Admittedly, I’ve been spoiled.
Wegmans is not a tourist attraction for me. It’s my corner grocery. I remember in ninth grade that my science teacher had a visit from a Russian national who was in some sort of cultural exchange program with him. Anyhow, just for fun, my teacher took him to Wegmans. Now, this is before the days of The Pub and The Food Bar and Nature’s Marketplace and expanded beer selections. Apparently this blew his mind beyond repair. Of course, this is the same reaction that most out-of-staters had when visiting their first Wegmans upon arriving in Syracuse or Rochester. Of course, Wegmans has expanded its footprint to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia, and built up its presence in Upstate New York with expanded stores, like the one in Dewitt and Liverpool.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Wegmans. It does a lot of things very well (produce, for one…customer service for another). It’s seafood often leaves a little bit to be desired and it loves screwing around with the brands it carries, but those are really my only complaints.
That said, two announcements in the past year have me beyond excited.
First was the news that Trader Joe’s was coming to Upstate. Albany was first, which was fine, but then the news dropped about a location in Rochester’s eastern suburbs. I’ve gone on before about the quality of their products, even though I suspect many of them are the same as those on the shelves at their sister store, the no-frills Aldi. Then, it crossed the other day that Whole Foods was entering the Albany market, breaking the Upstate plateau. I’m sure it will be time before a location makes its way down the Thruway, but the fact that it’s going into a former two-story Sears location has me thinking about the buildout at Plymouth Meeting mall north of Philadelphia.
Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting is one of its largest locations in the mid-Atlantic at 45,000 square feet (by comparison, Wegmans in Dewitt is a hulking 123,000 square feet, with plans to add another 18,000). It fit into a rebuild in part of a mall that once housed an IKEA. The store has its massive food court, replete with storemade gelato and a made-to-order pasta bar. A pub at the front of the store (thanks to Pennsylvania’s inane and antique blue laws) serves food aside pints and growlers of beer, as well as glasses of wine.
I detest being called a foodie (I see myself as an eater) and Wegmans, TJ’s and Whole Foods are considered foodie paradises. I would never shop at TJ’s and Whole Foods exclusively, but their entry into the Upstate New York market can only pay dividends for people who like to cook. More selection. More choices. Higher quality food.
It’s a lot to be excited about. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to cleanup the drool on my laptop.