Is the new Wegmans Bel Air Store is worth the hike? Does the company deserve all of the accolades it has received in other communities? The Dagger received its own personal tour to provide some insight.
Jo Natale, Wegmans Director of Media and Consumer Relations and Cynthia Glover, Smart Works Marketing, gave me a guided tour Thursday afternoon. The store was buzzing with workers hanging signs, stocking shelves, receiving cooking instruction and handing out samples to fellow employees. Groups of Wegmans staff circulated in groups to learn about every store department so that they will be able to educate shoppers and recommend services and products.
At this point, I feel compelled to tell you that I will have a hard time being objective about this subject. I am one of those Wegmans groupies that would periodically trek to the Hunt Valley store for the large variety of goods and services offered. My spouse was an enabler for my love of all products Wegmans. In fact, I am now relieved to have a local store so that I will no longer have mass quantities of various purchased cheeses molding in my refrigerator because I felt the need to overbuy, being so far away.
My first impression of the Harford County Wegmans is that, from the outside, it is massive. I was surprised how quiet and removed from the Route 24 and 924 traffic the shopping center felt. Unlike the Hunt Valley location, the entire store is located on one level, a layout which is more convenient for both shoppers and employees, Natale said. The store has several entrances, each entering at a different service area. The central doorways empty into the expansive produce section. Various signage designate the organic produce from that grown locally and the Veggie Market, which is a new addition to Wegmans stores. Staff will clean, cut and package vegetables for your cooking and eating needs. For example, if you have a special stir-fry recipe and want a variety of certain vegetables, they will make a package to your specifications.
Natale said Wegmans studied the Bel Air/Abingdon area before constructing the new store and found that there were already 14,000 Wegmans Shoppers Cardholders in Harford and Cecil County, who were traveling to other Wegmans locations to shop. Since the company’s marketing blitz, they have issued 18,500 more Shoppers Club cards, for a total of 32,000 Harford and Cecil County customers expressing interest in the Wegmans shopping experience. If you are planning to attend the Sunday grand opening, be prepared for a crowd, because most Wegmans openings have attracted 12,000 to 16,000 shoppers. And if you’re the type of person not deterred by crowds and eager to be one of the first into the store, a creative and cheery welcoming will await you, because at 6:50 a.m. all employees will meet at the front of the store and do the “Wegmans cheer” for those at the front of the line.
Wegmans claims it pioneered the “one-stop shopping” concept. This store holds produce, meats, seafood, dairy, pharmacy, a flower shop, kitchen wares, cards, gift items and a selection of restaurant options. There is a 300-person seating area for eating whatever you buy. Don’t want to stick around? If you want to avoid the hubbub of grocery shoppers and dash in for a quick supper take out, you can use the direct cafe entrance, which is clearly marked with a sign. Once inside this area, note the space-age-looking coke machines. This is one of the first nationwide locations for this particular type of computerized drink dispenser that allows you to custom blend your own coke product. The Coke Company claims that there are potentially 120 different drink combinations this dispenser can create. The product is stored in flavor cartridges, giving the customer that “just off the production line” experience. Coke electronically monitors the flavor cartridges and automatically ships the needed refills to Wegmans. This is just one example of the cutting edge shopping experience found at Wegmans. Kids will be fascinated with this machine. Parents, be warned!
In the cafe area, there is a “fireside room” decorated with a fireplace and TV. It is open to the public and can also be reserved for catered meetings by private groups. The Wegmans Catering Department will be fully operational as of Oct. 1. They will assist with menu options, quantities, entertaining ideas and more. Customers pick up their catered meal, Wegmans does not travel for this service.
The Food Bar is a new concept within the Wegmans world. Near the seating area, it has a counter where you can order to eat-in or take-out and can watch your meal being prepared while you wait. You place your order and pay at one end of the counter, receive a pager and wait to be called. Wegmans aims to fill your order within eight to ten minutes.
In the ready made and ready to go foods section, choices are plentiful. There are salads, Thai, Indian, Chinese, pizza, subs, ice cream, coffee, chicken wings, whole roasted chickens, soups, seafood, sushi and more. Wegmans carries 70,000 products. There are between 7,000 and 8,000 private Wegmans labeled products on their shelves. A few of my favorites Wegmans products are their basting oil, food & bread storage bags, crushed tomatoes, 1/3 less fat & salt bacon and parmesan cheese. My spouse, once a dairy technology college major, claims that the Wegmans canned whipped cream is the best on the market. When using it on pie, all that you see is a big pile of whipped cream.
The meat department at Wegmans is expansive. They will custom cut pieces to your liking and give you directions on how to prepare it. The cold case section carries cryogenically packaged products for longer shelf life and easier freezing. There is also a meat locker for dry aging.
