Wegmans comes to CT — sort of
Supermarket aficionados sometimes travel for miles to find their favorite food items. But consumers in southwestern Connecticut will soon have one more nearby choice — and a very large one at that.
A Wegmans will open Wednesday morning in Harrison, N.Y., a few miles from the Greenwich border, featuring 121,000 square feet of grocery shopping and dining space.
The chain that started in Rochester, N.Y., in 1915 is known for its loyal customer following, and the management team that brought the store to completion during the coronavirus pandemic is hoping to repeat that successful formula at the new location on Corporate Park Drive near the I-287 corridor.
The pandemic delayed the store’s opening and caused numerous disruptions. The store was nearly complete in March when the public-health shutdown came. The June 7 opening date was pushed back to early August.
“We’re reinventing how we do business,” store manager Matthew Dailor said Monday. “Safety is the big thing. We’re trying to provide a world-class service that’s safe for everyone.”
The challenges of retail and grocery work has been especially evident during the pandemic crises, and workers demonstrated resilience and determination in getting to the final stages of completion, he said.
“It’s been tough, but our people understand the importance of their work. They always understood it, but it’s really taken into account now,” Dailor said. “I know all the workers will want to show off the store to their friends and neighbors in the area.”
Some 500 people will be working at the store, including a small contingent from Connecticut, the store manager said.
Like other Wegmans stores — there are now 100 in operation in the Northeast and Southeast — it offers a number of popular features, dining options and a wide selection of food. The Harrison store has a cookie bar, a standard feature of the operation, that will offer prepackaged goodies while the pandemic continues. The store also has a burger bar, a pizzeria and a cafe — one of the chain’s strategies is to offer a variety of dining options inside the store, separate from the grocery section.
The store has a particularly broad array of products, including seven different kinds of Wegmans sausage alone, such as weisswurst, bratwurst, Käsekrainer and chorizo. There are 70,000 sales codes in the store’s computer data base, Wegmans spokesperson Deana Percassi said.
“We want to be there for everybody,” said Percassi. “Lots of options.”
While the field of supermarkets and prepared foods is a crowded one, the store representative said extensive research and effort has gone into the decision-making process for opening new sites, which can take more than five years. The new location will also draw from a built-in customer base — a large new residential complex with 421 units is taking shape nearby, as well as a Hyatt hotel.
The store is one of the largest in the region, about the length of a football field. The beer aisle alone is the size of many package stores in southern Connecticut, featuring dozens of craft beers from around the country, and the world, as well as the more typical offerings.
Wegmans partnered with a Hudson Valley craft brewery, Sloop Brewing in East Fishkill, N.Y., to create a special batch of beer for the store’s opening. It’s called “Sorry for the Delay IPA,” a name chosen by the store’s employees, referring to the COVID-19 disruptions that delayed the store’s opening.
Wegmans runs an organic farm in Canandaigua, N.Y., which also serves as a test-lab for other organic farms in the Northeast, the supermarket spokesperson said. Some of the produce offered by the family-owned supermarket chain is exclusive to its vegetable aisles.
The chain has a store at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York and several in northern New Jersey, including one in Montvale.
The new store has been equipped with all the usual public-safety measures that have arisen during the pandemic, and there will be a cap on the number of shoppers allowed in at any one time. As per store custom, there will not be a ribbon cutting, or a marching band, to mark the opening, just a cheer from employees when the doors open at 9 a.m.
“We want to be open for the community,” said Percassi, “based on safety.”