To the uninitiated, Wegmans looks like just another grocery store. But, as one just opened up near my place of employment this past Sunday, I’m here to tell you: it’s a lot more.
Wegmans started in New York state and now the Rochester-based chain has stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia. When a co-worker originally from Rochester heard that a Wegmans was opening nearby, she couldn’t contain her excitement. She gushed about their amazing baked goods, their great selection of fruits, vegetables, and meats, and the general atmosphere that defines the “Wegmans experience.” As opening day got closer, the hype grew in the DC area. Articles appeared in the Washington Post and people started lining up at 5:30am.
So, last night I decided to give Wegmans a shot to see what all the noise was about.
The best way I can describe it is as a combination of Giant/Safeway/Acme (pick your favorite “regular” supermarket), Fresh Field’s/Trader Joe’s (pick your favorite large health food market/gourmet food store), Target, and a kitchen store. Then tack on a restaurant and a bakery and you’ve got Wegmans. It’s one big store, that’s for sure.
Even though the parking lot was packed when I went, it seemed like there were even more employees than shoppers. I was told by the checkout clerk that several hundred employees from New York came down to help with the opening of this store and have taken up occupancy in all the nearby hotels. Most will return in a few weeks, once the store gets on its feet and the new employees are trained and comfortable in their roles. Wegmans, apparently, puts a big emphasis on its customer service.
Pricewise, they’re not too bad. On certain items, particularly processed foods, your local Giant will undersell them. On the health food/specialty items, their prices are generally in line with Fresh Fields, and maybe a little cheaper. In terms of selection, though, they have an awful lot. Every time I turned my head, it seemed like a new aisle of food had appeared and that I’d never escape the labyrinth of shelves and freezer aisles.
So, yeah, Wegmans is pretty nice. I see myself shopping there a couple times a month, particularly for the harder-to-find specialty items and vegetarian convenience foods (though I certainly won’t give up my local health food store(s), either). At the same time, I’m a little scared by the cult-like mentality of the Wegmans clientele. In one article I read, on opening day people were walking up and down the aisles yelling out which Wegmans they used to shop at and were able to find others that used to shop there as well. And tonight, the woman in front of me checking out couldn’t stop declaring, “I love Wegmans! This is why I love Wegmans! I’m so glad there’s Wegmans here! Wegmans Wegmans Wegmans!”
Posted in Food and Beverage