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HOLMBERG: OMG! Wegmans coming to RVA! Worth the hype?

Posted at 12:57 AM, Apr 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-24 00:57:56-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- The buzz over two Wegman’s grocery stores coming to Richmond is  such that unbelievers are mocking all the rock star-like fuss. One Facebook post noted that you’re very Richmond if you get excited over a new grocery coming to town.

But the excitement is real. “I’m over the moon excited,” Colleen Simmons posted.

There’s been such a hunger here for the store that we ran into several people who regularly trek to the Fredericksburg Wegmans to shop and will delighted to patronize either the Chesterfield or far western Henrico location. It’s unclear when they will be built and opened, but they should employ more than 500 people at each store.

Wegmans is the top-rated grocery in the land, famed for selection, quality and customer service. The nearly 100-year-old family business is believed to be the first grocery to feature one-stop shopping – groceries, medicines, cooking utensils, sit-down dinners, etc.

It is also consistently rated among the very best employers in the nation.

Robert Wegman, who died in the 2006, was the one who turned the existing family business into an empire. You can read his New York Times obituary here.

But the news here has not all been all hugs and kisses.

Numerous city residents are wondering why the firm chose to locate its new stores in the distant ‘burbs already crowded with chain groceries when downtown, midtown and east Richmond are starved for stores.

I went up to the Fredericksburg Wegmans to see what the fuss is all about. It is huge, with tremendous variety – 3,000 brands of wine from all around the world, for example (Click the video to go along with me on the tour).

It’s clean, with plenty of help ready to assist or answer your questions. There are several different eat-in meal options, including an Asian buffet and a sit down restaurant. It’s seems like it’s got the best parts of Harris Teeter and Whole Foods with a nod to  Wal-Mart variety and sprawl with lots of that old Ukrops flavor.  (Yes, I like grocery shopping.)

Is it really worth all this fuss? Not way out in Chesterfield and Short Pump, in my view. (Perhaps it would’ve been a great anchor store for the planned retail district that would go on the Boulevard if the baseball Diamond is ever  moved to Shockoe Bottom, as the mayor wants to do.)

But yes, it’s cool that a family-owned, employee-friendly company can continue to succeed and expand in this culture of mega-corporations and big-box retailers that answer to shareholders first. I mean, 1,100 or 1,200 new jobs in the area is nothing to sneeze at.

For the true devotees, here’s the “Wegmans History Timeline”;

1916- John Wegman opens the Rochester Fruit & Vegetable Company. He is joined by his brother Walter a year later.

1921- John and Walter Wegman purchase the Seel Grocery Co. and expand operations to include general groceries and bakery operations.

1930- Wegmans opens a 20,000 square-foot Clinton Avenue (Rochester, NY) "showplace" store with cafeteria seating for 300.

1931- Wegmans stores are incorporated, and feature meats, produce, groceries, dairy products, and baked goods.

1932- Wegmans introduces two Rochester firsts: refrigerated display windows and vaporized water sprays to keep produce fresh.

1940- Frozen (then known as "frosted") foods first appear at Wegmans.

1949- Robert Wegman converts stores to self-service format.

1953- Wegmans announces a broad program of employee benefits for their more than 350 full-time employees.

1959- Wegmans purchases its first truck trailer and displays its sunburst logo for the first time.

1968- Wegmans opens first Syracuse store at John Glenn Blvd. in Clay.

1971- Consumer Affairs Department is created to "serve as the voice of the consumer in management."

1972- First Pharmacy opens, in Lyell Ave store (Rochester, NY).

1974- Bilt-Rite Chase-Pitkin Inc., a building and garden supply retailer, is acquired.

1974- Wegmans East Rochester store is one of the first in the country to use laser scanning to read UPCs printed on products.

1977- Wegmans opens first Buffalo store on Dick Road.

1979- Wegmans develops a private-label buying program and introduces Wegmans Brand items chainwide.

1983- Wegmans Scholarship Program is created.

1986- Wegmans Federal Credit Union begins daily operations.

1987- Wegmans Work-Scholarship Connection is formed to assist urban youth.

1987- Robert Wegman celebrates 50 years of leadership in the Wegmans organization.

1990- Shoppers Club electronic discount program is introduced in Wegmans Corning store.

1990- Plastic grocery bag collection for recycling begins at all stores.

1991- Strive for 5 program is launched in Produce Departments.

1992- Food You Feel Good About program is introduced in Bakery Departments.

1992- A new 105,000 square-foot office building opens in Rochester, NY on Wegmans Market Street.

1992- First Market Cafe opens in Wegmans Corning store.

1993- First Wegmans store outside New York State opens in June in Erie, PA.

1995- Wegmans is chosen one of the "Best of the Best" Supply Chain Management Practitioners.

1996- Wegmans launches its website.

1997- On April 1, 1997, Robert B. Wegman, Wegmans Food Markets esteemed chairman of the board and the person who built Wegmans into one of the most respected food retailers in the business, celebrated 60 years of service to the Wegmans organization.

1999- Wegmans opens its first New Jersey store in West Windsor, NJ.

1999- Robert Wegman raises the purse again for the annual LPGA Wegmans Rochester International to $1 million for 1999.

1999- Wegmans and the Buffalo Bills form a five-year marketing partnership.

2000- Wegmans' weekly specials go online, with a feature that allows customers to build a shopping list by store layout.

2000- Wegmans opens store in Bridgewater, NJ.

2001- Wegmans makes Fortune’s Top 100 Companies list for the 5th year in a row. This year 279 companies vied for a place on the list. Wegmans ranked 68th.

2002- Golden Shopping Cart Award for Best Supermarket.

2002- Wegmans announces future expansion into Virginia and Maryland.

2003- Wegmans is named the “Most Family-Friendly Supermarket in America” according to Childmagazine.

2003- Wegmans was awarded the prestigious Black Pearl award.

2004- Wegmans earns the number 9 ranking on FORTUNE Magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For”.

2004- Wegmans enters the Virginia market with the opening of Wegmans Dulles.

2004- Wegmans Retail Service Center in Pottsville, PA opens. Produce items from this facility will be shipped to expanding market stores.

2004- Wegmans opens its fifth New Jersey store in five years with the grand opening of Wegmans Ocean.

2005- Wegmans becomes the #1 Company to Work For. Wegmans in its 8th year being recognized, is named number one by FORTUNE Magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For”.

2005- Wegmans adds another store to the state of Virginia with the grand opening of Wegmans Fairfax.

2005- Robert Wegman donates $5 million dollars to St. John Fisher College in Rochester to open the Wegmans School of Pharmacy. With this donation, a school will be up and running in the fall of 2006 for young students looking to pursue a career in Pharmacy.

2005- Wegmans Retail Service Center in Pottsville, Pennsylvania opens its grocery side of the distribution facility.

2005- Wegmans Hunt Valley becomes Wegmans’ 69th store and the first for the state of Maryland.

2005- Wegmans announces the closing of the Chase-Pitkin Home and Garden Centers.

2006- Wegmans is named to FORTUNE magazine’s 2006 list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” this year ranking #2. This marks the ninth consecutive year Wegmans has appeared on the annual list and its fourth year ranked among the top 10.

2007- Wegmans celebrates 10 years of being on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This year, Wegmans ranked #3 on the list.

2008- Wegmans celebrates 11 years of being on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This year, Wegmans ranked #3 on the list.

2009- Wegmans celebrates 12 years of being on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This year, Wegmans ranked #5 on the list.

2010- Wegmans celebrates 13 years of being on Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This year, Wegmans ranked #3 on the list.