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North Beach Safeway: Grocery chain says it’s ‘fully engaged’ in taking over

A street view of the former Safeway store in North Beach, San Francisco.
A Google Street View of Safeway’s 350 Bay St. location.

An affordable grocery store chain has let on they could take over North Beach’s Safeway, which is set to shutter in May.

Bill Coyle, vice president of Grocery Outlet’s Northern California real estate division, said he had visited the Safeway location at 350 Bay St. last week.

“I was at the Safeway last week and am fully engaged,” Coyle said in an email.

Coyle later told The Standard by phone that he is arranging a meeting with the property owner to discuss the possibility of opening a North Beach Grocery Outlet. Rent details would need to be hashed out though, as the space is around 10,000 square feet larger than a typical Grocery Outlet.

The budget store would also need to hire security guards to deter shoplifters, which Coyle said has been a problem at the North Beach location. Renovations would also be needed, bumping up the opening costs.

“It’s not a glove fit,” Coyle said. “[But if the owner is] a fan of Grocery Outlet, we’d love to make a deal. I think it would be a really good replacement grocery, providing fresh food and produce at affordable prices to the community.”

Eggs on display at a Grocery Outlet in the Mission. | Kevin V. Nguyen/The Standard

The signaled interest from the bargain store comes as a petition to open a Grocery Outlet circulated online. The petition was created by Danny Sauter, who has run to represent the neighborhood as supervisor in the past.

While nothing has been officially announced yet, it seems Grocery Outlet has its eye on North Beach to become its sixth San Francisco location. The company is headquartered in Emeryville.

There are five current Grocery Outlet locations in San Francisco, including in the Richmond, Portola, the Mission, Visitacion Valley and near Bernal Heights.

The Safeway, which sits on the northern edge of North Beach near Fisherman’s Wharf, will close on May 27 and could leave a significant void in a neighborhood with comparatively few large supermarkets.

READ MORE: Decades-Old Grocery Store Closure Shocks Bay Area Community

People enjoy themselves along Green Street in the North Beach neighborhood on March 8, 2023. | Jungho Kim for The Standard | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

North Beach, as a compact, hilly and dense neighborhood with many narrow streets, otherwise presents few parcels on which something as large as a supermarket could be built—let alone a parking lot. While Safeway maintains nearby supermarkets in the Marina and by the Embarcadero Center, this store’s closure deprives a populous and tourist-heavy neighborhood of a full-scale grocery store with extended hours. 

There is a Trader Joe’s directly opposite the soon-to-shutter Safeway, and the comparatively upmarket Luke’s Local opened on Green Street and Columbus Avenue earlier in March. But with the recently announced closure of San Francisco’s four Amazon Go locations, North Beach and Chinatown are primarily served by bodegas and small corner markets.

San Francisco’s Safeways have seen their fair share of problems in recent months, including rampant shoplifting and reduced hours at several stores. Additionally, a shooting at an Outer Mission location in November 2022 injured a store security guard.

Safeway was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.

In Downtown San Francisco, a Whole Foods branch abruptly shuttered Monday due to staff safety concerns, further fueling the city’s intense public safety debate.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at