Wegmans? Really? Please explain.


The object of so much desire.

By AOA Greg

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

If there's one constant in the Capital Region supermarket discussion, it's that people desire a Wegmans. Actually, desire might not be a strong enough word -- crave/swoon over/confront an existential crisis in the absence of/long for a Wegmans.

And I don't really get it. Because last I checked, Wegmans is still... a supermarket.

Sure, Wegmans routinely tops the Consumer Reports rankings of best supermarkets. And I've shopped there more than a few times -- they're nice stores. Worthy of adoration, though? I'm skeptical.

But, OK, I'm open to the idea. So I got connected with editor, savvy shopper and skeptical consumer Laura Northrup. She lives in the Capital Region now, but she grew up in the Syracuse area where her family shopped -- and dined! -- at Wegmans. I know she has an appreciation for the place.

Maybe Laura could explain.

Greg: OK, let's establish your Wegmans cred here -- what's your background with the big W?

Laura: I'm from the western suburbs of Syracuse and grew up with Wegmans. I never worked there (I didn't drive when I was in high school and it was too [far] away.) My family used to do some of our weekly shopping there, but shifted to only going to Price Chopper in the mid '90s. Sometimes we would go there for a few special items no one else had, like Merckens candy wafers in bulk, or a certain brand of frozen meatballs. But what we've kept going back for -- and this is the part that sounds crazy to people who aren't familiar with Wegmans -- is dinner.

Yes, we would get in the car and drive 20 minutes to go out to dinner at the grocery store. Even our medium-sized, modest Wegmans (Rt. 31 in Clay) has a Chinese buffet within the store, where you pay by the pound.

Greg: OK, it's going to take me a second to wrap my head around going to a supermarket for dinner.

Laura: Our Wegmans has meager offerings, too. If we have a reason to be on the other side of town, near the epic DeWitt Wegmans, that means we get to go THERE for lunch. Where the buffet has high quality seafood items and there is an honest-to-goodness food court with a variety of cuisines.

And the place is packed. People love to go there for lunch. Of course, this could be evidence that people in Syracuse have low standards and are weird.

Greg: I used to live in Syracuse. I shopped at the epic DeWitt Wegmans. Many times. And it was nice. But it was still... a supermarket. What am I missing?

Laura: The thing I've always noticed is that if you want to know what every other grocery store is going to be doing in three years, go to Wegmans and look around.

Greg: But what is there left do in a supermarket? It's food on a shelf.

Laura: It is. But there's the question of what food that is, and how it's arranged on the shelf.

You can throw some corn in a bin and print a price sign and call it a day. Or you can stack it nicely and have an artist come in and make beautifully lettered and decorated signs with the corn's price and the name of the local farm that it came from.

If this doesn't make a difference to you, and you don't particularly care which farm your corn or apples are from, then Wegmans is not your store.

If you don't care whether there's a chef sitting there handing out recipes for the particular variety of squash that's on sale, and you just want to buy some squash and get on your way, then Wegmans is not your store.

A couple of the stores I've been to have a model train that runs around the store above shoppers' heads. Why the heck does a grocery store need a train? I don't know, but I like to watch it.

Greg: So, would you say that a lot of what differentiates Wegmans is packaging and experience design?

Laura: Yes, that's a lot of what makes the difference. There are a lot of small and large things that make the shopping experience there more beautiful and more fun. A couple of the stores I've been to have a model train that runs around the store above shoppers' heads. Why the heck does a grocery store need a train? I don't know, but I like to watch it.

It's not all flash and pretty pictures on the produce signs, though. The produce isn't just stacked prettily; it's usually the best available in the area. And they had us caring about eating more servings of vegetables and focusing on local farmers back in the '90s, before anyone knew what a locavore was.

I really can't get out of there without buying some kind of fruit, even if I'm only there to grab some lo mein and Elmira Chicken for dinner.

Greg: I do remember that the produce section had a bit of a wonderland feel about it. Good quality. And the way it was all arranged -- it was like, "Wow, I really want to eat some vegetables..."

But some of the nicer Price Choppers are pretty swank now, too.

Laura: Yes, the new Price Choppers are pretty swank. But whose lead are they following?

Call me when the Chopper live-tweets which fruits and veggies they're delivering from which farm at each store today. https://twitter.com/#!/WegmansLocal

Greg: Point taken.

