Wegmans opens second Richmond store on Aug. 7
With only three days until the opening of its second and largest store in the Richmond market, Wegmans in Short Pump was abuzz with activity on Thursday. Hundreds of employees attended a spirited rally, met Wegmans’ founders who flew in from the company’s headquarters in Rochester, N. Y., and put last-minutes touches on the 120,000-square-foot store.
The upscale store, decorated with white and gold balloons celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary,opens Sunday at 7 a.m. It’s located in the West Broad Marketplace shopping center on West Broad Street,
near North Gayton Road in western Henrico County.
Valerie Fox, consumer affairs media relations coordinator for Wegmans, says the company expects a big turnout, similar to the 24,000 people who packedthe Midlothian store on its opening day in May. “We had 2,200 people standing in line when we opened,” she said.
The Chesterfield County store has done well, says Fox, and Wegmans has made changes in product selection at Short Pump based on buying patterns there. “What surprised us was the popularity of Northern products,” said Fox. “The number of transplanted people who missed some of their favorite things.” For instance, Zweigle’s hotdogs, made in Rochester, sold out within hours of the Midlothian store opening. Genesee beer and cream ale also have been popular.
Virginia-based products, along with craft beer, are other big sellers, so Wegmans has added more of them in Short Pump. For instance, the Midlothian store opened with 700 types of beer; Short Pump has 1,000 varieties, including many craft names. The store also stocks many Virginia wines among an expansive wine selection.
Oenophiles are sure to enjoy the store’s climate-controlled fine wine shop. It stocks everything from a $199.99 bottle of of the well-known French Louis Roederer Cristal champagne to its most expensive vintage: a $799.99 2010 red Australian Penfolds Grange. Wines for as little as $6.00 can be found its its regular wine department.
Fox says Wegmans offers what she describes as “consistent low prices” on many products people use the most. Family packs of things like chicken breasts and vegetables are in the mix.
All told, the Short Pump store stocks 65,000 items. There’s a Mediterranean bar with 90 items, such as olives, stuffed grape leaves and roasted red peppers. The store’s bakery features a cookie bar with 36 handmade varieties. Wegmans prides itself on specialty food stations, and there’s much to pick from: a cheese shop, with offerings from the company’s own cheese cave in Rochester, a pizza and sub shop and
sushi, salad and soup bars. Food can be taken out or consumed on the premises with 300 seats available in both indoor and outdoor settings.
Prepared foods also are plentiful. “We try to make it easy for our customers to get food on the table,” says Fox. There’s a large selection ranging from a ready-to-create display where people can pick an entrée and two sides for a meal or a chef’s case of ready-to-go offerings such as chicken marsala and beef pizola.
The store also stocks more than 3,000 choices of organic foods and there’s broad line of gluten-free and vegan products.
The Short Pump Wegmans employs 550 people. It’s 5,000 square feet bigger than the Midlothian store. With the two stores, Wegmans now employs more than 1,000 people in the Richmond area, Fox says, in full- and part-time jobs.
What will make Wegmans stand out in an increasingly competitive Richmond grocery market that will soon get its first Publix – another upscale grocer — are its employees and their focus on customer service, said Short Pump Store Manager Todd Strassner.
Wegmans invests many hours in training, he noted. One challenge in Richmond has been the inability to train locally, outside of the Midlothian store, which has been open less than three months. Wegmans sent full-time employees to Northern Virginia to train at stores there and put them up at hotels during the week. “You really can’t experience Wegmans unless you are in the store. You need to touch it, see it, smell it,” says Strassner, referring to the chain’s open-air market feel.
Indeed, the sensory experience of seeing so much food in one place is part of Wegmans’ appeal.
Wegmans is a private, family-owned company known for promoting from within. Strassner has worked for the company 35 years, getting his start as a part-time employee on the cleaning crew. He and his son, Todd Jr., have the distinction of being the only father/son store managers in the company.
For 19 consecutive years Fortune magazine has named the 90-store grocery chain as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Wegmans ranked No. 4 on this year’s list.
The culmination of all the employee training will be on display Sunday when the public gets its first peek at the Short Pump store. During a media tour, Fox pointed out that Wegmans will steam seafood, such as lobsters, for customers no extra charge. Employees also will chop and dice vegetables for receipes, with these vegetables priced slightly higher than a self-serve pack.
“We have a lot to show off to our customers,” says Strassner.
The Short Pump store is Wegmans ninth in Virginia. Besides Virginia, Wegmans has stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts. Much of its recent new store growth has occurred in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. Wegmans plans to open another store in Virginia in Charlottesville on Nov. 6 and is considering Chantilly and Tysons Corner for future sites.