Safeway closure leaves no anchor store at Mill Creek shopping center

MILL CREEK — The shelves of the Safeway here are mostly bare as the grocer gets ready to close the store for good Saturday.

Safeway spokeswoman Tairsa Worman said the store at 13314 Bothell-Everett Highway is shutting down because it wasn’t as profitable as other locations.

In an email, Worman said the company is working with the labor union and the 84 store employees to find them other work. Some have been transferred to the Canyon Park Safeway in Bothell.

The Mill Creek store closing is not related to the $9.2 billion merger that was approved in January between Albertsons and Safeway, Worman said.

The Federal Trade Commission required Albertsons and Safeway to sell 168 supermarkets to settle charges that the merger would reduce competition, leading to higher prices and less innovation. Haggen, a Bellingham-based grocery chain, acquired most of the stores.

As part of the merger, Albertsons started converting 146 stores to Haggens in February. The Monroe Albertsons was the first to be rebranded.

Now, much of the remaining merchandise in the Mill Creek Safeway is on sale until the store closes for good.

Mill Creek Community Development Director Tom Rogers said the property manager for the Safeway building, which is located in the Gateway Shopping Center, doesn’t have a new tenant for the space but is pursuing leads. The city has offered to help get a business into the space.

“We want to be part of the solution,” Rogers said.

He is concerned that some of the smaller businesses in the shopping center will struggle without a large anchor store, such as Safeway, bringing in traffic. Some of the nearby retail spaces have a history of vacancy and are empty.

“This doesn’t help,” Rogers said.

The city is doing an economic study to determine what types of businesses to target for the retail spaces in the nearby East Gateway Urban Village on 132nd Street SE. Now, Rogers said, the city might include the Safeway area in its research.

He’d like to see a Trader Joe’s in place of Safeway but the specialty grocer has not reached out to the city about opening a store.

“Everybody in Mill Creek would love to have a Trader Joe’s,” Rogers said.

Residents have also long wanted a Target store in Mill Creek. The city last year was working with Target executives and the Sno-Isle Library District on plans for a store that would feature a library above the retail space. In the end, Target decided against opening a store in Mill Creek.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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