BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

Cheyenne's retro Safeway goes terminal

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reported today that the somewhat historic Pioneer Ave. Safeway store in Cheyenne will be closing at the end of February. The store has been open since 1960, and represents one of the last vestiges of Western commercial architecture of a half-century ago.

Humor me for a moment; I'll probably never opine about industrial commercial architecture and history ever again. Most people probably don't give a store like this a second thought, other than to remark to themselves that such a place is an ugly and inadequate symbol of near corporate abandonment and decay. Maybe so, but I've always had a perverse fascination with grocery store architecture. Don't ask why. You wouldn't understand.

Anyway, ever since I first visited Cheyenne a number of years ago, I've been fascinated by the Pioneer Ave. Safeway, one of the only Safeway stores of its kind left. There's a similar store in La Junta, Colo., which also somehow escaped modernization all these years, but this particular store stands out.

Until the 1970s, Safeway stores were actually quite elegant in their design, their arced roofs curving upward at either end of the store as if they were taking flight. Apparently, that design was called the "Marina," which had its origins in San Francisco in the early 1960s. Old "Marina"-style Safeway stores are scattered all over the Front Range, most now housing other businesses and long abandoned by Safeway itself.

There's a particularly striking example of this in Fort Collins at the corner of Mulberry St. and College Ave. The elegant old Safeway store is now the downtown Sports Authority. The Safeway moved across the street decades ago into a truly hideous nondescript tan brick building, certainly the ugliest grocery store in Northern Colorado.

The Pioneer Ave. Safeway store appears to be pre-Marina style, so there's a certain intrigue about it, including this sign, which is similar to others that grace the parking lots of older Safeway stores throughout the West. I just think it's interesting they felt the need to remind people they have a place to park in front of the store.

For a ridiculously in-depth history of the architecture of Safeway and other grocery stores, check out Groceteria.com.