A Love Affair With Wegmans Begins

Dear Wegmans,

A crazy thing happened to me this weekend. I fell madly in love with you. I know what you're thinking. Countless people told me to come see you. You even sent me dozens of e-mails, begging for a chance. But I stayed committed to Giant. What can I say? Giant is closer and quite honestly, I courted other grocery stores and Giant was the cheapest. But now I realize that cheap isn't always better.

I finally decided to see you after that one e-mail last week. The one that talked about how you were lowering your prices and how you were trying to save me some money. I appreciate that Wegmans. I really do. I came on Sunday morning, promising to stay 45 minutes to get to know you. But you swept me off my feet from the moment I walked through the door and was face to face with your produce. And I just couldn't tear away from your warm embrace, the dim lights, the nice employees, the cordial customers and that charming little train that kept zooming around above my head.

After discovering your beautiful produce, I turned the corner and found myself in your marketplace section. I didn't even know where I was but I liked it. There were prepared meals, fresh baked breads and muffins, even a place to sit down and have someone prepare a lunch or dinner for us. I stopped by your fresh fish counter and got some salmon for $8.99 a pound. And then I quickly ditched my plan to get frozen shrimp and got a pound of fresh shrimp for $7.99. I passed by your wines and picked up two bottles, one for under $8 and the other for under $6. And then I grabbed a 5-pound package of chicken breast for a little more than $13. I was bleary-eyed and crazy by this point but I knew I didn't want to leave.

I spent more than an hour going through your aisles buying the stuff that I usually get at Giant and more. You offered so much at lower prices and some were the same price as Giant, which I'm OK with. It's just that some things were a little more expensive. Not cool Wegmans, but I can overlook that. We'll just have to work through this. You promised in that little e-mail last week that you were going to work on lowering your prices so I'll be patient. If you stick to your promise, I'll come back, even though it will be a long-distance relationship.

Sincerely,

Me

P.S. Let's not tell Giant about this.

By Tania Anderson |  November 11, 2008; 12:00 AM ET General Interest , Grocery Deals
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Wegman's is a seductive mistress. I will still shop Giant or Safeway, but really for fill-in items since I am not going to drive 15-20 minutes to Fairfax Corner for a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. However, I typically curse my decision to hit the Safeway around the corner in Burke Centre when the self-serve checkout lines are broken/closed and they only have two cashiers on duty as the line grows and grows and grows with many of us just holding an item or two. Is there a manager around to clear the backup? Rarely, but look around Wegman's and someone with a phone and/or pager will respond in seconds, opening a register or moving people to shorter lines.

Seriously, take a look at the sheer number of employees at Wegman's and notice that everyone seems pretty happy and willing to either answer a question or find someone who can. This, frankly, is one of the key reasons I shop there. As big as they are I feel like this is my corner grocer, especially in the seafood and meat department where Anne knows what portion sizes I look for in a steak or pork chop.

Posted by: skipper7 | November 11, 2008 12:40 AM

Ohhhhh, Wegman's. I haven't even been in one in maybe 5 years, since the last time I visited Ithaca (where I went to school). After I moved to Washington, my new friends thought I was nuts for being so obsessed with a grocery store. But see, it's not just me! PLEASE, Wegman's -- we need a grocery store in Penn Quarter. Do you know how happy I'd be if you opened one here?

Posted by: stalkeyedfly | November 11, 2008 9:21 AM

Wegman's is the grocery store of the 21st Century! The quality and prices of its house brands are unmatched. And the variety and quality of Wegman's prepared foods, meat and fish are far beyond the reach of any other chain store in the DC area. No wonder Giant's share of the DC food market is shrinking.

Posted by: bmcallister1 | November 11, 2008 9:26 AM

We visited colleges last year - several colleges in New York advertised that they have a Wegmans nearby. Happily, my daughter chose Ithaca College so we can load up during visits.

Posted by: kirstenpaulson | November 11, 2008 9:39 AM

Ah yes, WEGMANS!! You now know why I get up early every Sunday to be there by 8 AM & beat the crowds.....when I could walk to what was once the "Gourmet Giant" in Burke Centeri less than 5 minutes....

Posted by: joditg | November 11, 2008 10:19 AM

joditg: We must be neighbors! I agree 100% about the Burke Centre Giant and feel doubly strong that the Safeway up the street (even after a huge makeover) is just miserable.

