If you live or grew up on the East Coast, it’s likely you have a friend or family member who is obsessed with Wegmans. This relatively small grocery chain—it only has 110 stores through 8 different states—has amassed a ride-or-die fan base who even started the Twitter hashtag #Wegmania. So what’s the big deal with Wegmans?
What is Wegmans?
Wegmans began in 1916 and, like many grocery chains, started as a family business. John and Walter Wegman opened the Rochester Fruit and Vegetable Company in a suburb of Rochester, NY called Gates. The two were able to quickly expand in the Rochester area and, as they opened more stores, changed to the family name.
Wegmans is known for its massive stores—they tend to be far larger than your standard grocer—and they’ve been doing that practically from the start. In 1931, they opened a location that was an unprecedented 20,000 square feet and included a 300-seat cafeteria.
Over the decades, they expanded through New York and eventually into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, and as far south as North Carolina.
Who owns Wegmans?
To this day, Wegmans is privately owned by the same family who started it. John and Walter’s offspring got into the business and now Walter’s great-grandchildren Colleen and Nicole serve as president and vice-president of the company, respectively.
Being a privately owned business has certain perks not only for the family, but also for the employees. Since the Wegmans are not beholden to stockholders, they can focus less on profits and more on employee happiness. And, in general, it works. Wegmans is known for its great customer service, thanks to its happy employees who get benefits. Additionally, getting a job at Wegmans is a highly competitive process. I should know—I couldn’t even get a cart retriever job there during the 2008 financial crisis. People want to be at Wegmans!
Is Wegmans expensive?
Wegmans does have a reputation for being slightly more expensive than other grocery stores, and studies have proved as much. While still slightly cheaper than a Whole Foods, you’re going to feel it in your wallet a little more than the local discount store.
However, you are getting what you pay for at Wegmans. Their massive stores have so much variety and specialty areas. If you’re the type of person who wants to sample things before you buy, you’re in luck at a Wegmans because they go hog-wild on those tasting booths. And their produce and meat counters offer a higher quality product than the standard grocery store. That’s because they turn over their products far more frequently than other stores. And they still have their own store brands to compete with the big names.
Also, when you’re checking out, just remember that the employees there are getting better treatment and, in this age of late-stage capitalism, that counts for a lot. Plus, you get the satisfaction of being part of #Wegmania.