Residents of Falls Church’s Seven Corners area have a major neighborhood grocery store once again as Giant Food opens its 25th location in Fairfax County at 6:00 a.m. on Mar. 6.
Encompassing more than 69,000 square feet of total space, the new Giant takes the place of a shuttered Shoppers Food Warehouse at the Seven Corners Shopping Center, joining Home Depot, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and the Burlington Coat Factory, among other retailers.
While Giant already has a strong local presence, the Seven Corners store is the first new venue in Fairfax County to adopt the grocery chain’s updated prototype with expanded food departments and added services, including an in-store Starbucks café, a PNC Bank branch, a pharmacy, a full-service floral section, and a pick-up service that lets shoppers place orders online and have their groceries delivered to their vehicle.
“We are looking forward to opening our newest format store in Fairfax County and allowing our customers to experience Giant’s updated layout, décor, and product offering,” Giant interim president Ira Kress said. “Our newest store is designed to make the shopping experience clear and simple.”
Other stores in Fairfax County have gotten some of those same features over the past three or four years through remodels, but this is the first completely new expanded store, according to Gary Budd, Giant’s director of strategic planning and execution.
Based in Landover, Md., Giant Food LLC operates 163 supermarkets throughout Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Delaware with 154 pharmacies, 81 banks, and 22 Starbucks spread around those stores.
Budd says the new Giant at Seven Corners is part of an aggressive remodeling campaign that the company has undertaken in recent years, resulting in renovations for about three-quarters of its Fairfax County locations.
Giant Food took over the Seven Corners Shoppers in 2018 with plans to convert it into a Giant store. The Shoppers on Little River Turnpike in Alexandria similarly turned into a Giant last year after closing on June 18, 2018, as did a former Shoppers store in Herndon.
First opened in the 1990s, the Shoppers at Seven Corners officially closed on Sept. 1 after its parent company, United Natural Foods Inc., chose not to renew the store’s lease, according to the Washington Business Journal.
While there are other Giant stores in the Falls Church area, including one at Graham Park Plaza within three miles of the new store, the chain felt it could serve the Seven Corners neighborhood more effectively by providing a location that is in closer proximity and better addresses the needs of the community, Budd says.
“We do a significant amount of detailed research on demographics when we’re looking at our new stores so that we can obviously satisfy the needs of our customers in the community,” Budd said. “Obviously, Seven Corners is a very diverse area. With that need, we felt like it was a good opportunity, and the store is pretty sizable.”
According to Fairfax County’s demographic data, Seven Corners has a diverse population with 65.2 percent of its 8,162 residents speaking a language other than English at home, more than 30 percent of whom speak Spanish.
Seven Corners has 3,055 Hispanic or Latino residents, 2,625 white residents, 1,720 Asian and Pacific Islander residents, 548 black residents, and 214 residents who identify with another race or ethnicity.
To address the varying needs of the surrounding community, Giant expanded its selection of ethnic food at the Seven Corners store, making different kinds of produce available and adding Asian food options to the hot prepared food bar.
Budd says the company also tries to reflect the community in the staff at each store in terms of having workers who can speak multiple languages to communicate with customers.
UFCW Local 400 represents 35,000 workers in retail food, health care, department store retail, and other industries in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Giant hired about 100 staffers for its new Seven Corners store, all of whom are covered by the new collective bargaining agreement that members of the employees' union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, ratified on Mar. 5.
The union first announced its new labor agreement with Giant on Feb. 18 after more than five months of negotiations. UFCW Local 400 reached a tentative agreement for Safeway workers as well on Mar. 5, just hours before members were scheduled to vote on whether to authorize a strike.
According to Giant, its new collective bargaining agreement with UFCW Locals 400 and 27 enhances worker compensation and benefits while protecting healthcare and retirement for its 16,500 union associates.
"Our goal was to reach a fair and reasonable contract that respects our 84-year legacy as a great local brand, honors our associates' contributions and reflects our competitive realities," the grocery store chain said. "We are pleased we have achieved this goal."
In addition to having more international food products, the Giant at Seven Corners has expanded cheese, deli, meat, and seafood departments. Its prepared food options include a fresh-cut fruit station, an in-store pizza program that makes pizzas to order within two minutes, and a barbeque section of the hot food bar.
The store was also designed for improved energy efficiency with LED lighting and an effort to contain more products in cases with doors, rather than exposed displays, to keep them cold and fresh, Giant says.
“As an example, half of our produce cases are actually behind doors now, where typically, that would not have been the case,” Budd said. “…All of our cases, no matter whether they’re doors or not, are obviously all manufactured with energy efficiency in mind, and use all the approved gases and refrigeration needed to be eco-friendly.”
To mark Giant’s arrival at the Seven Corners Shopping Center, the company donated $1,000 each to five local organizations during the new store’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Mar. 6.
The recipients were the Fairfax County Police Department, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, Alexandria’s Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, the Falls Church-based Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, and Shelter House, which operates the Patrick Henry Family Shelter in Seven Corners.
“We’ve made a huge investment over the last…three years, four years in Fairfax County with our stores,” Budd said. “Obviously, it’s a huge area that we want to make sure that we take care of, and obviously from a community perspective, we want to put our best foot forward for all of the stores in those communities.”