[Wegmans] gives people something in common and something to talk about in places that don't have Wegmans stores. Those same people might move somewhere else and talk about how amazing something that region is lacking is. You can bond over it.

Laura: Not that they're a farmers' market. A grocery store is still a grocery store.

Greg: I guess that's my main point -- as nice as Wegmans can be, it's doesn't seem like it's so much better than any other nice, modern supermarket. At least, not enough to warrant such adoration.

Laura: For me, who grew up with it, the thing is that they were a modern supermarket before the other stores in the area were what we think of as "modern." They introduced my young provincial mind to crazy concepts like "flavored coffee" and "cheese from France."

I could always find weird international things there, like my beloved Pocky from Japan and Pims cookies from Europe, long before Price Chopper carried them and before the Westgate international Chopper was ever dreamed up.

I often wonder whether everything there really is so much better, or people only think that it's better because of the friendly staff and European market ambience and Wegmans cachet.

Greg: The one thing that's always struck me about Wegmans is how the friendly the people working there always seemed. Like they were actually happy to be there and help you.

Laura: Their reputation as an amazing place to work is a little overblown in the media, but I've heard from friends who have worked there that it sucks less than working at other grocery stores. They have a nice scholarship program for their high school-age workers, though I believe Price Chopper does, too.

Greg: I wonder how much of that is hiring -- just trying really hard to sift for the people who will be friendly.

Laura: They'd have to pay more for the people who really are friendly to sift to the top.

Or cult-like indoctrination!

Greg: !!! We're finally getting to the bottom of this! It's all becoming so clear!

Do you think there's some truth to that, though -- that's there's a Cult of Wegmans?

Laura: Yes. It gives people something in common and something to talk about in places that don't have Wegmans stores. Those same people might move somewhere else and talk about how amazing something that region is lacking is. You can bond over it.

I have a Wegmans reusable grocery bag that I carry here, mostly because it says to people, "I'm not from here, and if you're looking for something to make small talk about, let's chat about olive bars and bulk candy."

Greg: Nothing brings people together like olive bars and bulk candy.

A clip from Wegmans, the Musical. Yes, that really happened. It was written and performed by a high school drama program in Massachusetts. [via Consumerist]

Laura: I don't know what an equivalent thing in the Capital Region would be. Something that people like to gush about when they're not there, but maybe feels a little overrated when you actually are there.

Greg: Tulips? Mini hot dogs?

Laura: That's a good example. My other thought was Bombers, but that's because I hate how crowded it gets.

Greg: I've come to think that people here -- and elsewhere -- hold Wegmans in such esteem because they can't have it. That if it were here, people would start complaining about it the way they complain about every other supermarket here.

Laura: I would put the new ShopRites up against a smaller Wegmans any day.

Except for the bulk candy. It just isn't the same without the bulk candy.

Greg: So, if heaven and earth moved and somehow a Wegmans landed here, do you think it would actually change anything?

Laura: I think there are areas that would be a lot better off if you plopped any grocery store at all there. Overall, there isn't much you can get there that isn't available here. You just have to run around to a few different stores to get it.

What I always hoped Wegmans would do is make Hannaford and Price Chopper up their game and act like they wanted our business just a little. How long it took Price Chopper to start gas rewards and double coupons in this market made me think they sort of took Capital Region customers for granted.

Now we have Fresh Market, Shop-Rite, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods entering our marketplace.

Greg: There's a lot of competition now -- and even more soon. I think we'll see a lot of places step up their games because of that.

Laura: I miss Wegmans, but mostly I miss the great loss leaders and promotions that come from having three big grocers battling it out in your region.

And while Price Chopper has a deli and a soup bar and everything, I don't see myself going out to dinner there.

Greg: Yeah, it's just not a destination. OK, any last point you'd like to make?

Laura: Shopping at Wegmans feels special and fun, but my family still goes to the sparkling new Price Chopper that's virtually next door instead. They carry most of the same items and their prices are lower. Having to compete with Wegmans in some markets has made Price Chopper and Tops better stores.

It's destination grocery shopping and a great place to have lunch, but I think what people who want Wegmans really want is credible competition for the stores we have. That's here, and more is coming.

That said: I still miss bulk candy.

