Monday, June 22, 2009

Wegman's Grand Opening



You know you live in a small town when a supermarket grand opening is a very big deal. Although I think Wegman’s is more than a supermarket...it seems like more of a culinary amusement park to me. Yes, there are the usual groceries, but the big attraction seems to be all of the prepared foods, gourmet specialties, extensive bakery, well-staffed cheese department, upscale meats & seafood, plus the eat-in options: the market cafe, seafood bar, Asian bar, pizza, subs, sushi, etc., etc., etc. We got there around noon on opening day, parked in one of the parking lots of an adjacent hotel, and then made our way through the hordes to see what we could see. It was elbow-to-elbow people, really too crowded to give it a fair assessment. I have to say, the deli, bakery, meats & seafood sections looked very impressive. The prices seemed reasonable, and the staff-to-customer ratio on opening day was high. The free samples were flowing, and we nabbed as many as we could find. Jim Canty & Friends were playing in the wine section (they are scheduled for the library steps tonight), where you could sample mimosas. We checked out all of the sections, bought some fresh breads and tasty cheeses (ah, yes, a cheese department where I could get recommendations and sample cheese before buying is the one thing I’ve been waiting for), picked up our free recyclable shopping bag, and headed home.

I definitely get what the buzz was all about. Wegman’s has everything I can imagine needing in a supermarket and then some. But on the other hand, I’m not sure this is where I will choose to do my weekly shopping. I think the good old Giant, five minutes from home, will still be my go-to store. Sure, sometimes the World’s Fair of Food is what you’re looking for, but sometimes, you just want your shopping trip to be a quick and easy in and out, and that probably won’t be Wegman’s for me...at least not until the novelty wears off and the crowds die down. And here’s something that really bugged me: they wouldn’t let me take photos. Honestly, when I went to take a photo of the guy working the seafood bar, he got quite irate and told me photos were forbidden in the store (corroborated by other employees I asked), despite the fact I told him it was just for my blog. Were they afraid I was a corporate spy? Or do they just want to be able to control precisely how their store is viewed, to keep anyone from showing any imperfections?

I still need to give the Wegman’s shopping experience a thorough try-out, and that just wasn’t possible on opening day. But it sure does look nice.

This is the bread and cheese we bought for a Father's Day treat:

2 comments:

Tom said...

I live where Wegmans has 11 stores in my area and photos have never been allowed in any of their stores, by customers or employees alike as far as I can remember. Basically they do not want people from other stores or companies taking pictures, and unfortunately that does mean us as regular customers as well as you never really can tell. Plus, the stores are all private property instead of being owned by a developer so it does give them the right to do that.

Many stores enforce this rule as well. Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's, Giant, Safeway do not allow pictures inside either and they do this for the same reason that Wegmans does. Wal-Mart goes one step further by saying if anyone is caught checking/scanning prices for a competitor, they will be arrested.

I do want to say congrats on your new store- I hear its great. I would also give it a shot for weekly shopping once the hype wears down because you can definitely save over Giant on many of the everyday products.

Merry N said...

I blogged the grand opening of the Giant (http://fredericksblogger.blogspot.com/2007/09/grand-opening.html) and no one seemed to mind that I took a few photos. So even though it's corporate policy at all of the stores you mentioned, some clearly enforce it differently. This was just my first encounter with this policy, and the employee's gruff attitude was definitely the low point of the visit. I suspect it has less to do with corporate spying, since obviously anyone from any other company can see what's going on in these stores anytime they want, and more to do with companies wanting to control the images that customers view to make sure no negative images get out there. Here's a link to someone who had better luck than me (maybe I just needed to have a cell phone camera on an uncrowded day): http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/album/548902326qeViJK

In any case, I agree the store is terrific. We stopped back last night when it was much less crowded and took a better look, and were very impressed, particularly with their cheese department and natural foods section.

As far as Giant vs. Wegman's prices, keep in mind that Giant is a union shop, and Wegman's isn't. That's an important issue to some people, who are willing to spend a bit more money in a store where employees have more protections. For me, it will ultimately come down to a combination of price, location, and convenience.