From the fresh vegetables in Aisle 1 to the frozen seafood in Aisle 10, the shoppers at the Rosslyn Safeway are talking about where to shop when the store closes its doors later this year to make way for a 12-story office building.
Safeway officials say that they hope the store's absence will be temporary -- from one to two years. The food store chain, based in California, and the Kaempfer Co., which will develop the site, are expected to reach an agreement in the next few weeks on the relocation of the Safeway in the first floor of the building once it's finished.
For 23 years the Rosslyn Safeway, located in the 1500 block of Wilson Boulevard, has served a combination of residents and office workers, most of whom walk to the store, said the store manager Joseph Schwartz.
The Rosslyn Safeway and the Virginia Square Giant are the last two supermarkets left in the Rosslyn to Ballston Metro corridor, which includes residential and commercial areas along two miles of Wilson Boulevard and Fairfax Drive.
The Clarendon Grand Union, also on the Metro line, closed last year.
On a typical Saturday the few cars in the supermarket's parking lot give no accurate indication of the number of shoppers jamming the aisles.
Of the 14,000 people who use the Rosslyn Safeway every week, nearly 70 percent of them walk or take a taxi, Schwartz said.
During the week the company does a brisk trade in lunches for the nearby office workers, but some of these people come two and three times a day to pick up something for breakfast or a needed item before the trek home, Schwartz said.
"Definitely the people would miss it," Schwartz said, speaking in between stamping customers' checks and changing dollar bills.
Every day people have been stopping him or the cashiers asking when the store will close, but Schwartz says that he's in the dark as much as they are until Safeway reaches an agreement. The older shoppers are worried about where they'll go, Schwartz said.
"I really don't know what they're going to do. I tell them about the one in the 5100 block of Wilson Boulevard. Some say they can't go, it's too far. But they're going to have to go somewhere," Schwartz said.
William Smith, who has been shopping at Safeway for 20 years, owns a car, but said many of the older people on fixed incomes would balk at paying taxi fares to get to the stores farther away.
A one-way taxi ride from Rosslyn to the Safeway in the 5100 block of Wilson Boulevard, the Virginia Square Giant at 1015 N. Monroe Street, the Safeway in the 3700 block of Lee Highway or the Lyon Village Giant at 3115 Lee Highway would cost about $4.
A local trip from Colonial Village to the Rosslyn Safeway or its closest alternative, the Lyon Village Giant, costs between $2.20 and $2.50 one way.
Margaret Smith, a resident of Arlington for 25 years, owns a car but braved a subzero wind-chill temperature to walk to the Safeway from her home three blocks away.
"It's an inconvenience to a lot of people, particularly in Colonial Village where the senior citzens are. A lot of them take taxis," Smith said.
Ralph Ostrich, a resident of River House, doesn't have a car but plans to take a cab to the Virginia Square Giant when the Safeway closes.
He said he doesn't mind the changes in Rosslyn, but "what they've done is taken away the creature comforts."
Because property values have gone up, even Mom and Pop stores can't survive, and the convenience stores that do stay in business charge 25 to 30 percent more, Ostrich said.
Gary Kirkbride, the county's planning section supervisor, said that his group forwarded a study to the Arlington County Board recommending strategies to keep supermarkets in the area.
The study contained a number of public and private sites that might be good locations for future grocery stores.
The county also would encourage the expansion of existing supermarkets, Kirkbride said. He noted that Arlington allowed the Kaempfer Co. added space for its building as an inducement to retain the Rosslyn Safeway or some other supermarket.
The 30,000 square feet of space allotted for a future store is twice the size of the present Rosslyn Safeway.
The director of marketing for Arlington's economic development section, Diane Wahl, emphasized that the county wants to do everything in its power to encourage grocery stores, but agreed that even with help from the county few people can afford to open even a small supermarket or jiffy market in buildings where space rents at $11 to $12 a square foot.
"If a business operator came to us and said I want to open a foodstore to serve Rosslyn -- or anywhere along the Metro corridor -- but I need financial assistance, then the county would give it priority by issuing an industrial revenue bond," Wahl said.
"I think you'll probably see smaller convenience stores popping up," Wahl added, referring to the time when there is no Safeway in Rosslyn. She also noted that there is a Safeway in the Cherrydale neighborhood about 22 blocks away.
"We're very upset," said Sue Lyon, who with Roger Solomon has shopped at the Safeway for a year and a half. "The only choice we have is to take the Metro to Virginia Square."
Lyon also said that the absence of the Safeway is a factor encouraging them to move somewhere else.