District of Safeways

November 30, 2015

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.




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.mWe 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.




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