Safeway opens Feb. 28 with S.H. man at helm

“Hometown boy” Ed Spencer will guide the new Safeway store when it celebrates its grand opening here Feb. 28.

The new 42,000-square-foot Sweet Home Safeway Food and Drug replaces a 37-year-old, 16,000-square-foot building, which was closed in July to begin construction.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 8 a.m. inside the store. The store opens at 6 a.m.

The new building is the third since Safeway began serving the Sweet Home community 46 years ago. The first store was located at 610 Main St. and opened on May 15, 1955. Safeway has operated at that location until 1964 when it moved to its current address, 1540 Main St.

After the store opens, it will remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Safeway is excited to be re-opening with a big, beautiful new store for our friends in Sweet Home,” Store Manager Spencer said. “As a native Oregonian, born and raised in Sweet Home, I’m really looking forward to coming home. My crew and I are committed to continuing Safeway’s legacy of serving Sweet Home the surrounding community.”

Spencer has been with Safeway for 33 years, since he was 16 years old.

He started his grocery career in September 1969 as a courtesy clerk in the Sweet Home Safeway. He has held numerous positions throughout his grocery career, including courtesy clerk, journeyman food clerk, dairy clerk, frozen foods manager, night crew and produce manager before entering the management ranks.

In May 1997, Spencer earned his first assistant manager assignment at the former Sweet Home Safeway. Spencer also served as assistant store manager in a number of Safeway stores, including stores in Albany, Lebanon, Springfield and Eugene.

Prior to accepting the promotion to store manager at Sweet Home Safeway, Spencer was assistant store manager at Safeway’s new Corvallis store, which opened in July.

Spencer was graduated from Sweet Home High School. He attended Oregon State University.

He and his wife reside in Sweet Home.

Spencer has been on the road working for Safeway for more than 20 years, and he said he’s happy to be home with a short commute. He plans to walk to work after the store opens.

“I love it,” Spencer said. “My feet haven’t touched down yet. This is a dream come true. I’ve wanted this store forever.”

He would have been happy with the old store, Spencer said. “I feel fortunate to be back in my hometown with a new store. I’m very proud of the store. I think the community will be too. I think this town has waited a long time for a store this nice.”

“We know it’s been a hardship to our valued customers,” Public Affairs Director Bridget A. Flanagan said.

“But I think we’re going to make it up to them,” Spencer said.

Assistant Store Manager Glen Brooks rounds out the Safeway management team. He began his career in the grocery industry in 1990. Brooks has held several positions through his grocery career, including courtesy clerk, janitor, junior food clerk, frozen foods clerk and head clerk prior to entering management. Brooks passed Safeway’s retail leadership program.

Joining Safeway in the pharmacy is Pharmacist Tom Lemar, formerly of Santiam Drug. The pharmacy moves into Safeway beginning Feb. 28.

Department managers include Gary Petrocelli, produce; Misti Brady, deli; Rhonda Ekleberry, floral; Dennis Schlabach, meat; Jim Decker, pharmacy; and Genice Holley, variety.

The store will employ 80 to 100. It previously employed 35 to 40 persons, Spencer said. About 95 percent of the store’s employees live in Sweet Home. The store has recruited many of its previous employees and Sweet Home residents who work at Safeway stores in other towns.

Safeway’s Portland Division includes 113 stores, 97 in Oregon and 16 in Southwestern Washington. Safeway, Inc., which started in Portland 77 years ago, is a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America based on sales. The company operates more than 1,700 stores in the United States and Canada.