… and Wegman’s came to town …

The grand opening of the new Wegman’s grocery store near the house opened yesterday. The anticipation had been growing as the store had been under construction for some time… and early November was always far far away. The opening day finally arrived, November 8, 2009. It was mostly a non-event, until I realized Sunday morning that I needed to run out. The normal trek would have led me to a local grocery store if I was in a hurry (Giant or Harris Teeter), but more typically Target or Costco. Then I remembered; Wegman’s opened today, why not go check it out.

I arrived to the surpise of massive traffic jams getting into the parking lot. The first entrance was blocked by police. Routed around the corner I had what appeared to be angry Loudoun County Police officers very authoritatively pointing to move into alternate lanes. This took me around the back of the shopping center to the public parking… (this is where I would park if I was going anywhere but Wegman’s.. still the mini-town center is vacant at the moment). This is where things got interesting… despite the police and traffic routing… I found a parking place fairly quickly… as I walked toward the store I followed the loose line headed for the front. On my way I noticed a courtesey shuttle taking some of the older customers by van.. but it was a beautiful day — I opted to walk.

Approaching the door I passed a builder collecting personal data for a lead list offering up a chance to win a $500 gift card, I almost took my chances till they accosted me with questions like how much does my household make, and what price range of a home do I want to buy… i kept my partially completed entry form and worked my way to the door. At the door I was greeted by a couple of wireless terminals where the store employees happily scanned my Virginia license apparently getting enough information to allow me to "easily" cash checks in their store.. I declined on this feature and instead took my new customer affinity card and headed into the main entrance.

Simply put, it was a zoo. People packed in like sardines. That said this is the biggest store of it’s kind I think I have ever seen. Even more impressive than the Wegman’s on the other end of town. I grabbed the super small cart and found it easy to navigate through traffic, since I had to carry what I bought back to the car… I was on the light load… but I did have my Wegman’s coupon mailer that had free butter and flour… and figured that would be my first items to track down.

So the store was packed, but it was still interesting figuring the layout. This layout was sort of backwards from the other Wegman’s in the area which made it confusing at first to figure out. The people didnt help with the navigation either. Passing through the fresh produce… the auto-watering shelves were cool. The wine and seafood bar was pretty cool… especially as it was packed with people drinking white wine as their seafood was prepared. The indoor and outdoor seating was huge. I found the wine section to be more impressive …

I also noticed the price comparisons. Now there is something to note, I could not go five feet without hearing other customers on the phone saying how great all the prices were. I assume this was promotional and by design to establish a new customer relationship. Regardless, 12-pack soda was $2… they couldnt keep the shelves full. I also started to notice price comparison tags on select products… this product is cheaper than the same product at Costco, Harris Teeter, etc..

The the cheesy jazz band started to play behind the wine bar.. all in all it was an adventure. I spent two hours roaming the store… (and working through the crowds) … check out was seamless other than my new affinity card was not tied to my phone number yet..

All in all it was a great experience, and I will go back. What was most impressive was the attention to every detail and the preparations to drive people into the store and how hard they worked to establish that initial relationship… I applaud Wegman’s for the effort and wish them the best… which from overhearing some employees talking… the numbers for Sunday’s launch were well above projections…