WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

As Wegmans comes to Raleigh, new employees train at the 'magical, mystical' grocery store

Posted August 7, 2019 11:33 a.m. EDT
Updated August 8, 2019 6:29 p.m. EDT

— Wegmans, a family-owned food-topia, feeds so much fanfare and wins over so many fans.

At the store in Midlothian, Virginia, Kris Weatherwax is getting meals ready – and readying herself for Raleigh, where she'll serve as the meal center team leader.

“I walked into the door and was just blown away by the sights, the smells,” Weatherwax said. “They jokingly call it the Disneyland of grocery stores.”

It's a land with mountains of cave-cured cheeses.

“Over, like, 300,” said cheese-monger Sierra West.

There’s a Napa Valley's worth of wine.

“The wine selection is unreal,” said Rick Manzel, a weekly Wegmans shopper.

There's a wine-tasting bar and a fine wine room, where some bottles bubble above $400.

Manzel is from Rochester, New York, where this supermarket chain all began in 1916.

“I knew about Wegmans, but these stores are top of the line now,” he said. “They’ve really improved them time and time again.”

Wegmans now has a dozen stores in Virginia. The one in Midlothian, which is the size of two football fields, opened in 2016.

As expected, it was the Super Bowl of store openings in the Richmond area.

“I couldn’t get in — it was that packed in here,” Manzel said.

The startup crowds, and the traffic, did settle down.

At the start, Betty Ayers didn't think she could stomach such a grandiose grocery store.

She wanted something with a smaller, with more of a local footprint.

“Once I started coming in here regularly, I absolutely fell in love with it,” Ayers said.

“It’s less expensive than people would have thought,” she added.

The loaves of bread, the fish on ice, the cookies and cream, all are worth the 45-minute drive Declicia Baker-Evans makes from Petersburg.

“To me, it’s a better grocery experience because I hate grocery shopping,” she said.

It’ll be a similar setup for stores in the Triangle, Raleigh resident David Pippin said.

Pippin is also training to serve as team leader for the new store's health and wellness department.

“Wegmans wants to make sure their employees know what they’re doing,” he said.

He’s a former North Carolina State University police officer wowed by the Wegmans business model.

“It’s definitely living up to the hype,” Pippin said.

It's not just the cream-of-the-crop product and customer service, employees say, but a salt-of-the-earth leadership.

“They have this amazing reputation for food safety and the passion for what they do,” Weatherwax said.

The Midlothian Wegmans has an in-store restaurant and bar called The Pub. It’s a grocery store with a happy hour.

The Raleigh store will have something similar called The Burger Bar – another ingredient in making the stuff of legend.

“I have heard my family speaking of Wegmans for years, and it was like this magical, mythical thing,” Weatherwax said. “It was always talked about with such reverence.”

Now she gets it, she said.