I have to admit that grocery stores have always been somewhat of an obsession with me. It probably began when I was a little girl and shopped regularly on Friday nights in what was then the flagship store of the now extremely successful Wegmans Food Markets found in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States. When we moved to the mid-west, I greatly missed “my” Wegmans – which was the Sheridan Road store in Williamsville, New York.
Wegmans offered a myriad of foods, and ethnic delights, some even prepackaged into quick-dinner options. The produce was always extremely fresh and locally sourced, even thirty years ago, before there was a big push to buy from local farmers. As a youngster, one of my favorite enticements was being able to extract an extremely large pickle from the “pickle barrel” near the deli! As I grew older, and was an independent shopper, the bulk food area always provided our family some treats, not found easily elsewhere. A slice of German Bologna was given to my firstborn each week as he tagged along in the front of the shopping cart during our weekly trips. Wegmans made grocery shopping an experience, not the boring, routine chore it can become. Suffice it to say, the Wegman’s family (it is family owned) found much success in what they offered shoppers because now the Wegmans chain has grown from that one store in Rochester, New York to more than 90 stores in six states. Their success has been rewarded too. In 2016, they were listed as #4 on the Fortune 500 list of best companies for which to work!
Although it seems like it, this is not an advertisement for Wegmans. It is just that I was reminded how much I miss the grocery chain when I shopped yesterday. For the last 18 years, I have been a patron of another family owned grocery chain, Festival Foods in Wisconsin. There are many similarities between the two grocery store chains. Festival is becoming what Wegmans has been for many decades – a leader in the local grocery store business. In fact, our town is getting a brand new Festival this fall, as we have out grown the old one. From what I hear, it will be even more similar to my beloved Wegmans, incorporating such things as a “dining deck” suspended above the store for those who just need to eat before, during, or after they shop.
But, yesterday! Yesterday, when I entered the local Festival to grocery shop, I found it in chaos! Drills were sounding, hammers were pounding, refrigeration grates were removed and laying on the ground, pre-packaged veggies were moved to where the fruit once was, and a large area of the store was sectioned off. Moving further into the store, I knew finding the items on my list was going to be interesting. Teas and coffees were moved to where the bread was still on those same shelves just last week! If you read an earlier post of mine, you know I needed those tea bags! Some isles were impassable as employees were pulling non-perishables out of their current space to be moved to another, new space. It was crazy!
One of the positive aspects was that despite some frustration of the extra noise and all the shoppers being in a daze, Festival management seemed to have thought ahead to having extra staff on hand to help direct patrons as to where to find what was on their grocery lists. In looking for bean sprouts, so I can try making Vietnamese Pho Soup, I needed to utilize the assistance of one such employee. Unfortunately, after we both thought we found the appropriate isle, it turned out the that shelf only contained water chestnuts not bean sprouts! I was on my own again!
Luckily, none of the chaos seemed to be bothering anyone. I was able to find most of what was on my list, despite the item’s new location, and check out relatively quickly. However, the whole experience just left me shaking my head (still smiling) on my drive home, knowing I will be going through this again, when the new store opened this fall. I rationalized it by thinking that maybe, they are standardizing where all the groceries go in each store. I am probably wrong, but it is a thought! My other thought is that I miss my Wegmans.