Deep Dive: Hawthorne Safeway & The Lost Optimism of Grocery Store Modern

The Safeway on Hawthorne at 28th is pictured here in 1975 with an eerily vacant lot. Though it was a crappy due to poor management and ham-fisted renovations, the building had interesting roots from an architectural perspective.

Beyond the broad expanse of oil stained macadam and poor selection, this 33,000 sq ft store had the distinction of being one of the last “Marina prototype” store designs in the metro area still held by Safeway. So named for the 1959 debut location on Marina Blvd in San Francisco, this groundbreaking prototype had three variants but all featured a distinctive serpentine roof carried by soaring glulams. This afforded a voluminous sales floor almost entirely absent of columns. The exuberantly modern design made the brand a standout among the monotony of grocers, with a bank of tall plate-glass windows fronting the street, flanked by twin entrances against a masonry core. A tragically butchered example still survives in Lake Oswego and there are several which have been converted to other uses like Hong Phat Food Center on 82nd at Burnside. Some communities have even sought historic preservation for these threatened buildings but they hardly stand a chance in the face of impatient corporations and developers attracted to the acres of parking on which they stand. I should also note Safeway did remodel a Marina at their MLK Jr. Blvd. location but with pretty sad results. They basically crammed their current design typology, “Lifestyles”, into the space with little to no accommodation for the unique opportunities afforded the dramatic 25′ ceiling.

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