San Francisco History

The 1960s

Grocery retailing in San Francisco during the 1960s was largely a battle between Safeway and Littleman stores, with a few limited challenges from QFI, Cala, and Lucky. There was also some growth among budget warehouse chains like Big Bonus.

Safeway in the 1960s

San Francisco began the 1960s with 32 Safeway stores, some dating from the late 1930s. Over the course of the decade, 15 of these older stores closed, while 7 new ones opened, leaving a net total of 24 San Francisco stores in 1970.

Safeway operated a virtual museum of supermarket history in San Francisco at this point. A few stores (Irving, South Van Ness, Taraval, West Portal) dated from before 1940, and several (Geary, Bush) did not even offer parking.

At the same time, Safeway also offered some of the boldest, most modern designs available, including the arch-shaped Marina stores built all over the city (7th Avenue, Bayshore) until the final unit of this type opened on Mission Street in about 1969.

A few stores opened and closed very quickly, including one built on Alemany Boulevard in the ultimate path of I-280, and a store in the Parkmerced apartment complex near San Francisco State University.

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Renovated Safeway, 2020 Market Street, photo 1994.

Also noteworthy was the opening of a Super S drug and discount store in conjunction with the remodeling of the Market-Duboce location. This was interesting, too, in that it marked one of the only times a “box” store from the 1950s was converted into an arched “Marina”, with the Super S location extending to the left. This Super S later became a Thrifty Drug and, eventually, part of an expanded Safeway.

Littleman and Cala

Littleman founder Leon Miller retired and sold his stores to Cala Foods in 1965. Many of the Littleman stores of the 1960s are still in use as supermarkets today under the Cala Foods label. Although the chain seemed to thrive and grow early in the decade, its twelve stores had been sold to Cala by 1970, including its newest stores on Haight and Geary Streets. Cala Foods would continue in second place (in number of San Francisco stores) until the present day. However, most of the stores are older and smaller than Safeway’s, even now.

Other Chains

1245sovanness
Former Purity, now Cala Foods, 1245 South Van Ness Avenue.

Purity moved back into San Francisco in the 1960s, with three large new supermarkets, one a former Siri’s location on Third Street, one at Geneva and Alemany, and one near 24th and South Van Ness. The company went under, however, in the early 1970s; the Geneva store Lucky’s third location in the city, and the South Van Ness unit became a Cala Foods.

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Siri’s, later Purity, Third Street (SF Library).

Until acquiring the Purity store on Geveva, Lucky continued to operate only its Lakeshore Plaza store in the city for most of the decade, although it was now accompanied in the center by a Lucky-owned GEMCO department store. Late in the 1960s, a new store opened on Eddy Street in the heart of the Western Addition redevelopment area.

QFI also maintained its presence in the city, although it is often difficult to tell which stores were associated with the chain since many retained separate names as well.

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Former Albertsons, later Lucky, later Albertsons again, now demolished, Alemany Boulevard, photo 1999.

Albertsons also entered San Francisco in the 1960s, with a store on Alemany Boulevard just north of the Daly City line. While the store was open almost a decade, this initial entry by Alberstons into the core of the Bay Area was not successful and all stores west of the Oakland Hills were gone by 1978.

Mayfair Markets operated a branch at 350 Bay Street near Fisherman’s Wharf from 1966 to about 1971, when the location was taken over by the Berkeley Co-op. Mayfair also had a branch at the intersection of Ocean and San Jose Avenues.

Peninsula-based Brentwood Markets also had at least one Brentwood Super X location, at 4175 Mission Street, near Alemany Boulevard and the new Interstate 280. There was apparently another location on Noriega near 19th Avenue, but I don’t have specific confirmation on this one.

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