Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Majesty of Wegmans

The much-anticipated opening of Wegmans locally occurred recently. Beth and I made a quick inspection the other day, after mucking about in a nearby furniture store. Supermarket, The Event. We were there to witness Furniture Store, The Event when Ikea made its Massachusetts appearance years back (trimly written about here). Now this gloria mundi. All star shopping, the hope of the future.

Super the place seems to be. Set in a busy business district where little and large tech companies vie for best stupid company name, with the Burlington Mall not far away, it is a magnetic north for shoppers. You go down this drive to this castle-like structure, it even has a clock tower. The street had accommodating parking spaces so we parked there. A parking garage sits next to the store itself.  It’s a city, or more accurately, a citadel.

A store employee stood by the entrance, perhaps as greeter. She didn’t greet us but I think someone was speaking to her. Probably trying to get the coordinates for the dairy section. The place is vast. I believe I heard it was 50,000 square feet, which is to say 12 acres, or football fields. I dunno if that means the entire property or just the building: it don’t make no never mind. Big.

Produce greeted us first. Looked okay, and the prices were good. You pretty much have to expect a wax sheen on apples nowadays. I think it was mostly the usual stuff, no 50 shades of tomatoes. Still, I’ve seen worse, like at most supermarkets (looking at you Market Basket and Stop & Shop).

Really, I felt overwhelmed by the size of the place. The size and location of the store precludes dashing in for a pint of cream. A large café I think they called it sits to the left of the main entrance. I believe you can get meals, not just a bagel and coffee. We did not enter, but I think nearby techies might pop in there for lunch.

We wandered around but did not really gain the lay of the land. I never saw meat or dairy, for instance. I had been told that Wegmans does a lot of cross-merchandizing, but I only saw a couple of wines by the cheese section. Oh yes, Wegmans sells wines.

Few supermarkets in the state sell beer or wine. I’m not sure why the exceptions but I believe soon they all will, or will be able to. Kinda jumping ahead, but Wegmans has a large and bargain-priced selection of wine, beer, and liquor. Obviously they have tremendous buying power. Many prices were rock bottom, but there were many instances, at least in wine, that the usual case discounts that stores offer could meet or beat Wegmans’ price. The selection seemed both thorough and random. Lots of established names and all the wine-growing regions, but it seemed like a machine made the choices.

Earlier, I wandered down a different aisle than Beth then had a hard time finding her. The store absorbs people. You become part of the machine. I suppose that sounds like a creative construction. At Costco, there’s a general counter-clockwise directive, with clear side excursions. Wegmans offers a clear outer rim experience but you may need to drop a trail of cookie crumbs if you dare to seek paper towels. We found the liquor at one end, then decided to seek the bread selection. It was a straight journey but was it 50 yards, 100 yards? I’m good for it, but if you are guided by inspiration rather than master plan, you might tend to choose to forget about it.

Lack of samples surprised me. Something was offered at produce, but that just attracted store employees. Someone with a trayful offered us a cold mocha. Samples seem like a necessity to me. Wegmans has troops enough to handle that.

Cashiers stand at ready at the entrance to their lane when not occupied. Nice touch, it feels hospitable. The Whole Foods that we bow to has devolved to a lot of young people flirting with each other. Somehow, Whole Foods has lost its snap.

Wegmans is not a grim silo like Walmart, where neither customers nor employees look happy in their predicament. Wegmans feels like a utopian city, with everyone integrated into its directive. The store manager, whatever that entity might be, cannot possibly know many of the employees. Assistant managers, subalterns, proxies, god I don’t know. Running smoothly so far as I can tell.

I was glad to see no talkspeak slogans like what now graces the walls of Whole Foods. They may be coming or are kept interiour; a machine this large needs a coordinated push. It also requires the customers to make a similar push. You have to accept that under this one roof lies all possibility. That’s a bit of a swallow. Still, I’ve seen worse, i.e. Walmart. And let’s don’t forget the reputed charms of Amazon. Our need for comforting resource may lead us to further integrations. I mean, Wegmans looks fine but the store feels like you are in its stomach. I guess I am not ready for that.

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