GROCERY CHAIN HAS LONG HISTORY IN LG

December 04, 2001 12:00 am
EARLY SAFEWAY LEGACY: Employees of La Grande Safeway stores pose for a photograph in 1932. The employees are standing in front of what is today la Grande's City Hall. It was then La Grande's U.S. Postal Service building. (Photo courtesy of the John Turner and Richard Hermens Collection).
EARLY SAFEWAY LEGACY: Employees of La Grande Safeway stores pose for a photograph in 1932. The employees are standing in front of what is today la Grande's City Hall. It was then La Grande's U.S. Postal Service building. (Photo courtesy of the John Turner and Richard Hermens Collection).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

When Safeway opens its new supermarket at Adams Avenue and Willow Street on Wednesday, it will mark the stores first new building in La Grande in about 60 years.

Safeway stores, however, have an eventful history in La Grande, having operated at five sites over the past 71 years.

Once, during the 1930s, three Safeway stores were open at the same time, according to John Turner of La Grande. Turner and Richard Hermens earlier co-authored a photographic book chronicling La Grandes history La Grande 1885-1985.

Turner said that in the 1930s La Grande had small stores operating simultaneously at:

Adams Avenue where Wells Fargo Bank is today;

the site of the old Foley Hotel building on Adams Avenue, where the Foley Building is today;

Fir Street, where Achilles Custom Cutting & Deli now is.

At some point in the 1930s these stores closed and were replaced by a larger Safeway store on Adams Avenue, where Globe Furniture is today. This store was the largest grocery store in La Grande when it opened, Turner said.

It was La Grandes first attempt at a supermarket, Turner said.

He explained that until the supermarket opened, customers at all grocery stores in La Grande were escorted by clerks through the store and then checked out. The Adams Avenue Safeway may have been the the first grocery store in

La Grande where customers picked out items without being accompanied by a clerk, Turner said.

Safeway opened its existing store at Fourth Street and Adams Avenue on June 27, 1941. The 50-by 129-foot one-story store was described as ultra-modern, according to the June 26, 1941, edition of The Observer. Its features included semi-direct ceiling lights, which made it possible to read labels across a large room, and fruit and vegetable stands that were scientifically ventilated to keep produce fresh without the use of water.

At Safeways grand opening, customers could purchase salmon for 25 cents a pound, rabbit meat for 25 cents a pound and beef roast for 19 cents a pound. Free candy bars were given to children who came to the store with their

parents.

The original store at Fourth and Adams was later torn down and replaced by the present structure.

The current Safeway sits where the La Grande Hotel once was. The hotel was torn down in 1940-41. The razing of the La Grande Hotel started in the summer of 1940 but was delayed several months by a fatal accident on Aug. 29, 1940, that claimed the life of William A. Hudson, 44, of Olympia, Wash., a foreman with the Dupree Wrecking Co.