Local business

Safeway buys Berkeley’s Chimes Pharmacy, to consolidate

Chimes will be supplanted by Safeway Pharmacy. Photo: Lance Knobel

Chimes Pharmacy, one of the last remaining independent pharmacies in Berkeley, will be turned into a Safeway Pharmacy on July 23.

John Gelinas, who has owned and run Chimes at 3210 College Avenue near the Oakland border for more than 25 years, sold the business to Safeway and will stay on as pharmacy manager.

“The main reason was I wanted to be a pharmacist again and not have to run a business,” Gelinas said.

The new Safeway Pharmacy will operate at the current Chimes location until the revamped College Avenue Safeway is completed.

The Safeway across the street from Chimes in Oakland has long planned to open a pharmacy in an expanded store. The store’s remodeling and expansion plans have encountered considerable community opposition, principally from residents concerned about the prospect of increased traffic, and also what they see as competition that will threaten some of the local, independent stores.

The Safeway on College website includes latest site plans and renderings of the proposed new store, as well as a photo-shopped image of what Chimes will look like with “Safeway Pharmacy” on its awning.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Safeway project was posted on July 1 and a public hearing on the project will be held at Oakland City Hall on July 20 (the Safeway plans will not be considered before 8 p.m.). The review period for the project runs until August 15.

“I’ve been relatively relaxed about [the Safeway plans],” Gelinas said. But he admitted the prospect of competition across the street if the Safeway project is completed in two years was a factor in his decision.

Chimes has been in existence on College Avenue for nearly 100 years. Old prescriptions date back as far as 1909. Gelinas is only the third owner since the 1930s when the store featured a soda fountain and a lending library.

Asked whether he plans to remain as pharmacy manager for the long term under Safeway management, Gelinas said time will tell. “I haven’t had a boss in 25 years,” he said. “As long as we can stand each other, we’ll see how it goes.”

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  • Voxhumana

    The Chimes Pharmacy has served the neighborhood for many years, and I thank John for keeping the store open and for his dedicated service for all these years. I hope Safeway keeps it up!

  • Peter

    Good for you, John!  We appreciate your years of service and sticking with it.  As an independent business owner, I’d love to practice my trade and leave the management to someone else!

  • Morris Portman

    Well this all assumes that Safeway big box will pass DEIR muster when it comes to the traffic /air quality and one should not assume that it will.  A reading of their draft EIR it is pretty clear from their own studies that traffic on College will continue to fail – the light at Alcatraz and College will still be an “F” after “mitigations”.  How does a mitigation that is scored an F not be an F.

    Congratulations to John but pity us all if this project passes.

  • Jose Seis

    Bummer.