It seems every time someone mentions Wegmans, the insanely popular grocery store chain prevalent in upstate New York (as well as parts of New England, Virginia, and Maryland), people go absolutely nuts.
Wegmans has 85 locations, and tens of thousands of enthusiastically loyal customers at each one. It’s even opening a store in Brooklyn, New York (rumoured to take up an entire city block), and people are ecstatic.
I grew up 60 minutes north of Manhattan. I frequented Stew Leonard’s for my supermarket experience (and the A&P), and up until this weekend, I had never been to a Wegmans. I also definitely didn’t buy into the hype that surrounded it.
That all changed.
I asked to visit Wegmans this weekend, on a trip to the Pennsylvania Main Line. It's located off of Route 29 in Malvern, in a big shopping center.
I love Stew Leonard's because it reminds me of my childhood. I assume the Wegmans super fans feel similarly about their beloved grocery store, so I was willing to keep an open mind.
Chiquita Banana is the best part of Stew Leonard's...but that's another post for another day. Back to Wegmans.
So I pulled in and was greeted by a castle-like building. The entire thing is Wegmans. Keeping in mind that most grocery stores in NYC are tiny (and the bigger ones like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are impossibly crowded), I was excited to have a little wiggle room with a shopping cart.
You can start shopping before you even enter the store. There are tons of flowers and deck furniture to be purchased. This was Memorial Day Weekend, so Wegmans was seriously pushing the summer merchandise (think tiki torches and potato chips in bulk.)
In 1916, it was the Rochester Fruit and Vegetable Company founded by John and Walter Wegman. It's still a family-run corporation today.
If you don't have a game plan you could probably wander the aisles for hours and spend hundreds of dollars.
One of my favourite parts of grocery shopping as a kid was helping my parents weigh the produce we wanted to buy. There were plenty of weigh stations scattered throughout the aisles at Wegmans.
One of the first times I heard about Wegmans was when I met some of my Business Insider colleagues who had gone to Syracuse. (Here is a picture of lots of mozzarella cheese.)
They say most Wegmans have food courts that sell really good fresh food; everything from burgers to sushi.
Loyal Wegmans fans say the difference is that Wegmans food is better and costs a little less, depending on which location you're visiting.
Foursquare is home to tons of people who often frequent Wegmans. The location in Syracuse had 301 photo uploads and lots of positive comments about the cleanliness of the store and the friendly staff.
'Best sushi and cheese section. Hands down. Pre-sliced deli meats are fresh and theres no lines. Puts Whole Foods to shame,' a woman named Corey wrote on Foursquare.
In 2013, BuzzFeed's Rachel Sanders reported 'the (family-owned) company's benefits and work culture have put it on Fortune's list of best companies to work for every year since the list started in 1998, reliably in the top five.'
I still had a long way to go, and there was stuff I apparently missed completely. One Foursquare user wrote of a child-sized train somewhere in the back of the store, 'perfect for occupying your children' in the middle of a long shopping trip.
Wegmans is also one of only a handful of grocery stores in Pennsylvania that has a licence to sell beer.
I don't have a deck or any outdoor space in my Brooklyn apartment, but if I did, I'd come here and buy a bunch of stuff to decorate.
There are tons of books and magazines. In 2005, The New York Times called Wegmans out for being a grocery store that expanded its book selection greatly.
'Most of Wegmans' newer stores (built after 2009) are of the 'superstore' or 'megamarket' type,' its Wikipedia page states.
When it was time to leave, I was surprised to find out I had spent over an hour inside Wegmans and still hadn't seen everything. But I get it now. Wegmans is great. And I'll be back.
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