I am fortunate to work from a home office and generally do my grocery shopping at Wegman's around midday on Tuesday or Wednesday, but often head over early Sunday morning. The produce is freshly stocked and you can complete an entire trip in 45 minutes if you don't take time to sample and/or ask questions.

Someone told me that part of Wegman's success comes from being a non-union employer, but that cannot be all of it, although I believe that the UFCW is one of the factors simply killing Giant and Safeway. I think that the wages and benefits at Wegman's must be pretty good since they don't seem to have any trouble finding employees and still manage to make a profit in a low margin business. They must be doing a lot of things right in order to show up at the top of Fortune's employer rankings year after year. Wegman's is not a top secret defense contractor, so you would think that other grocery retailers would try to learn something in order to improve, so I wonder what is stopping them?

Posted by: skipper7 | November 11, 2008 10:38 AM

Weg's (what my family calls it) is fab, but the crowds at Wegs are NOT. I cannot wait to move out of DC and shop at a Wegs where I do not have to fight crowds of carts and people in order to pick up some bananas. The glitz and glamour of Wegs is NOT worth it if driving a shopping cart is as stressful as driving on DC's roads! The crowds at Wegs are really bad, but I admit that Costco is even worse.

Posted by: libs4palin | November 11, 2008 11:05 AM

Wegmans is my favorite grocery store, hands down. We have found through informal comparisons that they are significantly less expensive that Giant, Safeway & Harris Teeter for the items we buy on a frequent basis. I grew up in Upstate NY where Wegmans is dominant and am thrilled that the chain has made its way to this area. The quality, variety, & price they offer make it a superior store overall.

Posted by: grnsister | November 11, 2008 11:06 AM

Wegman's is fabulous. You can even find fresh figs there!!!

Other grocery stores have pathetic selection of fruits and vegetables, but endless choices of junk food. And the checkout lines are even worse.

However, my favorite store is Whole Foods. It's so much smaller and I can get in and out in 15 mins. At Wegman's, I feel like I have to spend 45 min-2 hours just to get everything on my grocery list.


Posted by: outofID | November 11, 2008 11:18 AM

I first discovered Wegmans in 1979 when I moved to western NY. One of the perks of a trip to Rochester was a visit to Wegmans. When I was commuting on weekends to Albany, a stop at Corning was requisite. When I moved to Albany I was reduced to a "not quite, but almost" clone; Price Chopper. When I returned to NJ there was one in Bridgewater and one in PA on the way to the Poconos. I have retired to NC and sorely miss the Wegmans experience. I'm looking forward to December. A holiday visit with the grandkids, with a stop at Wegmans on the way.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | November 11, 2008 11:22 AM

I always wondered what the fuss was with Wegman's. When they built one where I live in Mt. Laurel, NJ, we decided to see what the fuss was about. It was love at first sight.
Once, I tried to go to our local Shoprite to comparison shop. That was a mistake. I can get everything I need cheaper at Wegman's except for some of the produce and meats, and the quality is worth paying extra for.

Posted by: plcrisostomo | November 11, 2008 11:33 AM

I moved out of NoVA 2 years ago. Before that I lived less than 3 miles from the Sterling Wegmans.
Until I read this I forgot how much I missed Wegmans!
Please, please Wegmans -- move into fly-over country! We'll love you here, too!

Posted by: MadisonMama | November 11, 2008 2:16 PM

It's true...Wegman's completely sucks you in, so I think 'skipper7' was right when he/she said it's not the place to go for a quick gallon of milk or loaf of bread. However, when I go for my twice a month grocery shopping excursions I won't shop anywhere else.

I too live in the Fairfax/Burke area and the Safeways and Giants in that area are ok...but they don't even compare to Wegman's. If I have the time, I'm going to Wegman's everytime. It's especially great on those nights when I don't feel like making dinner. Safeway and Giant don't even have the freshly prepared food options that Wegman's does.

I'm in love with Wegman's too...so you might have to fight me for him. ;)

Posted by: aanderso13 | November 11, 2008 2:20 PM

Living in Rochester for over 50 years I have been able to see Wegman's grow from a few local supermarkets to an East Coast treasure. I feel fortunate to live within 10 minutes of 4 of the stores. The secret is that it is still a family business and hopefully will remain so into now the fourth generation. Danny Wegman visits stores regularly,shops and seems to pay full price,and is never too rushed to talk to a customer or an employee. Seeing some aisles rearranged I am reminded of a saying by an old friend that the one thing for sure is nothing is for sure. Produce and meet are always fresh and prices are marked down more than just a day before the sell-by date if anything even appoaches tyhat Never will the butchers refuse to do a special trim or cut and all cheese is for tasteing. heckout lines rarely exceed two, and then only by one as the front manager gets new lines open and asks people to enter them. The woman at the Godiva counter knows my wifes preferences,and the man who stocks the ice cream tells me if my favorite is in.

