In Fallbrook history, Safeway has had three stores in three different locations around town.

Safeway’s presence in Fallbrook begins with a pioneer merchant named Rex Reader.  In the year 1927, Rex Reader’s Fallbrook Mercantile had stood on the NE corner of Alvarado & Main for more than 20 years.  Reader heard that Safeway was planning to expand in San Diego County and was looking for someone to build them a store.  Rex agreed to build a new store for Safeway next to his Mercantile.   In the 1930s, Safeway clerks received a mere $11 a week while often working 12 hours a day.[1]

Reader physically moved his Mercantile store one lot to the north in 1928.  At the lot he vacated on the corner, Rex constructed new brick facade buildings, connected to his refurbished Mercantile; one shop to lease to Keller’s Rexall Pharmacy on the corner, and a small open air Safeway market between Reader’s Mercantile and the drug store.[2]  Safeway’s store #440 opened the doors to its first Fallbrook market on June 2, 1928.[3]  Reader’s Mercantile gradually stopped carrying groceries, but continued to thrive as a dry goods store.

After a dozen years, the popular Safeway needed to grow.  Safeway bought a vacant 130 X130 foot corner lot from the Fallbrook Woman’s Club at the NE corner of Ivy and N. Main, and constructed a modern, 6,000 square foot enclosed air-conditioned store that promised every item would be truly self-service with low accessible shelves along wide aisles, a walk-in cooler, with extra wide metal basket shopping carts.  The new store opened in the summer of 1941[4]

After Safeway departed from Readers’ building at Alvarado Street, Rex Reader expanded his Mercantile store into the vacant space.  Reader’s brick building that once housed the first Safeway, the Rexall store, and Reader’s Mercantile is a recognized Fallbrook historical site.

Twenty years later, the new Safeway store on Ivy St. needed to be replaced.  A new store was built directly behind the 1941 store. The old building was demolished, creating a big parking lot in front of the newer Safeway store.

In 1972, the supermarket business in Fallbrook saw a lot of changes.  Mayfair Market, which took over Buy & Save, was at 640 S. Main Ave, on the corner of Fallbrook Street (where Ace Hardware is located in 2024).[5]  Alpha Beta announced their plans to open a store at 1101 S. South Main Ave (where Grocery Outlet is located in 2024).[6] Safeway decided to open it biggest store yet, at the end of South Main Ave, next door to the new Thrifty Drug Store at the corner of Clemmens LN. (where Northgate Market is located in 2024).  For a dozen years, from 1972 until 1985, Safeway had 2 stores open in Fallbrook at the same time, one at each end of Main Ave.

In closing:  The Safeway at 311 N. Main closed in 1985.  The Safeway at Clemmens Lane closed a couple years later in 1988.[7]

Tom Frew,
FHS Historian

    [1] Rex Reader Story, Fallbrook in Review Vol 5 pg.3 told by Babs Reader.

    [2] Fallbrook Historic Resources Inventory for San Diego County 1991 by Susan Carrico & Kathleen Flanigan.

    [3] Fallbrook Enterprise June 1, 1928.

    [4] Fallbrook Enterprise January 31, 1941.

    [5] Fallbrook Enterprise May 10, 1962

    [6] Fallbrook Enterprise Nov 2, 1972

    [7] Fallbrook telephone books 1970-1986.