Greg: One last thing: how much does it bug you that people spell it "Wegman's"?

Laura: A lot. I keep considering registering the domain name theresnoapostropheinwegmans.com

We talked via chat. The log has been lightly edited.

Supermarket Week 2012:
+ Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U
+ Annoyed in aisle 5
+ When will Trader Joe's open -- a prediction pool
+ Supermarket Showdown V: the annual cross store price check
+ Feeding the soul, at the supermarket

photo: Flickr user chrstine592


I grew up in Rochester and worked for Wegmans for 6 years. They gave me a college scholarship and I always loved shopping there. That said, after 15 years of living outside of Wegmans territory, I have grown to really appreciate the competition of multiple supermarkets in a region. It sounds like it might be different in Syracuse, but in Rochester, there is only Wegmans, and they actually don't have nearly the brand selection of Hannaford or Shop Rite. And if they don't carry it, you can't find it. As Laura said, the best thing about Wegmans, hands down, is the prepared food. Otherwise, as a grocery store, the stores we have here are every bit as strong (if not better, in my opinion).

So, is Laura going to be the new Bruce Roter for We Want Wegmans? ;)

I stop there every time I go out to Binghamton or Syracuse for lunch. It really does feel special. It's hard to quantify it or explain it to people who have never been in there other than saying it's your "happy place."

In the town where my husband is from in Jersey the Wegmans has a separate and gigantic liquor store. It's beautiful.

Are there no Midwestern transplants in Albany to give a shout out to Hy-Vee? Hy-Vee is big, clean, and inexpensive. They carry King's Hawaiian Bread and Palermo's Biscuits and Gravy Pizza. I'm sure that's more of a regional thing, but still, those are the kinds of things that make me happy, homesick and whiny about other Capital Region grocery stores.

It's really all about the Wegmans subs. If Heaven has a deli (and I'd like to believe that it does), then Danny Wegman somehow stole their angelic secret recipe in order to share it with the entire Northeast Corridor. I, for one, am thankful for his heathen thievery.

I visited four Wegmans in Rochester, one regularly, while I was in grad school 7-9 years ago, and they were just as mediocre as everything we have here. Except the cashiers were extra slow. I mean really ridiculously slow. There was absolutely nothing (except distance from my apartment) that would make me go there over another store, and I find the love it gets completely baffling.

There is nothing like Wegmans. Period.

Growing up with Wegmans, I can attest to their friendly staff. Customer service is a clear priority - and you get the sense that people really do enjoy their jobs, which is just overall pleasant as a shopper.

I heard that Wegman's subs are actually DiBella's recipe?

It really comes down to one thing. Do you like to cook? Are you a foodie? Or are you happy getting a Big Mac Meal Deal?

Not saying one is better than the other. To each their own. But if you are the former, it is clear why Wegmans is by far better than any other grocery store. Whole Foods is great. And, as someone who likes to cook, I'm very excited to have them here. But they aren't Wegmans.

And, like Tim, I enjoy me a Wegmans sub as well. We need better sandwich shops in Albany. When Subway is voted "Best Sandwich Shop" year after year in local polls, we obviously are doing something wrong.

I lived near the Allentown PA Wegmans when it opened in the late '90s. We almost never did our grocery shopping there, because Giant was closer and had everything we needed week to week, but we went for all the things that have been mentioned here: Chinese buffet, absurdly good subs, prepared food. If we had a Wegmans around here, I'd go for those things (sometimes) but I doubt we'd make it there regularly.

In every region I've lived, there's been some food source I've missed when I left. Around here, so far, I think it would be Stewarts. Seriously.

I moved here from Pennsylvania a few months ago, where I shopped primarily at Wegmans. As a grocery store snob, it still makes me sad that I have to go to a different store. You just can't beat walking into a Wegmans and having fresh produce, a sushi bar, coffee shop, fresh pizza and subs as well as the chinese and hot food bars, the olive bar and cheese bar and craft beer shop! Wegmans is my store, and no matter what Price Chopper or Hannaford do to make improvements, they will never be even as close to great as Wegmans is.

Yes, Wegmans is partnered with DiBella's for their subs around Rochester. Not sure if that's so for other markets.

Having grown up just a bit east of Wegmans territory, I never saw one of these stores 'til I was an adult. That said, while some Price Choppers are ok, they all have harsh fluorescent bug-zapper style lighting, can often be rather dirty, and they don't have the awesome food court that Wegman's does.