Wegmans products come from all over the world. They strive for the best quality and when possible, like to buy locally. Value packs are available for many of their products, saving customers money and exemplifying their “consistently lower prices everyday” objective.
Why did Wegmans come to Harford County? Natale said that there was a market or a “density of customers and employees” with so many residents already holding Shoppers Club Cards. This location offered the needed space of 15 to 18 acres. Also, it is easy to find and get to using the I-95 and Route 24/924 intersection. Wegmans currently has 520 employees at this location. All have been trained at other stores and can earn certification in their specific areas.
Not just focusing on customer service and product quality, Wegmans also prides itself on donating to places of need within local communities. Thus far, it has donated a trailer of 13,000 pounds of canned goods to the Harford County Community Action Agency, as well as donating on a daily basis to other charities with food needs such as food banks and soup kitchens. These groups can visit the store to retrieve produce, dairy products and bakery items for charity needs. Wegmans employees actively donate to the United Way.
For all of its strengths, Wegmans faces several challenges. Until the Boulevard at Box Hill is completed, parking for Wegmans looks like it will be tight. Traffic at the I-95 and Route 24/924 intersection could be a driver’s worst nightmare until construction on the interchange is complete, currently scheduled for mid-October. It will be interesting to see what happens to longer-standing local grocery stores. As some may have noticed, a few have expanded, rearranged their shelf space and provided better pricing and other small perks to customers. Wegmans is hard to compete with, and I don’t think that all of the current local groceries will stay in business as a result.
There is much more that I could tell you. Wegmans is a destination location and should prove to be a fine shopping experience—but I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises.
Listen to our sneak peek inside Wegmans live on WAMD 970. Or call the station and weigh in at (410) 306-6270.
A selection of photos taken during the store’s preview day Thursday follow:
One level? Mrs. Observer will not be happy with that. One of her favorite things to do at the Hunt Valley store is get some dinner, go upstairs, get a seat overlooking the entrance, and watch the newbies turn into deer in headlights when they first see how big and diverse the store is. She was so looking forward to doing the same in Abingdon. Guess she’ll have to recalculate after seeing the inside of the new store.
I’m also disappointed with the one-level concept. I love the upper level at Hunt Valley. However, I am so happy I can drive to Abingdon to get the wonderful Wegman’s variety I will cut them some slack on the eating area. I’m with Observer, though, it’s fun to see the newbies.
Woo-Hoo!…So glad Wegmans is finally opening….now, I just need to wait 6-8 weeks for the initial hysteria to die down before attempting to visit the store!…..but, at least no more treks to the Hunt Valley location.
Harford County Jobs says
The opening is finally here!
Oh my. To have a Wegman’s in Texas. HEB, which is one of the only chains that can slap Walmart around has some nice stores. If only we had one like this new store! Wegman’s is an example of people who demand the best from themselves and the people that surround them. The “chains” that have politically kept people out while offering basic “red-neck” grocery shopping, aka Klein’s now understands what it’s like playin’ with the big boys. The days of “they can’t come here because I say so,” are obviously over. Good. Real competition at last!
cant wait to see the traffic jams in the area
T Ray Collingsworth III says
Suck it up and put your big girl or boy pants on and deal with it. About time we had some decent competiton for the hold up men known as Kleins.
ALex R says
Now T Ray, let’s be kind. The Klein family has been very good to Harford County and Harford County has been very good to them. No one is a bigger Wegman’s fan than I am, and I am really, really glad they are here. Klein’s will have to deal with the fall out as will Giant, Weis, Mars, etc. What they don’t understand is that the prices at Wegman’s for the exact same item is always cheaper than the other stores. Yes, cheaper. Wegman’s has a much wider variety and they do have a lot of higher quality items than Klein’s, et al will ever think of carrying. For example, I wouldn’t put the fish sold at Klein’s in my mouth if you paid for it and gave it to me. Klein’s tried to reinvent their Festival store because of Wegman’s. But they have not done a good enough job. If it is crowded at Wegman’s I will deal with it. So will a lot of other people.
Welcome, Wegman’s. At last I can stop trekking to Hunt Valley.
