The recipe for a juicy rumor -- or, Did you hear the one about Wegmans and Albany?

wegmans rumor recipe illustration

The ingredients are there...

Hey, have you heard the rumor about Wegmans coming to Albany? At the Latham Circle Mall? At the First Prize Center?

Variations of this rumor have been circulating since at least the beginning of the year. We've heard from it about 100 different people (an exaggeration, but not by much). And they all heard from a guy who knows a guy who... you get the picture.

The latest version surfaced Tuesday and it goes like this: the big W has bought the Latham Circle Mall -- it's a done deal -- and Wegmans will start demolition/construction soon. Since then, we've watched search referral traffic for "wegmans albany" come rolling in. The word has obviously gotten around.

Well, for what it's worth, Jo Natale -- a spokesperson for Wegmans -- told us today that the company has not bought the Latham Circle Mall property.

But that story is just so delicious. And it's easy to see why -- it follows the recipe for a juicy rumor...

The recipe

Start with quality ingredients
By almost all accounts, Wegmans is one of the best supermarket chains in the country. It might be the best. (We've shopped there -- we can confirm it is very nice.) People are highly (perhaps crazily) devoted to the chain. And its arrival here would shake up a supermarket scene that's already starting to get crowded.

Sear with the heat of longing
To hear some people talk, to have experienced Wegmans and then live without it is like being pulled from heaven and forced to once again inhabit the frustrating life of mortals. People yearn for the place in a way that's rare for anything, much less a retail outlet.

Also, there's the whole alleged "secret agreement" situation -- that Wegmans and Price Chopper supposedly have some hush-hush understanding that they won't compete in this market. This makes the longing even stronger; we could experience grocery nirvana if only "they" weren't keeping it from us.

Stir in plausibility
The idea of a Wegmans at the Latham Circle Mall site is totally plausible. It's a big site -- large enough for one of Wegmans' 130,000-square-foot stores. And the location already includes a home improvement store, the type of neighbor with which the big W is said to like co-locating. The site is high traffic and centrally located. Also: it's a dead mall, ripe for large scale redevelopment.

Season with allusions to authority and insider knowledge
Here's what separates a truly juicy, succulent rumor from the bland, everyday stuff. Many of the Wegmans-at-Latham Circle rumors include some sort of allusion to a person who would seem to really know. Among the unnamed sources cited in versions we've heard:
+ An unnamed town of Colonie source says it's happening (authority!).
+ A friend who's a food broker says it's happening (real dirt from the industry!).
+ A guy who works for Price Chopper who says it's an open secret in the industry and Chopper is preparing for supermarket war. (If the competition says it's happening, it must be true!)
+ The person who says they work for a company that stocks supermarkets says it's happening (industry dirt!). This claim was especially tasty because he/she includes a bit about Wegmans finding some reason to break the "secret agreement." Intrigue! (He/she also later says Wegmans is headed not for Latham Circle -- but rather the First Prize Center and Crossgates.)

Let simmer for a long time
The Wegmans-in-Albany rumor has been bubbling for months, since at least the beginning of this year. For whatever reason -- it's appealing, it keeps mutating, there might be some actual truth to it (gasp) -- the rumor won't go away. And that persistence adds a hearty, conventional wisdom flavor to the sauce. Because if a story sticks around for this long, it will slowly develop the taste and mouthfeel of fact. It becomes one of those things that people "know" -- even if there are facts to contrary. (If you need more examples, see a large part of what passes for political discourse in this country.)

So where does that leave us?

Here's what we've been told by actual, on the record, named sources.

+ A Wegmans spokesperson -- the aforementioned Jo Natale -- told us today (July 5) that the company has not bought the Latham Circle Mall property. It has also not bought the First Prize Center property. And she said Wegmans is not involved with the real estate development company that has an option to buy the FPC.

+ A different Wegmans spokesperson -- Jeanne Colleluori -- told us this past May the company is currently focused on New England (it recently opened a store near Boston, and has announced plans for a second). She said the company has no plans to build any stores in New York this year. And the Capital Region is not part of the Wegmans four year plan.

+ Rob Ganz -- with Exchange St. Associates LLC, which currently controls the First Prize Center -- told us today that its deal to sell the property to a development company called Widewaters is a long way from final. He says he hasn't heard anything about a Wegmans for the site. But he said over the last decade plus, just about every development scenario you could imagine -- Home Depot, Walmart, hotel, train station -- has been floated for the site. One major hang-up: the current structure on the site would have to been torn down, and it contains asbestos.

So, does this mean that Wegmans is not coming here? Nope. Trader Joe's said for years it wasn't planning a Capital Region location -- and then it was. Stuff happens. Plans change. And companies rarely talk about deals that aren't finalized. You never know. We're not saying it won't happen -- we're saying we don't know. Maybe it will someday.