I always wondered what horrifically incriminating evidence the Golubs must have on Danny Wegman & family. Is there a photo of one of the Wegmans in bed with animals and/or small children or something? I can't imagine that pedestrian sex scandals or minor revelations of corruption within the ranks of Wegmans would really a.) hurt their bottom line that badly, or b.) prevent them from dominating the Eastern NY market if they crept past the 'cuse.

Too bad Robert Stack's dead; this would make a great Unsolved Mysteries ep!

I grew up in Albany, but went to college at SUNY-Buffalo. It was there I joined the cult of Wegmans. Even now, when I visit Syracuse or Buffalo, I plan to stop by a Wegmans.

For me, it's the fresh bread in the bakery. I'm a big fan of fresh bread. It annoys and perplexes me that we have 'fancy' bakeries, like Panera and Bountiful Bread, and their bread simply does not compare to Wegmans bread.

I don't get the love for Wegman's, or Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fresh Market or what have you, when just down the Thruway you have Adam's Fairacre Farms. For supermarket week, I encourage anyone to travel the hour to Kingston, or even better, the 90 minutes to their flagship Poughkeepsie store, to see how a real supermarket should be. Locally sourced meat, vegetables, etc. It's a farmer's market, with a deli, a butcher, a fish monger, and greenhouse/landscaping all rolled into one. Can you get cheap paper towels and toiletries there like Price Chopper, Shop Rite, etc.? No. But for food, glorious locally grown and raised food? There's no substitute. There ought to be a campaign to bring Adams up to the Capital Region, but sounds like they're content to continue growing within (and only within) the mid-Hudson Valley. Good for them. Too bad for us.

I don't see why you asked someone who apparently only occasionally shopped at Wegmans why it's so great. Ask me, I'd been going there once a week for all my groceries for ages until I moved to Albany, and the lack of a Wegmans in Albany was a major reason why I didn't move here initially.
Since you didn't ask me, I'll just have to leave you a list in the comments. As a disclaimer I will admit that I have shopped primarily in big Wegmans', namely the one in DeWitt in Syracuse, and the one in Vestal in Binghamton.

Reasons Wegmans is awesome:

1. The subs. Delicious, huge. I never make a trip home without stopping by for one and grabbing a bottle of sub oil. The rest of the prepared food options are pretty cool too, but for me it's all about the subs. If Wegmans uses DiBella's recipe as one commenter suggested, the've certainly perfected it beyond the original. They're bigger, the sub oil is tastier, the bread is nicer, and they have more topping choices (seriously, no pickles, DiBella's?).

2. The quality of the store brand. Like Trader Joe's, Wegmans brand products offer a impressive variety and are consistently as good if not better than national brand. Price Chopper store brand is hit or miss sometimes, and the fragmentation and ambiguity of what is store brand (Central Market Classics vs. PC vs. Clear Value?) makes me feel like I have to be shopping around within the store brands as well rather than just being confident that I can grab one and it'll be the cheapest and good.

3. Simplicity of the sales. Something is either on sale or it isn't. It's on sale for the week or it's just the price. Sales went in cycles and were predicable. I'm a big sale shopper, so for me this is big. I want to know what I'm getting a deal on and what's at normal price and when I can expect to see a deal again. That seemed easier at Wegmans.

4. Friendliness. Its been said, but it can't be said enough. My guess is that not only do they offer pretty nice working conditions, but the reputation of the store makes it a cool place to work, which gives people greater job satisfaction.
Not only does the friendliness of the staff improve the parts of your shopping trip where you have to interact with them, it also instills a greater sense of trust that they are looking out for you and making sure what they're offering you is the best. For example, if the guy behind the meat counter has a scowl on his face and avoids eye contact when I walk by, I'm more likely to think that the meats on offer are less than fresh and they just put a new sell-by sticker on to fool you. I'm paranoid like that, but I'm probably not the only one.

5. Unique touches like the bulk dept (it's not just candy, although it's getting more that way these days), olive bar (mmm, love their bruchetta), mini carts (why do I have to choose between capacity for a months worth of food for a family of 4 or 7 items and only if they're not too heavy?), and the bakery (which is not unique as a concept, but I love how it's set up as an aisle and you walk down and are just surrounded by lovely carbs on all sides).