Posted by: bobtich | November 11, 2008 2:23 PM

We started going to Wegmans a few years ago. We thought we'd try it once, even though it's over 20 minutes away. We were floored by the same things you were-- the produce, the staff, the fact that they have everythng. We've hardly been back to Giant since then, even though they're 5 minutes away. Some items are more expensive-- we still get certain items like cheese at Whole Foods & Trader Joe.

The staff is always very helpful and friendly. A couple of months ago, though the bread guy left the Dulles store. He was an attraction himself, shouting out for samples-- you wait-you late.

More mundane things that would be easy to fix perplex me. Giant has the worst ergonomically designed self-checkout aisles. They make security at Dulles seem pleasant. Wegmans has self-weigh produce stands which are easy to use & speed up checkout. Giant makes it difficult ot know what stuff costs, and when you through checkout they seem like they're instructed to ring up the highest possible price for any produce item.

Posted by: doctored | November 11, 2008 3:08 PM

I'd rather have a root canal than shop at Wegman's.

Yes, they have lovely produce, but between the huge mid-aisle displays and the clueless dads pushing their kids in those massive cart-cars, you can't get anywhere near any of it.

I was literally trapped in the housewares section when two shoppers abandoned their carts on either side of me. (They abandoned their carts because the carts wouldn't fit down the aisle.)

Thanks but no thanks. I'll stick with Safeway.

Posted by: gettingdizzy1 | November 11, 2008 5:06 PM

Yes! Thank you, "gettingdizzy1". THANK YOU.

Wegman's has wonderful stuff but their stores (at least the store I visit in Fairfax Corner) is BADLY DESIGNED. I was just there today -- at 2 pm, when you'd think it wouldn't be that crowded -- and, as usual, the produce area was nearly unnavigable. Partly it's the mid-aisle displays and partly it's that Wegman's seems to draw the sort of people who like to park their cart in the middle of the aisle while they wander off to look at... whatever.

Grr!!

I like Wegman's stuff. And I like their prices. But the difficulty of simply getting where you want to go inside the store is enough of an issue for me that I rarely shop there. It's just too irritating.

Posted by: RebeccaHartong | November 11, 2008 6:27 PM

As a former employee (and scholarship winner), I will also express my love for the store. When I came to college from upstate NY 15 years ago, everyone made fun of me for talking about a grocery store - they just didn't understand. I think they are successful because they generally treat their employees well - I walked into the Sterling store right after it opened and saw my old night manager who I worked with one summer. He remember not only my name, but the store I worked in (and thanked me for helping out - thought I was still an employee). Many people that I worked with are still there - if you go FT and you work hard, they will take care of you. Most, if not all, of the store managers are people that started at the bottom and worked their way up, so they know what it's like to be the 19 year old guy working in the produce section.

As for the complaints of the produce section, it is purposefully designed to look like an Italian marketplace - I like that it's different and you really cannot get mad at Wegmans for the car leavers - this is not something that happens in upstate NY - it's a NOVA thing I think.

Posted by: suzannepdc | November 11, 2008 6:44 PM

When I was first dating my husband, we frequently went to Pizza Night with his friends - a core of friends who were all from Central and Western NY. One night, they were waxing rhapsodic about Wegman's, and I interjected - "It's a grocery store - what's the big deal?"

When I finally got to see one a few months later, I apologized for my skepticism.

In my family, we tend to say Wegmans is the most expensive gallon of milk you can buy. Because you can run in for that gallon of milk, but you always do seem to come out with at least a basket's worth of stuff :D

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | November 11, 2008 9:38 PM

I gladly deal with mild inconvenience of a poorly designed (in your opinion) produce department that is well-stocked with an amazing array of merchandise over the pathetic collection of fruits and vegetables at any local Safeway or Giant. Every try to buy a shallot at one of those stores? If you can find them they tend to be old and dry since hardly anyone buys them. Need mushrooms? You might find a few mediocre specimens while Wegman's has an awesome selection.

