On the increasingly rare occasion that I meet someone who has never been to or heard of Wegmans, I can't help but feel a little sad for them. Although it may be hard to believe for those unfamiliar with the grocery store, it was a source of great joy and entertainment where I grew up. In my suburban Pennsylvania hometown, Wegmans was so much more than a supermarket: It was a staple of my teenage social schedule! It was a way of life!
As teenagers, we'd meet up at Wegmans to indulge in the seemingly endless hot foods buffet — there really was something for everyone! Or we'd shake off the boredom of a Saturday afternoon with a trip to the mind-blowing bulk foods section, where we would sneak bites of gummy sharks or raspberry yogurt-covered pretzels and then fill plastic bags with chocolate candies and dried fruit.
Most of my friends had worked at Wegmans at one time or another in high school, and it was a common conversation starter — "You've worked in pizza? I'm in deli right now." Kids who lived in the more rural corners of our school district would make dates to meet in the Wegmans parking lot simply to size up each other's pick-up trucks.
To this day, even my 80-year-old grandmother's social life revolves around Wegmans. Every Thursday morning, her assisted living facility buses its residents to the nearest location so they can stock up on their weekly supply of cold cuts and orange juice. It's one of the highlights of her week. Once, I happened to run into my grandmother as she made her way up and down the cereal aisle on a Thursday morning, and it was a very exciting day for both of us.
Even though Wegmans is no longer a part of my daily life, it remains a constant. When my husband and I travel back to Pennsylvania to visit family, we can always find a reason to make a Wegmans stop, even if my parents have already stocked the kitchen in preparation for our arrival. And Wegmans comes up more than you'd think in casual conversation. In my experience, people who grew up with the grocery store can always find a reason to bring it up.
What Makes Wegmans So Special
I'm not sure exactly what the store's special sauce is. I do know that I'm not aware of any other supermarket that inspires this kind of connection. The Wegmans brand has done something unique in creating an experience for its shoppers.
It's practically the Disney World of grocery stores! The prepared foods market is an Epcot of meal options, the dining area is perfect for people-watching, and the unmatched candy selection is basically guaranteed to give your kids an intense sugar high. Wegmans may be even better than Disney World, because the stores offer a babysitting room where parents can leave their children under vetted supervision and enjoy the store's attractions in blissful peace.
Wegmans mastered the art of turning a simple trip to the grocery store into a spectacle that can interest the most fickle of teenagers.
In relatively boring suburban hometowns like mine, any store that can create that kind of experience is just as valid a source of entertainment as anything else. Why sit silently in a movie theater when you and your friends can wander through the long aisles of a grocery store that literally sells any food you can imagine?
Wegmans mastered the art of turning a simple trip to the grocery store into a spectacle that can interest the most fickle of teenagers. And not only that! They've been able to recreate that experience across locations (or so I would assume, based on the fact that the praises lavished on the store by my friends from other areas are equal to my own). I feel fairly confident that my experience with Wegmans more or less guarantees that I'll automatically have something in common with anyone I meet from the lower Northeast states.
If this is hard for you to believe, then I would venture to guess that you've never been to Wegmans. If that's the case, believe me — you'll want to plan your next road trip around making a stop there.
Have you been? Do you have a story to share? Tell us in the comments!