Dubbed the number one grocery store in the country by Food & Wine magazine, Wegmans is part supermarket and part regional obsession. When the mid-Atlantic grocer opened its newest location in Brooklyn on Sunday, both Wegmaniac superfans and neophytes were eager to stop in.
On opening day alone, more than 25,000 shoppers visited the store's new Brooklyn Navy Yard location, according to a store representative.
Wegmans is still quite small compared to other regional grocers, both in number of locations and total sales. In 2018, Publix, a chain in Southeastern states, had 1,230 locations and totaled $36 billion in sales. H-E-B, a chain in Texas and Mexico, had 400 locations and totaled $26 billion in sales.
This is only Wegmans' 101st location. You can find other Wegmans in the rest of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virgina, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Last year the store made $9.2 billion in sales.
Here's what it's like to shop at the first Wegmans in New York City:
The new space is 74,000 square feet, which is small for a Wegmans but large for a New York City grocery store, and includes a parking lot and garage that can accommodate 700 cars.
Walking in through the main entrance, you can grab a directory/map that will prompt you to veer right for the fun but pricier stuff: the coffee shop (which serves coffee from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.), the burger bar, the bakery with a detached cookie station, sushi counter, and more.
The buffet offers hot and cold food options for $9.99 per pound, and behind it is a small batch of counters. Here, you can check out and then enjoy your meal upstairs in the somewhat cramped cafe, complete with bar.
Miriam Osei, 38, of downtown Brooklyn, had never been to a Wegmans and usually goes to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. When we chat, she is early into her shopping trip but has already stopped for lunch. "I felt like [my sushi] was cheaper than at Whole Foods," she says. "I got, like, three rolls for $13 and I feel like it's usually $17 at Whole Foods."
You can also ditch the lunch and peruse for samples. At the bakery, samples of sourdough bread with imported French butter, Wegmans Butter Boy, are being distributed. Only sold at Wegmans, the salted butter retails for $18.99 per pound in Brooklyn, but you can buy it in smaller quantities.
Walk farther in and you'll encounter one of the most lively and lucrative parts of the store: the fish market. "Our seafood department is setting records," general manager Kevin Cuff says.
Here, you can lock eyes with a variety of whole fish on ice.
Behind them is a small kitchen where a chef rings a bell and yells, "Scallop time!" every 20 minutes or so. This signals that it's time for his cooking demonstration, where he sears scallops in Wegmans basting oil, a product the store is trying to push. ("We're very proud of our basting oil," Cuff tells me.)
A 16-ounce bottle costs $8.99 and the demonstration seems successful: It inspires Osei to put a bottle in her cart.
Craving dairy? If you round the corner of the store, you'll make a left into the cheese department — and more specifically, the cheese mister. Dissimilar from the misters keeping vegetables dewy in the produce aisle, the Wegmans cheese mister emits a dry mist that creates moisture but won't form puddles. It is supposed to emulate the Wegmans cheese ripening facilities, called cheese caves, in Rochester, New York.
Here in the cheese department, you can sample cheese from the monger, including some local varieties and some imports.
Then you can finally start bargain hunting in the broader aisles.
Wegmans has plenty of big-name, national brands but mainly carries its own private label. Here's how some deals from their store-brand products stack up again national price average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Within its own private label are multiple brands aimed at different price points. For example, if you're looking for cheddar slices, you can get conventional Wegmans, prepackaged cheese slices at $4.58 per pound. Organic Wegmans slices, sliced and packaged at the on-premise delicatessen, are $11.99 per pound.
You can get fresh-squeezed small-batch orange juice from the Wegmans Food You Feel Good About label, which boasts no artificial coloring or preservatives, for $6 per quart. Each half-gallon bottle retails for $12. Organic Wegmans orange juice is $2.44 per quart, or $4.49 for a 59-ounce bottle.
The store prices its private label competitively against national brands. For example, Wegmans Food You Feel Good About ketchup is $1.79 per 1-pound bottle, while Heinz ketchup at the store is $2.49 per 1-pound bottle.
Wegmans Food You Feel Good About center-cut bacon is $5.99 per pound while Peter Luger extra-thick-cut bacon is $10.65 per pound.
Prices of non-Wegmans brands are relatively low, too. Barilla spaghetti is $1.29 per pound at Wegmans but retails for $1.49 per pound at Target. Pop-Tarts are $2.49 per box at Wegmans but $1.94 per box at Walmart. And Philadelphia Cream Cheese goes for $5.49 per pound but $6 per pound on Instacart (price based on delivery to Hoboken, New Jersey).
Between the wide aisles and free samples, opening week at Wegmans seems less stressful than probably any other opening in New York. Walking around, you can already hear the chatter of happy shoppers comparing their experience to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
And by the looks of shoppers' carts, the congestion of the upstairs cafe, and lines at the sushi counter, it would appear that Brooklyn has gained more Wegmaniacs over these past few days.
More from Grow: