Did Safeway ever use their circa-1930 Canadian building design in the US?

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Andrew T.
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Did Safeway ever use their circa-1930 Canadian building design in the US?

Post by Andrew T. »

Ever since I took my Labour Day Winnipeg trip, I've been completely infatuated by the built history of Safeway. And that infatuation extends back to the earliest moments of the chain: When Safeway entered Canada in 1929 and 1930, the vast majority of the stores that they opened were newly-built structures, intended explicitly as supermarkets and built from a single prototype. This level of consistency was without precedent in this era, yet Safeway had it in spades.
swy_wpg.jpg
The "standard Canadian Safeway" of 1929/30 looked like this: A modest one-storey building, topped by towers and a Spanish tile roof. The towers themselves contain ornate details; specifically, trefoils and serrated shields:
swy_detail.jpg
At least 11 of these buildings survive in Winnipeg, and I managed to snag photos of 10 of them (plus one in Selkirk and two more in northwest Ontario). Some of them had surprising staying power as well: The Safeway at 107 Regent Ave W (in Transcona, a Winnipeg "suburb" later wiped from the map) survived in operation as Safeway as late as 1961.

But my question is this: Was this building design ever built in the United States? I've never seen a US Safeway with these exact details, yet it seems hard to believe that they'd deliberately endow their Canadian subsidiary with unique architecture...especially since the Spanish tile seems like an implicit nod to the chain's southern California origins. Anyone?
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Andrew Turnbull
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Re: Did Safeway ever use their circa-1930 Canadian building design in the US?

Post by Groceteria »

The Spanish tile roof was not uncommon on Safeway stores in California at the same time (at least in SF), but I don't really remember seeing the configuration with the towers, either. The SF stores I can think of only had one or two less steep rows of tile:

https://goo.gl/maps/nnkM7HfcNo1vmzxW9

https://goo.gl/maps/9wePraLqd3gcqPpt5

This "Mission-lite" style was pretty popular all over North America at the time (I pass a couple of houses with the same roofline on my way to work every morning even here in NC) so it wouldn't surprise me if a specific region adopted it; the DC/VA stores in the 1930s had some distinct touches I've never seen anywhere else either (e.g. the stonework on the sides of the facade).
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Andrew T.
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Re: Did Safeway ever use their circa-1930 Canadian building design in the US?

Post by Andrew T. »

Groceteria wrote: 22 Sep 2021 19:50 The Spanish tile roof was not uncommon on Safeway stores in California at the same time (at least in SF), but I don't really remember seeing the configuration with the towers, either. The SF stores I can think of only had one or two less steep rows of tile:
Hmm, interesting! The San Francisco stores almost look like precursors of the Canadian ones.

One possibility I've mulled is that the "Canadian" store design could have been intended for chainwide use, but was short-lived and constrained by where the company was focusing its resources at the time. In 1929 and 1930, the company erected literally hundreds of newly-built stores in almost every Canadian city of significance west of the Great Lakes, at once. This had to be a colossal expenditure...and I wouldn't be surprised if US store construction was pared back to almost nothing while this was going on.

Meanwhile, the Depression happened...and by the time Safeway's cash flow and construction budget had recovered from their push into Canada, they may have already begun to simplify and economize their store designs in reaction. Using Winnipeg stores as a yardstick, Safeway had already dispensed with the tile roof by 1932, although stores as late as 1936 still bore variations of the tower shields.

That's my theory, anyway...
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull
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