Maurice Akins, Dion Ames and their families are loyal customers at the Hilltop’s Safeway at 1112 South M Street.
They like and admire the people who work hard to keep the store clean and orderly, and the atmosphere friendly.
Their issue is with the building. It’s old. It’s drab. And it’s too small to offer the services Safeway customers in every other quarter of Tacoma enjoy. It has no bakery, no deli, no coffee bar, no China Express. Its meat and produce departments are smaller than in other stores.
That’s why they were picketing the store this morning.
Ames’ sign read "If this store was a child, I’d have to call CPS."
Akins carried one that read "Safeway Shape Up Or Ship Out."
"I was just fed up," Akins said. "If you’re a large corporation, you have enough money to invest in individual stores."
Safeway has done that elsewhere. The neighborhood has helped guide the shape of renovations at the old Safeway at 2411 N. Proctor St. That store was already 9,132 square feet bigger than the Hilltop grocery, and sits on a slightly smaller lot.
Through hard work and investment, Hilltop has remade itself, while its long-time grocery store has not.
"Why wouldn’t Safeway want to recognize the changes and join in?" Ames asked. "It’s like they’re stuck in the past."
For two hours the men, and several friends who also picked up signs, talked with shoppers entering or leaving the parking lot. The shoppers were unanimous in praise of the store’s employees, and in wanting a bigger, better store with more choices and more dignity.
When the assistant manager stepped outside to talk with them, the conversation was civil. Safeway, the manager said, has taken several plans to the city of Tacoma. Each time, the city demands changes that would cost millions.
"Talk to the city government," advised the manager.
Akins and Ames went home to make appointments with city councilwomen Lauren Walker and Marilyn Strickland. I’ll be checking in with Safeway’s corporate folks.
In Saturday’s column I’ll let you know what we find out.