If You Build It...

Attention all present and future Wegmans fans. I have good news straight from a company spokeswoman. Alexandria may be one of the next locations for the beloved grocery store.

The new location, if approved, will be part of a mixed-use project at Telegraph Road and Beulah Street near the Fort Belvoir military base, according to Jo Natale, Wegmans' spokeswoman. The company has already signed a letter of intent for the store location and still has to sign a lease and wait for various jurisdictional approvals. "And as such, I can't speculate on an opening date," Natale said in an e-mail. Stay tuned Wegmans lovers.

This is good news for those of you who live inside the Beltway and are jealous of those who live farther out and get to shop at Wegmans in Fairfax, Woodbridge, Sterling or Gainesville. Readers in my last blog about Wegmans begged for a more urban location. Like stalkeyedfly who wrote, "PLEASE, Wegmans -- we need a grocery store in Penn Quarter. Do you know how happy I'd be if you opened one here?"

So what goes into a company's decision on store locations? How often have you seen an empty store front and thought to yourself, "Gosh, I wish they'd put a ____ there." It's not as easy as it may seem. Retailers plan their store locations five to seven years in advance, says Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. They consider things like size, expected growth in the community and the kinds of customers a store will attract in a certain location.

Nordstrom, for example, looks for communities with certain income levels, according to Butler. Kohls often likes to be near a Walmart because it's had luck being near the discounter in the past.

"They have complementary but not competing inventory," explains Butler.

Certain local governments will also offer certain incentives for a store to be located in their community, such as tax breaks for creating a certain number of jobs.

You might wonder why the Wegmans in our area tend to be further out in the 'burbs. For an Arlington or Alexandria resident, Gainesville, Va., might as well be in Florida. It's all about size for Wegmans. Natale says the store is larger than most grocery stores, weighing in at 130,000 square feet. That's double the size of an average Giant, which measures about 55,000 to 60,000 square feet, according to a company spokesman.

"We're definitely interested [in a site closer to Washington], but it's very difficult, if not impossible, to find a site large enough and in the right location to accommodate a store our size, particularly in D.C.," wrote Natale.

Hmmm, a Wegmans fan, who happens to live in Arlington, can only dream of that Alexandria store. In the meantime I'll be schlepping.

Which stores do you wish were closer? How far are you willing to travel for your favorite places to shop?

By Tania Anderson |  December 11, 2008; 12:00 AM ET General Interest , Grocery Deals
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