Mommie Dearest says
I agree with T Ray. I am getting ready to go back to Klein’s after shopping there this morning. For the second week in a row, I have been overcharged for an item. It’s only been $2 or $3, but if they do that every time, with every customer–wow. I was charged 3 weeks ago for a bag of oranges that I didn’t even purchase. I have always heard the stories about the broom–now I think it’s imaginary fruit they’re adding on. So now I have to hike back there for the 3rd week in a row to fix their mistake. They are always apologetic, but that isn’t the way to keep customers from going elsewhere.
too bad the store is squat in the middle of the worst traffic nightmare in the county. while i can appreciate a gourmet shoppe locally (my fave is Harris-Teeter,always shop the one in Fenwick Island) i wonder why such a ritzy-first class venue is located in a largely food-stamp/income assisted dying neighborhood? they gonna pay for suchi with their independence card? wow, welfare cheats slurpin’ caviar! only in harford county. it should be a gourmet delight, i just ain’t gonna fight the already notorious rt.924 traffic jams for the privelege of brie and designer coffee.
“largely food-stamp/income assisted dying neighborhood?” Please specify what you mean here…Abingdon is not Edgewood. I know a significant amount of college educated twenty somethings with good, well paying jobs that have bought homes in Abingdon, within about a 2 mile radius of the Wegman’s location. I do not mean to imply that college educated=no problems at all, but that is surely not the demographic that is associated with the statement you have made. To me, Abingdon is not a bad area, and new businesses like the ones popping up in the next couple of months should only add to it, not bring crime and undesirables.
Um…don’t be so quick to jump on the Harford Caviar bandwagon there LPSHAWN1…lowlifes are all over the county. Actually Edgewood has been seeing an influx of professionals moving in thank you very much. I work in the tech sector and live in Edgewood so please don’t act high and mighty. I definitely like not having to combat shop here and have other options such as Whitemarsh or Abingdon when I feel. Abingdon is like the girl who is upset because the county promised to call her in the morning…lol. Enjoy it..when I walk into my backyard I see stars…you actually just see neon shopping center lights. Please save your high and mighty there chief! There are nice parts of Edgewood, but just like your diluted notion that Abingdon hasn’t been wrecked…you only know of what a small section of Edgewood has painted. We are quite a large in area…try looking past the aegis for your info. Everyones got problems there tootsy…yours just takes a while to get through with all the lights and intersections.
The words “Harris-Teeter” and gourmet don’t go in the same breath! LOL
Yeah, because you know the $85,000 median family income of 21009 ZIP code makes us so “welfare crowd”. Wake up and research before you make yourself look that stupid with comments. You obviously are living in an invory tower in Fed Hill or the “Bel Air at the Inner Harbor” neighborhoods, or in the DC burbs. With talk like that. And we don’t miss you here.
Bel Air born and raised, and proud to have put down roots in the Bel Air South community after college. Even to the chagrin of my Bel Air North family friends and co-workers.
21014 and 21015 are in the 85-95,000 range as well and Forest Hill and Churchville areas are around 95-100,000 family income.
We are about to welcome Home Goods, DSW, etc.
Stop being jealous of what we are getting.
By the way the Harford County data shows 700 families used food stamps each year from the 21014 ZIP, and 500 families from 21009. With similar incomes and similar size populations for Bel Air and Abingdon.
So PLEASE admit you are wrong about this comment, because I would not say 2% on food stamps make the community or neighborhood a “bad” one or a government-dependent one.
I’m fond of Harris-Teeter as well, but only the shops in Ashburn,VA & Leesburg,VA areas. I also like Wegman’s, but I’ve known them from shopping there in Rochester,NY (& I don’t walk into one anywhere in the MD or VA area & start drooling,crashing my cart into others or stand in the middle of the floor like deer in the headlights). What I don’t like is when people spew what they think is gospel. When people attack others verbally without researching their facts first, I become less of a likeable person. There is a reason that the word ignorance exists. While I do believe that there are many, many people milking the system in Harford County, there are some that genuinely need, appreciate and properly use those resources that are available. I am college educated, have met & worked with more high profile people than you will read about, live in Edgewood/Abingdon area and use those resources. I lost my spouse, almost lost my house & car, lost my job & can’t find a job that will allow me to take care of my well-educated children properly (too over qualified is what they say, even at Wegmans). So please remember the 5% of us that don’t do what you suggest “we” do with independence cards. Is it that difficult to see beyond the tree line? It’s not just you; there are plenty more like you unfortunately.
Hey man it’s not in Edgewood. Once the road construction is all done in that area it should not be as bad a problem anymore. I’ve been there 3 times this week and had no trouble getting in and out, except for the Harford county cops getting in the way. I live in Baltimore county (Kingsville) and it only takes me about 10 to 15 min. to get there via. Singer and Tollgate roads.
Okay here it is my ALL TIME favorite grocer. I am in heaven and will trek from Darlington with no question because it is closer to home then Hunt Valley. Only issue with new store I have is the seating area. I loved going with hubby grabbing some AWESOME food going up to site over an entrance and watch the newbies come in thinking they were just gonna take a quick lookie look stop dead in their tracks gaze around like a deer in headlights turn around walk out then return with a shopping cart. It is just such an AWESOME place the prices are comparable or better then surrounding stores for your basic items and their Wegman’s brand stuff is the best around. Okay yes I am a walking advertisement for them but they are just that awesome. They not only care for their customers but also take good care of their employees. Just take a look at the awards they have won.
