Safeway scores

Finally. The rubble has cleared, and the Safeway on Mangrove Avenue has vanished and reappeared a few feet away as the new, improved, super-duper Safeway.

“We’re doing very well,” said Mel Granskog, manager of the new Safeway and former manager of the East Avenue Safeway. He said business has “just about doubled” in the week the store has been open, which he attributes to more space, more products (40,000 individually numbered products compared to 20,000), more employees (up 53 to 135) and an overall better feel. “Americans don’t like to be nose-to-nose with everyone else,” he said. To compete, “all our stores have to be this big or bigger.”

Consumers also like Starbucks and sushi, both of which the new store has.

Another feature of the new Safeway is these space-age shopping carts that will lock up on you and go in circles if you try to take them too far away. Granskog said the Mangrove store was losing about 10 carts a week, and not just to homeless people (you stereotypers), but also to folks who would take them home and never bring them back and kids who would pile boards on them and use them as skateboard jumps. Back when he was managing the Nord Avenue Safeway, people would take and put them on the railroad tracks to see what would happen. Here’s what happened: unstealable carts.

Cast all your Sins upon The Esplanade

Chris Pendarvis and the other investors in the Sin of Cortez restaurant at Fifth Street and Nord Avenue have noticed something in the nearly three years they’ve been in business: Most of their customers are not students, but rather longtime locals who come from across town to enjoy tasty breakfast and coffee drinks. Accordingly, they’re packing up and moving to 2290 The Esplanade.

That’s the former home of such short-lived Chico eateries as Arby’s, Boston Market, Lorenzo’s and Peel ‘n’ Eat Shrimp (gee, I wonder why that one didn’t work). Pendarvis said it will take some doing to give the boxy building the cozy Sin feel, but they plan to be done by June 15.

“It will be a bigger, more comfortable space,” he said, with air conditioning, 42 feet of banquette seating and drive-through coffee. Breakfast will be served all day (that’s until 2 p.m.), and a lunch menu will be added. All selections will be vegan or vegetarian, but, Pendarvis said, “it’s not going to taste vegan or vegetarian.” Personally, I recommend Eggs Lulu or Papas Loco.

Pendarvis himself is focusing on opening more coffee shops, such as the Naked Lounge that just sprouted in Sacramento, so his “managing members"—Peter Carson and Danielle Ius—will run things.

Chock full of nuts

The word is in from the California Agricultural Statistics Service: more almonds this year. The subjective forecast for 2002 (released May 9; the objective forecast based on actually nut counts will be out June 27) is 940 million pounds, 14 percent more than last year.

The nuts are expected to spring forth from an anticipated 530,000 bearing acres in 2002—up from 472,462 bearing acres last year. (I had to dig out my Almond Almanac for that one.)

More nuts is good, but too many nuts is bad. It’s a fine line between nice profits and overproduction that drives prices down, so growers like to know about these things.