6. DESIGN. This is probably the most important. I'm not talking about just package or signing design, or just decor and lighting, although those play a major role. It's more how the entire store is planned in such a way that things flow, there's not too much clutter yet you can find the information you need, and it's easy to know where to look for it. The stores feel cohesive, as if each part was considered in its relation to the whole. The attention to design behind Wegmans gives them a feeling of being upscale while apparently not adding so much to the cost that they can not still be competitive in their pricing. Which leads me to my last point...

7. Good prices. I can't say that item for item on any given day Wegmans is cheaper than the competition, but I can say that if you shop the sales and trust the store brand I think you will come out at least even if not ahead of the competition. Even if that wasn't the case, though, a slightly higher price would be worth the nicer experience in my opinion.

In conclusion, I don't know if I can offer any higher proof of my (justified) love for Wegmans than the fact that I just spent at least an hour writing an essay singing their praises for no really good reason.

I grew up (in Liverpool) near the Wegmans on 31 in Clay also. Wegmans was (oddly) the first place I ever bought a record album. They used to sell tapes, records and clothing! I bought Weird Al - In 3D. I am in the Cult of Wegmans.

In my experience Wegmans is so great because you find yourself wanting to shop there. So many times I avoid grocery shopping because it's just a chore and I have to deal with pushing a huge cart around and dealing with masses of people. When I had access to a Wegmans I would look forward to grocery shopping each week and I left with a smile on my face.

That's really all I can offer other than what Phoebe covered in detail. Also, the deli counter employees were the best ever. Friendly, efficient, and if you were ogling a particular item they'd shove a sample of it in your face without even needing to ask, or better yet make a good suggestion based on their experience.

This has got me thinking. I've never been to a Wegmans but maybe this obsession/love for a grocery store is more about familiarity. Insteand of comfort food, it's "comfort feel". We have all shopped for groceries at one time or another (some of us more than others), and finding familiar items in a familiar store makes us feel somehow comforted. This may explain my love for Trader Joe's. I lived my first 40 years in So Cal, and I love going into Trader Joe's. No matter where it is, I go in; I find some of my favorite things, or find new and exciting items, and I am somehow transported back to my old life in California. It makes me feel like I'm "home". So, maybe it's more about nostalgia and less about the the store itself.

l just don't understand the obsession with grocery stores. Period.
I don't live in one. I don't even work in one.

I grew up near Syracuse and I went to Wegmans, too. I think it's a nice store. Big deal.

Northrup is not a common last name, so I felt a certain obligation to comment on this post.

I was born and raised in Rochester, NY and I've lived in the Capital Region since 2006. I didn't realize how great Wegmans is until I left. Having worked for their Pittsford store for a short period of time during undergrad, I would frequently see Danny Wegman stroll in on Sundays just to take a look around.

Several friends still work for the chain and they love it. Customers and employees are #1. My family loves when I stop home because I am the first to volunteer to go grocery shopping. The smell and feel of the store is enough to make me smile.

Wegmans is a grocery store. Period. If they have the best price on something, it is worth going there. Otherwise, it's just a grocery store. I am not impressed.

Greg said, "I've come to think that people here -- and elsewhere -- hold Wegmans in such esteem because they can't have it. That if it were here, people would start complaining about it the way they complain about every other supermarket here." No one I know in Rochester complains about Wegmans. If you live near Wegmans you love it as it much as you miss it if you no longer live near Wegmans. Making life's daily chores pleasurable is the key. We all have to shop - Wegmans makes this chore, which could be a grind, a pleasure. And their cooking classes in the test kitchen in Pittsford are the best. Sushi-making was our favorite.

I went to school in Rochester 1994-1998, and very quickly became a die hard Wegmans fan. My thoughts on what makes Wegmans special:

1. The fresh baked Cheese Bread in particular. It's fantastic. I have not found a good substitution.

2. The environment, lighting, layout, cleanliness - it is just a pleasant place to shop.

3. Example of staff dedication to customer satisfaction: I was scoping out the specialty cheeses, but the prepackaged portions were too big/expensive. A staff member noticed my hesitation, and offered to cut and repackage one of the pieces to my liking. I didn't have to seek out a staff member and ask, which seems like an unthinkable to do in Price Chopper/Hannaford.

