart. Gray could argue that since, unlike Safeway, Walmart is well known for its appeal to lower-income families, it’s more likely that the folks who don’t shop at Safeway anyway will be heading to a fresh new Walmart supercenter.
Then again, considering that everyone is trying to make their dollars stretch these days, Safeway may be in trouble, too.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery