Downtown Anacostia welcomed a new supermarket Monday, while five miles to the north, 20,000 other D.C. residents learned they would lose their market Sunday.
The opening of the Korean-owned Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket, at 14th Street and Good Hope Road SE, meant that approximately 10,000 low-income blacks, many of whom do not own cars, had a supermarket within walking distance of their homes -- a convenience they lost when a Safeway market at that address was closed April 1.
"I can make it on my own, coming down here," said first-day shopper Sylvia Robinson, 47, "and I don't have to ask someone to take me, then rush through my shopping so I won't inconvience them."
Since Safeway had closed the store, many in the community had struggled with public transportation to shop at the next-closest supermarket. Or they had turned to the smaller neighborhood stores, where prices were higher.
Meanwhile, the Deanwood-Burrville sections of far Northeast are on the verge of losing the Safeway at 51st Street and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE, which is scheduled to close Saturday.
"It looks like they've shut us out," said John Robinson, 64, of 335 Division Ave. NE, who comes to the store every day to help shoppers load their cars."It will inconvenience us in this section because a lot of people don't have transportation. I live up the street from here, but I have no transportation to get to another store."
Safeway officials said they tried to keep the 18,000-square-foot store open by changing the management and improving the store's appearance, but a steady five-year decline in business finally spelled the end.
Safeway has leased the store to the black-owned Super Pride supermarket chain, which operates four stores in Baltimore. Charles Burns, founder and president of Super Pride, which tried unsuccessfully to lease the Anacostia store, said he has leased the Northeast store beginning Dec. 1, and hopes to reopen it as a Super Pride market the first week in January.
Han Yong Cho, a former Korean Marine Corps officer who has successfully taken over two other defunct Safeways in the District, stood in the front of his Anacostia acquisition Monday and explained why he will succeed where a branch of the nation's largest gorcery chain failed.
He has fewer employes, pays lower wages (since there is no union) and will be more alert to shoplifting because he and two of his relatives will be in the store each day, he said.
"[Chain store] employes don't pay attention to that kind of problem [shoplifting] but I have relatives who will," he said. Although such groceries have reputations for high prices, Cho's prices are comparable to Safeway's, according to several shoppers and some community leaders who attended the store's opening.
"The prices are reasonable and the store is cleaner than when Safeway had it," said Albert Russell, vice president of the Good Hope Road Merchants Association, which represents the small shopping area that flanks Good Hope Road from 11th Street to Minnesota Avenue. After members of the community fought for nine months to keep the Safeway open or have it taken over by black ownership, a working relationship based on the neighborhood's need for a supermarket has been established with Cho.
"We have to welcome them [the Korean family] because they are supplying our food source," Russell said bluntly.
The Rev. Willie Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church and leader of the community protests, attended the opening and hailed the new store as "a vital service that's needed." He said his only regret was that the community had been unable to purchase the store. But he noted that four of Cho's 14 employes live in the neighborhood.
Wilson said the community also will try to reduce shoplifting and vandalism at the store. Safeway officials had said the store failed partly because of a high rate of theft.
The store's other major problem is the number of winos and drug addicts who congregate on the low brick wall bordering the parking lot, frightening away women shoppers.
Wilson said he knew many of the men because they attended rehabilitation programs at his church, which is directly across from the store. They could be seen occupying their usual posts during Monday's opening.
Safeway has closed two stores in low-income black neighborhoods (Anastocia and Burroughs Avenue) this year, while building new stores to replace old ones in Georgetown, at the Waterside Mall in Southwest and at 42nd and Ellicott streets NW.Meanwhile, the chain is remodeling stores on Capitol Hill, Columbia Road and at 17th and Corcoran NW, near Dupont Circle -- all communities that have seen a substantial influx of whites in recent years.
Two other stores, at 1730 Hamlin St. NE, and another at 5227 Georgia Ave. NW, were converted to limited assortment stores, after community residents protested plans to close them. CAPTION: Picture 1, First-day shoppers at new Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket. $1By John Dwyler for The Washington Post; Picture 2, no caption