4. Perhaps they put a vaporized crack/heroin mix in the air vents to keep customers happy and coming back for more. Just a thought.

I've only been in a Wegmans once and I didn't see the big deal. It's really nice! But so are the updated Price Choppers and Hannafords. I'm sure I'd think differently if I grew up with them and was comparing a then-head-of-the-pack Wegmans to a twenty-year-old Price Chopper, but the other stores have upped their game so far that I see no difference.

We need better sandwich shops in Albany. When Subway is voted "Best Sandwich Shop" year after year in local polls, we obviously are doing something wrong." -Code Monkey

Subway was voted best sandwich shop because people are dumb, not because we don't have any good sub places or we lack a Wegmans! Visit Cardonas or Genoa!

I grew up in a small-ish town in western NY. We had smaller grocery stores, nothing like even a Hannaford or a Price Chopper. When I was in about middle or high school Wegmans arrived. When we walked into that store after never having had anything remotely like it in the area, it was like, well, think trumpets and angels singing. We cruised the bulk food aisle on weekends to see what all the other high-school age kids were doing. They had singles shopping nights. And the fact that the UPC scanner was directly connected to store inventory was a HUGE deal in a town full of engineers and scientists. I still love Wegmans. I too carry the Wegmans cloth bags to Hannaford and wistfully look at the wilty vegetables. I still get feisty when my mother who lives in the middle of NOWHERE can get specialty items at the Wegmans now in Ithaca (a 45 minute drive for her, but only 20 minutes farther than the nearest grocery store) that we can't find in our area. I often wonder if my Wegmans obsession results from going from almost no choice to unimaginable possibilities for a small town girl, or if it really is that much better.

What's wrong with Price Chopper people? We have the best supermarket in our backyard. I can't understand why people want Wegmans.

Where else can you go and go back 20 years in time, outdated 80's decor and shelves and displays that haven't been cleaned since the 90's? Where can you go and look at produce that is visibly moldy and wilty and you know that as soon as you get home you have to throw it out? Where else can you go to get a fuel program that will save you $2 for every $100 you spend and call it a "Awesome" program? Where else can you go and find that everything is $0.50 to $1 more expensive than Hannaford? PRICE CHOPPER!

For people that don't get Wegmans you need to visit Wegmans in Pittsford, NY (Rochester area) or the one in Northborough MA to really appreciate what it is all about. I call those Wegmans "Super" Wegmans for their extensive selections, prepared food sections, etc.

If you only went to an older Wegmans (build in the 90's or before)... while they are still very nice they do not compare to the Super Wegmans.

Get out and explore somewhere outside your comfort zone before you decide whether where you live is the best or not. I've traveled extensively and while there are some things we are good at here in the Capital District, I think there are many other finer things in life that we are missing. Better customer service for one.

Joe and I clearly don't shop at the same Price Choppers. Though I did just move from down the street from Westgate to down the street from Slingerlands.

Whoever said that the only difference between Wegmans and other grocery stores is that the cashiers are slow doesn't know what they are talking about. It is exactly the opposite. If I make the mistake and step foot in a Tops grocery store (another chain in the Rochester area), I'm greeted with 2 lanes open with customers 10+ deep. At 'The W' there are always plenty of lanes open. And I've noticed that when lines do start to form, THEY OPEN MORE LANES! A small thing, but a beautiful thing none the less.

I lived in Wegmans country for 12 years. I don't think I went into one more than 12 times (it would have been the one in DeWitt). For one thing, they didn't have a store in the city (the much-maligned Price Chopper is the only chain here serving inner cities at all, and they seem to mostly get abused for doing it). For another, as a struggling 20-something, I simply couldn't afford their food. Listen, folks, milk is milk, cheese is cheese, pasta's pasta. Do I like shiny, pretty spaces? Of course, we all do. But I don't shop at grocery stores for their "food courts" and prepared foods, I go to get my groceries.

Saying you haven't really experienced Wegman's unless you've gone to one of their few super stores is like saying you haven't experienced Macy's unless you've been to 34th Street. It's true, but it doesn't make the crappy store at Colonie Center any better.

I had family in Rochester throughout from 1996 or so through 2008. I made many a trip out that way to kids' plays, concerts, football/basketball games, running competitions.

