Store shutting down for complete makeover 

Neighbors and shoppers are bemoaning even the temporary closure of a Richmond district grocery store, which will leave many traveling longer distances in a search for less expensive groceries.

The Safeway at Seventh Avenue and Cabrillo Street is set to close Jan. 7 at 10 p.m. A relatively small store compared to others in the chain, the store, built in 1959, will be rebuilt as a state-of-the-art facility before it reopens next October.

The temporary closure will prompt many to look farther afield for their regular shopping, possibly to the Albertsons at Fulton Street and Masonic Avenue or the Ocean Beach Safeway.

"It’s a bummer," said Tony Rathbone, a software program engineer living on California Street and Eighth Avenue. Rathbone said he occasionally pops over the small local market across the street from his house, but the higher prices generally send him looking elsewhere for goods.

Rathbone said he didn’t like the idea of traveling farther on his scooter to buy the same amount of groceries.

"I’m going to back home and figure out where the closest store is," Rathbone said. But, he said,the elderly community in the area would likely feel the biggest impact.

Experts and community activists believe that the supermarket business in San Francisco is moving toward higher-end stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Mollie Stone’s. With a rash of closures among more moderately priced stores in the Bay Area this past year, middle- to low-income residents are left with longer drives and bus rides or more expensive cab fares to do their grocery shopping.

Lawmakers have even stepped in. The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance introduced by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd requiring a business trying to open a store other than a supermarket in a space previously taken by a grocery store to receive a conditional use permit from The City.

The current Safeway store will be torn down and rebuilt in Safeway’s new "lifestyle format" that includes warmer paint colors and less harsh lighting, changes meant to make the shopping experience less like going to a doctor’s office, said Jennifer Webber, a Safeway spokeswoman.

Customers will also be able to order groceries through a temporary site at Seventh and Cabrillo during the closure.

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