But until someone is willing to go on the record about Wegmans coming to Albany, we suggest serving all those delicious rumors with a grain of salt. Or an entire shaker.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Wegmans? Really? Please explain.
+ What about Wegmans?
+ Supermarket Week 2012

Wegmans photo: Flickr user _BuBBy_ (cc)

Comments

I heard from a guy who knows a girl who knows a guy that they bought property in Saratoga Springs.

Where there's smoke, right? Wegmans is a business, and if placing a large store on the circle projects to be a money-maker, there's a good chance they'll do it.

I am starting a grocery store obsession recovery support group.

I like taking those delicious rumors with a smoked ham hock from Rolf's.

IMHO, none of these chain supermarkets can compare w/ the Honest Weight Coop (which is a vew I know is arguable to some). When we buy there, we know we're not getting GMO's, high fructose corn syrup, hormones, antibiotics, etc. They also have a huge community outreach program that brings in lots of people through the shared community room space. They make donations and participate in local functions (often free of charge) and the people who work there are united in one common goal: helping to get clean food to the public, with rigorous ethics. Our Coop rocks for a lot of other reasons and deserves to be supported despite/especially in light of this recent supermarket explosion/speculation.

What Britin said.

I have shopped in the big box stores (inc Whole Foods in Hadley and Fresh Market) and yes they are big, showy and attractive. But beauty is only skin deep. I find HWFC superior in product, service and ambiance. Sometimes crowded, parking lot is awkward, all that. But there is a pervasive genuineness, helpfulness, and commitment to quality. We are very lucky to have HWFC. (Full disclosure: I am a member and work a weekly shift.)

Oh the teasing! @Barold...when's the first meeting? I'm a Buffalo transplant here and I'm in the longing camp.

If there really was a secret agreement(not that I believe there is one) wouldn't Wegman's deny they were interested in the Capital Region for as long as possible? Why break the agreement sooner than later, it gives Price Chopper more time to gear up for the "supermarket war".

I heard this rumor a few months ago too but I was told it would be multiple locations. So lets just go ahead and say that it's all three locations for the hell of it, it makes my heart go pitter-patter all the more.

I think I need to join Barold's support group... my heart is beating faster just thinking about a Wegman's so close to my house.

When returning from Ithaca last month (where I went to Wegmans the first time), I was very excited to see a Wegmans truck pulling out of the Galesi (sp?) complex in Rotterdam. That is until I realized that they probably weren't delivering inventory for a store that hadn't even been announced. It does mean, however, that they have the warehousing right here.

In before the "...but Honest Weight has everything!" line...

I haven't been impressed by any of the Wegman's that I've visited. Also the idea that people would get so obsessed with a food store and spend hours there is repulsing, especially considering America's obesity epidemic and the fact that people elsewhere in the world and the country starve to death every day. Our metropolitan area is one of the healthiest in upstate NY, so why would we want more food choices? I prefer Hannaford myself, their stores are clean, easy to get around, and are never crowded. Also their organic foods are easy to find (even in the newly remodeled stores without an organic section). Their prices are better and they don't have weekly and seasonal sales that are confusing. And the one que line idea is the way to go!

I hope Wegman's comes and kick the you know what out of Price Chopper. Sweet karmatic justice on those historic church demolishing jerks!

It's no secret that the Golub and Wegman family are friends and have had an agreement not to compete in the Capital Region. Why would Wegmans have expanded as far as Central NJ and not have come to Albany if this weren't true?

Not sure the next generation of the 2 families will abide by the unwritten agreement... so it certainly wouldn't be a surprise if at some point they expand here... Clearly, Hannaford and Price Chopper aren't up to the test at this point... It be great to have the competition!

My Mother's cousin's boss' mechanic knows someone who is in local politics and had connections to this lawyer who says that he knows this newspaper reporter who writes a blog who is in contact with this Doctor who is related to the guy who.....

I am joining the support group! Just came back from Rochester this morning-very sad to leave Wegmans. Wegmans is not even in the same league with our current offerings(not getting involved in the food coop issue-food coop people are a breed of their own and would go to the coop no matter the other options-mean that in a nice way). Wegmans is the jackpot of Supermarkets-customer service like Albany has never experienced in a regular grocery store, amazing options in every department, store brands in unique products, they even make verde salsa-it rocks. Wegmans is wicked clean and so, so, so about making the customer happy. Yes-I am crazily devoted. And as far as the "agreement" goes-it has already been broken. Both Wegmans and PC have store in Worcester, MA. As I was checking out there last week, the man behind me said, "Is this place great or what?" I burst out laughing as that man had no idea he was chatting with a Rochester native longing for a store that travels with a cooler to fill with Wegmans goodies when I travel near one. That man knew he had hit the supermarket jackpot. May the soon to be 4 stores in MA be Albany's backdoor to getting a store. Bring on Wegmans and all the others. The more stores here the better-better prices and variety for all of us.

Look, as long as we obsess over grocery store chains we're going to be a joke.

Worshiping Wegmans over our current crop of big box food conglomerates is like devoutly shopping at Target over Wal-Mart.

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