For 8 a.m. on Sunday, Madras traffic was unusually busy as hundreds of customers turned out for the grand opening of the new Safeway Store. In fact, shoppers started arriving at 6 a.m., enticed by free lottery tickets being given away to the first 500 shoppers.
The Madras High School Jazz Band entertained, Safeway dignitaries were introduced, then Georgie Keffer, a 39-year employee of the Madras Safeway, cut the ribbon along with Store Manager Jeff Nordstrom, and Assistant Manager Frank Halstead and their families.
The new facility, at 55,000 square-feet, has many more offerings than the old 32,000 square-foot building.
"We have twice the facings of the old store," said Nordstrom, referring to the shelf display space.
Open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, the new store created 25 new jobs and has over 100 total employees. Now, more durable plastic grocery carts roll through wider, handicap-accessible aisles and into the store's nine checkstands.
The larger store can stock over 40,000 items, and customers will notice several new products and widely expanded areas.
Included are a new Natural Foods section with natural and organic foods, snacks, vitamins, beauty products, and beverages. Among the offerings are rice and soy ice cream, tofu frozen foods, and chai tea.
A new Chinese Cuisine kitchen has on-duty chefs who prepare 20 varieties of authentic Chinese food on the spot. Meanwhile, the expanded deli serves made-to-order deli sandwiches, has restaurant-quality heat-and-serve entrees, and features 50 varieties of meats and 100 varieties of cheeses. The store now has tables and chairs where customers can enjoy a meal or snack.
The floral department is much expanded, and the greeting card section now has three full rows of cards.
All-new equipment, including steam-injected ovens, are part of the widely expanded bakery. Cakes, cookies, breads and pastries are baked from scratch daily.
An expansive produce section uses an "orchard bin" style to display 350 varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables. Refrigerator cases running the full length on both sides of the department have chilled produce as well as many more prepared and bagged salads.
The produce area has non-skid flooring in case water is spilled. That could come in handy, since every half-hour "thunder storms" strike the refrigerated produce bins via a new "Thunder-Mister." A thunder-like noise and flash of light warn customers just before water begins spraying in a mist over the vegetables in the bins to keep them fresher.
The Hispanic food section has been expanded, there are now 86 varieties of imported and domestic beer, and a larger selection of fine wine is available.
Many will appreciate the new indoor, heated bottle return area towards the front of the building.
Several Safeway stores have incorporated Wells Fargo Banks inside, but the Madras store does not presently have a bank. Safeway Public Affairs Director Bridget Flanagan said Safeway was moving toward its own Safeway Select Banks and eventually the Madras store will have one.
Another new venture is the Safeway Fuel Station, which is the first of its kind in Central Oregon. The gas station is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and offers discounts to those with Safeway Club Cards.
Leading the Safeway team is Manager Nordstrom, a 22-year veteran of the retail food industry, and Assistant Manager Halstead, who has 33-years of experience in the business. Department managers include: Luke Bingham, meat market; Sue Fischer, Deli; Donna Broms, Bakery; Larry Smith, Produce; Bob Princehouse, Pharmacy; Georgie Keffer, Customer Service; and Marie Gregory, Floral.
The very first Safeway opened in 1926 in Portland and the company now operates 114 stores in Oregon and Washington. With over 12,000 employees, it is Oregon's fourth largest employer. Safeway has operated a store in Madras since 1937.