I always visited the Wegmans stores in Fairport (2) and Penfield. I'm a Price Chopper kid from the Albany area and I adored shopping Wegmans. Not only was the food court a treat for out-of-towners "hoteling". The buffets and hot food are unbelieveable. No matter who was traveling, if it was late afternoon and there were no plans for dinner, we always stopped at Wegmans and either ate there or took it back to our hotel. The menus were varied and always hot and plentiful.

But in the store as a whole the complete lack of clutter was beautiful to see. I can't remember seeing endcaps that got in your way never mind product displays smack dab in the middle of the aisles causing cart congestion.

The variety of products....never mind the categories of same....was enough to boggle your mind....items that you never see carried in any local Price Chopper or Hannaford. We could even pick up the Albany Times Union!!!

My understanding is that years ago there was (still is???) a handshake deal between Price Chopper and Wegmans that neither would interfere in the other's marketing area. There is supposedly (???) an invisible line around Syracuse....Wegmans won't go below and Price Chopper won't go above. Who knows???

With the latest Shop Rites in town that are someplace between a higher end Price Chopper and even the smallest Wegmans and with Trader Joe's opening August 3rd, I don't know but that Wegmans might consider this area saturated with supermarkets.

I hope not!!! :D

I read this letter to the editor in Syracuse, about Wegmans pulling out of that city, and had to link to it here (http://blog.syracuse.com/opinion/2012/06/law_would_allow_only_grocery_t.html), as part of the Wegmans discussion, because with all of Price Chopper's faults, at least they have maintained their urban stores. I believe this commitment should not be underestimated.

I was born and raised in Syracuse NY. A few years ago we moved to a suburb of Hartford CT and lived there for about a year and half. The only grocery store that was remotely close to Wegmans there was the Price Chopper. Although PC tried their hardest to look like a Wegmans...it still wasn't the same. PC doesn't have the quality of produce that Wegmans had. We missed Wegmans while living there. When we moved back to the Syr. I was happy that we would be shopping at Wegmans again. I like the fact that you can buy almost anything there. I also like buying produce from local farmers and knowing it came from a local farm. I like that I can eat lunch or dinner while shopping. Wegmans subs are the best around.

A ancient deal between old Mr Wegman and Mr Golub was made with each other not open a store in each others home area. Rochester and Albany Capital District. They were friends.

And here, from today's TU, are the results of Consumer Reports survey showing Wegman's to be the top rated supermarket chain in the country. Since the middle rankings of the survet are only accessible to Consumer Reports subscribers, I don't know where Price Chopper or Hannaford came out, but neither is in the top 10.

@chezjake - As a long time subscriber to Consumer Reports here's the rundown of the rankings based on what's available in our area (and each store's score).

#2 Trader Joe's (87)
#11 Aldi (81)
#15 Whole Foods (80)
#16 Hannaford (80)
#24 ShopRite (78)
#26 Target/SuperTarget (77)
#37 BJs Wholesale Club (75)
#45 Price Chopper (73)
#55 Walmart (67)

No store scored lower than Walmart, which is funny because I used to shop at the Albany location quite frequently and even Corby Kummer had good things to say about their produce (in comparison to Whole Foods of all places). I suppose there is a lot of variability by metro area, as the Walmart in Princeton is disgusting and I almost never set foot in the place.


@ Daniel B. - Thanks for filling in the blanks. Those rankings are just about what I would expect based on my own experience. I'm especially glad to see Aldi's ranking; I think they are very good for what they carry.

I have no idea about Walmart, since I've never been in one. Until they treat their employees like human beings, I won't go in the door.

We just got a wegmans in the boston area and I was also trying to understand the hype. Is it the prices, the prepared food, the atmosphere? I don't know but maybe a combo of all that, although I didn't do a price comparison yet. Didn't seem cheap though. I went for the first time and thought, it's a whole foods. But then I did notice the extra touches mentioned above, including how clean, nicely packaged, fresh, and tidy everything was. What really stood out was the customer service. I got in line and realized I forgot an item. The already friendly cashier pressed a button and an associate came to the line immediately, I mean, as if they have people waiting just for this. She went and grabbed several choices and I went with the wegmans brand she brought back (wheat crackers). They were excellent too. To me, that's enough reason to go back and see what else there is.

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