I actually hope that more people like you opt for open aisles at dismal Giant and Safeway stores so that we don't need to trip over you.

Posted by: skipper7 | November 11, 2008 9:46 PM

Best grocery store EVER! I get so ANNOYED standing in line at Giant/Safeway/etc at 7pm on a weeknight and they only have ONE cash register open. You want to buy 2 or 3 things and you have to wait in line for half an hour to check out. At Wegmans, they have a gazillion check out lines, ALL of which are open, and even though there are thousands of people in the store you never have to wait more than 5 minutes to start checking out!

Posted by: FormerUpstater | November 12, 2008 9:47 AM

It's fair to say that Wegman's has won over the hearts and minds of many shoppers.

But I am so very happy to have two great supermarkets, A&P/SuperFresh near my home. I have gotten 30 dollars worth of great tasting Premium Gold Angus meats free during the past 6 weeks. That is something neither Wegman's nor Giant can match.

For a company who has baked and sold millions of Jane Parker "over 2/3rds fruit and nut" fruitcakes for 78 years, and has been in the business of selling great teas,coffees,gourmet items at famous savings for 150 years, A&P is a legend.

A&P/SuperFresh is a treasure trove of savings, quality, and offers a unique shopping experience, where self checkouts do work and staff is there to make your shopping experience guilt free.

Posted by: ziggyzippy | November 12, 2008 1:32 PM

If only Montgomery County would change it's terrible laws pushed through by union-backed Giant and Safeway and allow a Wegmans :( Montgomery County is too dumb for it's own good sometimes.

Posted by: reiflame1 | November 13, 2008 7:46 AM

And your love affair will never end! I used to beg my husband to drive to Princeton, where the closest store used to be prior to Wegman's DC-area arrival. I am in Montgomery County and cannot wait until the Frederick store opens.

Posted by: biteyou | November 13, 2008 9:49 AM

I, as a male, love Wegmans as well. But, like has been said, the crowds and cart parkers are very frustrating. I equate it to the time I fished for salmon in Alaska which the local fondly referred to as "combat fishing" as you are elbow to elbow. So, every single time I talk about Wegmans my comment of "combat shopping" is often following any sentence. I shop at the Sterling store and can we say "RUDE"? Not the employee's, the shoppers themselves! My kids are by my side, not wandering the store and people have teken them out with their carts with no "Excuse me" or cordial response. Just a rude look and a turned up nose. I actually commented to one person who actually said "Excuse me" when she accidently brushed our carts together. She then commented saying she was equally surprised at my "excuse me" as well.

Wegmans is a great store but brings out the worst in people for some reason. Even the Sterling Costco has more people with manners. I wish I could figure out the invisible "rudeness" line I cross whenever I enter the Sterling Wegman.

Posted by: jonesin1969 | November 13, 2008 9:51 AM

I live in the Scranton, PA area and we have had a Wegmans for almost as long as we've lived here (about 14 years). I love it but it does take alot of time to shop there and as a full time working Mom, I don't have alot of time to waste. One of the reasons it takes so long is I see at least 4 people I know and everyone wants to chat, so going in I always say I hope I don't run into anyone. Our store is crowded especially during the day on weekends although the crowd is generally civil. My kids have always come with me and helped me with the produce (weighing) and deli orders. So its an educational experience for them. My daughter loves their olive bar! Wegmans will also order items you don't see on the shelves!
Anyway happy shopping!
Anyway, it is a great grocery chain

Posted by: rauth | November 13, 2008 1:40 PM

We shop at the Wegman's in Baltimore County. We love it. You can get THICK steaks, all finds of cheeses and meats, and the prices aren't bad. You get what you pay for.

Posted by: gbooksdc | November 13, 2008 1:48 PM

I'm a native of Rochester, NY, where we used to resent Wegmans for driving out all the smaller groceries with double and triple coupon sales. In 1984 I returned from a student exchange to Switzerland and moved home from college -- and found that Wegmans stores had been redesigned as Swiss-style shopping centers with a specialty cheese shop, bakery, greengrocer etc. Wonderful, but VERY pricy. Is this changing? I will ask my mom, who does her main shopping elsewhere but finishes up at Wegmans for specialty items. Recently she bought tarragon vinegar for the first time.

Posted by: elizh1 | November 13, 2008 5:13 PM

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