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Marpole shoppers left with local grocery stores after Safeway demolition begins

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Safeway is being demolished to make way for a new store and high density residential complex. Customers are looking to alternatives for groceries, but they’re short on parking.
Photo: Jeremy Sally

After the Safeway at Granville Street and West 70 Avenue was shut down about a month ago for demolition, Marpole shoppers are left with three local grocery stores or a commute to get their eats.

With at least two years of construction ahead, plowing towards the neighbourhood’s densification, Safeway’s closure has left shoppers with an interim store down the street, but it’s primarily a pharmacy. It occupies a former Rogers Plus storefront and is mainly for health and beauty products. One aisle contains foods like bread, crackers, chips and pop.

The alternatives for food stores are all within one block of each other and the old Safeway. Customer reactions to the closure are a mixed bag and their shopping habits reflect that.

Half a block north

Sakanaya Seafood has been a part of Marpole for over 25 years. Owner Yvonne Nakano says she’s seen a 25 per cent drop in customers since Safeway’s closure and the demolition of its parking lot.
Photo: Jeremy Sally

For Sakanaya Seafood owner Yvonne Nakano, Safeway’s closure has put a chill on her business.

Walking into the store, shoppers meet a long refrigerator spanning the store, greeting them with a rainbow of locally caught delicacies.

The store offers a selection of Japanese grocery items that wouldn’t be found at Safeway. The 26-year-old store mainly attracts families from the immediate area.

“I’ve noticed a decrease of about 25 per cent,” said Nakano. “Usually, people would park at the Safeway and get something here, and get something there.”

Now Nakano says that’s changed with Safeway’s parking lot dug up.

Parking regulations along the busy corridor on Granville already make it hard for customers to stop by on their way home.

“After three o’clock during the weekday, there’s nowhere to park in the front,” said Nakano.

Across the street

Unlike Sakanaya Seafood, the traffic inside Grand Marpole Market reflects the waves of traffic on Granville Street. Clerks and customers squeeze through the narrow aisles of perishables, produce and products.

Owner Mandy Lee barely paused for comment because there wasn’t enough staff on hand to serve the rush.

“If someone finishes [their shift], I have to relieve them,” said Lee.

Lee said the store’s always been busy, but she has noticed a small increase of customers.

Mike Niu is a frequent customer. Safeway’s closure has changed the way he buys his groceries.

“I originally went [to Safeway] but now I have to come here,” said Niu. “Or I go to T&T in Richmond . . . because here, they don’t have as many things.”

Less than a block south, the Healthy and Happy Living grocery store has experienced growth as well, according to manager Renold Hui.

“We’ve had 30 per cent [more customers] within the past month,” said Hui. The store has begun to stock more conventional items to compensate for the increasing demand.

In addition to the natural and organic foods the store already carried, Dempster’s loafs now sit plainly in sight. Hui said they now have a split market of 50 per cent natural and organic foods and 50 per cent mainstream.

The organic customers have stayed the same, while customers looking for what they used to find at Safeway now come to Healthy and Happy Living.

Healthy and Happy Living manager Reynold Hui has had business increase nearly a third over the past month.
Photo: Jeremy Sally

 Once a loyal customer…

Hui said he thinks customers will stay loyal after switching stores, even after Safeway reopens.

Grand Marpole Market customer Niu doesn’t believe he’ll change his shopping habits again.

“I will continue to buy my vegetables here, and my meat here,” he said.

Where else are customers going?

Yvonne Nakano says that she’s noticed many people heading to the Superstore on SE Marine Drive and Main Street, noting the chaotic traffic en route to get there and busy parking lots are drawbacks.

Kathy Baldwin, is another resident who is commuting to shop.

“Up in Dunbar. Stong’s is my favourite place,” said Baldwin.

“Where else am I going to go? Costco?” she said. “I don’t like Superstore.”

A map of grocers that are nearby to Marpole is here.

Reported by Jeremy Sally

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