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Retailers of the West

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Safeway

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Safeway in 1926 was founded a merger, engineered by Merrill Lynch, of Skaggs Stores and Sam Seelig Company. The name Safeway was created at that time for the stores and group. Skaggs had its start in 1915, when Marion Skaggs purchased his father's grocery store in American Falls, Idaho. The chain, which traded under the name Skaggs' Cash Stores grew very fast, and Skaggs enlisted the help of his five brothers to help grow the company which reached 191 stores by 1920. By the time of the merge, Seelig Stores had 322 stores centered in Southern California, while Skaggs had grown to 673 stores centered in the Pacific Northwest region and the company was headquartered in Reno, Nevada, however, Safeway relocated its headquarters to Oakland, California in 1929.

Safeway began aggressively acquiring numerous regional grocery stores including MacMarr of California, Sanitary Grocery Co. of Washington, D.C., Daniel Reeves of New York, and Burd Stores of Kansas City. Safeway also acquired all west coast Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Until the 1930s, Safeway did not rebrand these chains to Safeway. The company also entered internation markets including Canada in 1929, United Kingdom in 1962, Australia in 1963 and Germany in 1964. During the 1980s Safeway also operated in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. From the 1960s to 1971, Safeway operated the Super S drug store chain.

Following a hostile takeover bid from Herbert and Robert Haft, the chain was acquired by KKR in 1986. With the ownership of KKR, the company was taken private, and assumed tremendous debt. To pay off this debt, the company sold the Germany and United Kingdom divisions, the Dallas, Salt Lake City, El Paso, Oklahoma stores, and the Liquior Barn division in 1987. The company also sold the Kansas City, Little Rock, and Houston stores in 1988 and the Australia division in 1985. The takeover caused Safeway's national presence was reduced to Northern California and several western states, plus the Washington, D.C. area. Altogether, nearly half the 2,200 stores in the chain were sold. Safeway made a deal to let Vons acquire the stores in Southern California in exchange for a 30% interest in the company. Safeway was taken public again in 1990.

In the late 1990s, Safeway began to again aggressively acquire regional chains including Randall's and Tom Thumb of Texas, Dominick's of Illinois, and it also acquired full control of Vons of Southern California which previously owned 30% of the supermarket chain since the late 1980s. The company also acquired the family-owned Genuardi's chain in 2001. Safeway also created subsidiary Blackhawk Network, a prepaid and payments network, a card-based financial solutions company, and a provider of third-party prepaid cards.

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