Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Ode To Wegmans

A brilliant, shining beacon, brighter in the grocery universe than even the sun,
Wegmans wipes up its lame competitors like a bad spill in aisle one.

Its produce farm fresh and crisp; Wegmans sells the tastiest deli,
The competition’s food is old...hard...and even a tad smelly.

“I can fix the economy,” said the Prez, “I will mend ‘er,”
His smart move: making Wegmans coupons U.S. legal tender.

And so now I solemnly pledge, ashamed just a smidgeon,
That I’ve left the church; Wegmans is my new religion.

I've heard peopls say bad things about the Pope, but I've never heard anyone say anything bad about Wegmans. 

And I've never seen Sinead O'Connor rip up a picture of a Wegmans store on Saturday Night Live.

This is a bit over the top, I know, but the Cult of Wegmans has a chokehold on the Mid-Atlantic region and it's time to discuss it openly.  Specifically, I'm talking about the five states boasting Wegmans locations: New York (48), Pennsylvania (13), New Jersey (7), Virginia (6) and Maryland (1). 

Two Wegmans are planned for Massachusetts, but no construction date has been set.  Pity poor Massachusetts, being on the receiving end of a Wegmans tease.  And, even more, pity the other 44 Wegmans-less wastelands trying to pass themselves off as U.S. states.  They are Third-Worlders as far as the rest of us are concerned.

If you haven't been in a Wegmans, you can't imagine what I'm talking about, but I'll try to pull back the curtain a bit on the Wizard (only this one is real). And I'll supply some pictures. 

I went into a New Jersey Wegmans recently just to get some photos for this post. I had no intention of making any purchases, I wanted nothing.  When I emerged an hour later, I wanted for nothing.

Here's the scene in a typical Wegmans produce department:

This pictue doesn't capture the full cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables that dance about.  They are so fresh that they seem to grow in their display crates.  Most first-timers swirl in circles, wide-eyed, gaping at the extensive selection.

One of the drawbacks of being a small-time blogger, like me (I know I had you fooled), is that it can be awkward, and raise questions, when you take pictures of people and places in public for no discernible reason.   

As I raised my camera to snap the photo above, an elderly gentleman, a dead ringer for Uncle Junior of "The Sopranos," said to me " Whaddaya buying the place?"

Good question.

Feeling somewhat like I had been busted by the police, I mumbled that I had to take a picture so that I could send it to a friend.  He replied, "Yeah, I do that too..."  Then he walked away, convinced, it seemed, that he hadn't stumbled across somebody who was up to no good.

It's difficult to determine where to begin when describing the delight that is Wegmans.  The store has a huge selection, only the best and freshest products, competitive prices, a luxurious interior (as food stores go) and knowledgeable, nice and enthusiastic employees (37,000 of them.)  Wegmans was ranked #5 on Fortune Magazine's 2009 list of The 100 Best Companies To Work For and has been featured on the list every year since it began in 1998.  In 2005, Wegmans was #1.         

Here's what the freezer cases look like:

That's genuine imported French oak surrounding the freezer doors, it once lined the ballroom of the Palace at Versailles. 

Ok, I made that up, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away, but if you're thinking of freezing yourself cryogenically after you die, you couldn't do better than storing your body in a Wegmans freezer.  You'd be assured of at least weekly visits from your family -- maybe twice during Super Bowl week. This could be a new product idea for Wegmans.

"Let's go say hello to Uncle Hal kids, he's hanging right next to the 'Tastes Like Delivery' DiGiorno pizzas." 

The deli selection was much more impressive than depicted here.  A woman was ordering, and both she and the counter guy were looking at me funny when they saw that I was going to take their picture.  I heard them say something about "Megan's Law" and I walked away quickly.  There's nothing worse than being thrown out of paradise.

This is a partial picture of the Wegmans prepared food buffet.  It puts Las Vegas to shame.  And those stairs in the background lead to a five-star cafe. 

Employees of other supermarkets shop here.

Wegmans was founded by the Wegman family in Rochester, NY in 1916 and has been continuously run by a family member.  Today, Danny Wegman is CEO and his daughter, Colleen, is the president.

It's one of the largest privately-held companies in the United States according to Forbes Magazine.

Those are some of the cold, hard facts, but, clearly, they don't convey the entire picture.

Wegmans is Babe Ruth hitting a monster homerun with a loaf of piping hot Italian bread,
Wegmans is Michael Jordan slamming home a rim-rattling dunk with a fresh lettuce head,
Wegmans is Tiger Woods Arnold Palmer making a 50-foot putt with a USDA Grade A egg,
Wegmans is Pele faking out two defenders and blasting the winning goal with a tender turkey leg.

By now, I hope you get the picture.  Wegmans Rocks.  Amen.


  1. Larry, this Wegmans piece really speaks to me. as you know, I'm from Buffalo, NY - we consider ourselves (almost) the home base of Wegmans. I'm been told by people in the know that the Univ. of Buffalo actually takes prospective visiting scholars on tours of Wegmans, in the hope of luring them to the Buffalo area. (Know what you're thinking - don't say it!) Wegmans is actually a major tool in my arsenal of arguments for hopefully getting the Big Fromage back to the East Coast! Too funny - I'm sharing this with my family. Love your blog, Mary Cadrot
    P.S. No pictures of the pastry section? Rivals any French patisserie!

  2. If only they sold tires........

  3. Thank goodness you didn't trash this nirvana of shopping centers! I was worried.... I love this place! Can't wait for their arrival in Massachusetts! As always, a great piece of journalism, LG..... you get freebies from these places or what?
    xo -- akb

  4. OK, this is my bad karma returning to me for trying to inject a little Target jealousy in another post. I never heard of Wegman's before but, dude, this place rocks!

    It's not quite as catchy as, say, "Food Lion" (saw that once on a road trip), but hey, that poem at the end TOTALLY makes up for ALL!!


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