Excellence as an Employer
100 Best Companies to Work for in America, a book by Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz, names Wegmans in a national selection of best employers, 1993.
FORTUNE names Wegmans to the magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list, every year starting in 1998 through 2010. The company ranked 1st in 2005 and ranked #3 in 2010.
Working Mother names Wegmans to the list of the Best Companies for Working Mothers nationwide, for six consecutive years, 1990-1995.
The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) names Danny Wegman the 2005 Champion of Workplace Learning and Performance, June 2005.
Supermarket News gives Wegmans the magazine’s first-ever Champion of Diversity award for programs and strategies that advance diversity in the workplace, January 2006.
Dale Carnegie Training gives Wegmans the Dale Carnegie Leadership Award, for its exceptional customer service, development of their people (and) demonstrated dedication to the philosophy and core values (Wegmans) was founded on, September 2010
Okay enough flag waving come on Sunday
Kathy Beck says
Happygrannie…I love you! I know all this about Wegmans and work there. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Wegmans and you said everything great about Wegmans there is to say!
How many more Wegmans employees can post on here pretending to be shoppers. LOL. Sooo obvious with their BS. Wegmans is just a grocery store with a whole lot of hype. If you want some weird ass cereal with a name from Pluto for $2.00 knock yourself out. The less teenage hands on my food the better so they can keep their gourmet meals to go. Abingdon was a neat little town with creeks and rivers and now its a Wal-Mart parking lot of town homes. Abingwood. Edgedon. Peace.
wegans sucks and doesn’t hire smart people.
David A. Porter says
I can only imagine what category you fit into.
Kudos to you, LPSHAWN1. I wouldn’t have bought my home in Abingdon just a few years ago if I thought it was the ghetto. I love it here. I work in Towson and don’t mind the trek to and from my sweet abode. I personally would love to know the demographics/percentage of upper to middle to food-stamp residents in HarCo, to prove: 1) I don’t live in a ghetto; and 2) Wegeman’s belongs here. I’m so excited it’s finally here! I have shopped in the Hunt Valley store since Day 1 and am proud to have their shopper’s card! However, I must say, I too, will wait a few weeks for my virgin voyage to make it a happy shopping spree, not a stressful one. Welcome Wegeman’s!
First of all, the traditional bashing ground of Edgewood is not a ghetto and is not nearly as bad as many people love to rant about. Is the least desirable place in Harford? Sure it is.
Abingdon, particularly west of I95, is another world removed from that. There is virtually no crime in Abingdon, especially based on density, when compared to the rest of Harford County. And the average family income is right in line with the rest of the County except for a few hoity toity areas.
All of the marketing studies out there rate Abingdon and Bel Air South as the home of “up and coming” families. For that and many other reasons, no company as smart as Wegmans would choose to locate there if the basic research didn’t make sense. The only part of the location that isn’t a relfection on the appeal of Abingdon, is the business sense to locate at the crossroads of the entire County and next to I95.
So throwing Abingdon under the bus, in my mind, highlights one’s gross ignorance of reality.
You phrased what I was implying earlier very nicely. I do not think all of Edgewood is awful- I work there and know plenty of people who live there. All I was implying is that Abingdon should not be lumped into the same areas in Harford County that people have a negative attitude toward- whether the negativity is warranted or not is not for me to say.
Concerned Retired Officer says
It looks like it’s going to a nice store but remember Woodsdale Appartments is down the street. In Woodsdale there are mant section -8 persons. It will be a little dangerous in the parking lot over there the folks from Rt 40 cooridor with drug ties in Woodsdale area will be doing robbberies going to and from! Be careful as they say the bad guys know where the good people shop. Good luck and be safe!!
And a gust of wind from the south might hit the tree in your neighbor’s yard and it could fall on your house and kill you while you sleep, but only if you’re on the left side of the bed.
You better move.
almost pee’d my pants when I saw Blum, Kleins, spokesman say that “Wegman’s was welcome.” Is Ralph Klein breathing? If so, I doubt if Wegman’s is welcome. But, Blum does speak truth in that he says Klein’s will just keep getting better, (since they have so much latitude to do so, considering that in the world of “Supermarket heiarchy,” their facilities would rate about a 3 on a scale of 1-10 in the industry. So, he is correct about that. Blum, trying to tie any connection between Klein’s and Wegman’s would be like the best NFL team comparing itself to a truly mediocre team.