As a native Long Islander and NYC resident, I’ve been deprived of Wegmans my entire life. The grocery chain’s modern design, delicious in-store dining options and affordable prices seemed to be out of a fantasy that I’d never get to experience.
The chain is finally making its NYC debut at Brooklyn Navy Yard in mid- to late-2019, according to the company’s website, but who wants to wait that long? Fortunately, I recently made the trek to Buffalo, N.Y. for my brother’s college graduation and requested (ok, I demanded) my family make a stop at Wegmans.
A longtime lover of Trader Joe’s, I was especially eager to see what the hype was about when Market Force Information named Wegmans the 2017 best overall grocery store chain in the U.S., defeating Trader Joe’s, which held the 2016 title. The company’s annual study looked at more than 12,000 shoppers to determine which chain consumers loved most. This year, Wegmans tied with Publix, both scoring 77 percent on Market Force’s Customer Loyalty Index.
“Customer loyalty” barely scrapes the surface when it comes to Wegmans fans. The Rochester-based chain has developed a cult following, and upon my first and only visit to the store, I could see why.
Vibrant veggie displays were the first to greet us at the entrance, organized into specific categories like roasting, organic and prepped—my brother’s and my favorite. There was everything from bagged cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles to shaved Brussels sprouts and stir fry blends. He and I both separately grabbed a bag of zucchini noodles from opposite ends of the display and threw it in our shopping cart saying “I need this,” practically in unison.
As we headed deeper into the enormous produce section, my mother’s eyes bulged with excitement. We stopped at each display: Tastes of Asia, Exotic Fruit, things we’d never even heard of before. “Isn’t this great?!” she shrieked.
We were like children in Disneyland.
Each counter was carefully curated to a certain theme and paired items that went well together, like guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips and black bean burgers. Fresh meat was paired with prepped veggies, brie cheese was paired with balsamic cherries and craft beer. There was no need to think about what to make or pair together—Wegmans had done it for us. All we had to do was pick up the items and throw them in the shopping cart.
We strolled past the charming floral section, designed to look like the side of a house with fake windows and shutters, and turned to the prepared foods section. Sandwiches, salads, sushi, soups, pizza, hot and cold buffet bars—you name it, Wegmans had it. And better yet, they offered samples.
The dining section featured a massive seating area on the main floor, a “Family Zone” for consumers with kids and extra seating located upstairs with a balcony overlooking the entire store. It was a Friday afternoon and the entire place was packed.
We made our way through the remainder of the store, which was no easy feat. There was the seafood market, candy isle, frozen foods section, pharmacy, books and stationary, furniture and even a family section where consumers can buy in bulk. This particular Wegmans also had a sports store, t-shirt shop and my favorite, a local section. There was an entire wall featuring BBQ and hot sauces that were “Made near Buffalo.”
After more than an hour inside, we left Wegmans with a lengthy receipt and a shopping cart full of things we definitely didn’t need, but absolutely had to have. Perhaps my family and I weren’t quite the average Wegmans shoppers—but maybe we were. The beloved chain is known to be more than just a pit stop on the to-do list. It’s a full-blown social outing that is designed to not only be a fun experience, but result in impulse purchases. Well done, Wegmans.