On the journey out there, I noticed a Wegmans grocery store. Many of you have heard tale of the fabled Pookie; her parents grew up in Upstate New York, where apparently these Wegmans stores originated. Throughout my childhood, her parents filled my mind with stories about these stores, how they had everything you could possibly imagine and how those crap ShopRite stores look like bodegas in comparison.
Pookie's folks were prone to slamming anything and everything New Jersey - they thought of it as a backwards backwater place with few redeeming values. So I was not particularly moved by their touting of Wegmans, at least not enough to drive up to Rochester to check one out. But when I saw the one near Sparky's, I had to see it.
On New Years Day, in a hungover haze, I mentioned that on my way home I wanted to go there, and Sparky recommended we have lunch there. And have lunch there we did. The prepared food section was as big as some entire grocery stores, and it looked like that interior courtyard at the Showboat in Atlantic City. They had pizza, a pasta bar, a chinese food bar, subs, hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches, froofy desserts, regular desserts, a deli section with mayonnaise salads and a bunch of raw ready-to-cook foods, and even a sommelier. In a word? The food was exceptional.
Some of you may or may not be aware of my fondness for supermarkets. I enjoy just ambling through them, looking at all of the items whether I need them or not. I don't know what it is; maybe I like the pretty packaging or the music, or the odd climactic shift from aisle to aisle. Hangover or no hangover, I was going to examine every aisle of this monument to groceries. I wished everyone a relaxing New Years Day, and was left alone to my exploration. I spent the following hour determining the most beautiful of the loads of vegetables each perfect enough to be in pictures. I marveled at deals on dry goods, delighted in the international foods section. All in all, I got a week's worth (probably more if they last) of fresh vegetables, organic shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, cereal, soup, a 3-pak of Christmas CDs...all for $80.
Inspired, I wrote a letter of compliment to the folks at Wegmans later that day. I wish I had had the presence of mind to copy the note before I sent it, but I believe the phrases "the mythical store of my childhood has lived up to every story", "champion among grocery stores", and "your apparent devotion to excellence assures me I will see one of your branches in my town soon."
>From: "Comments@Wegmans.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Subject: #279793 - kcp
>Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2005 14:50:01 -0500
>We appreciate your kind words about Wegmans. Sometimes we hear words of criticism. We welcome both for it
>gives us a chance to correct problems. However, we're always happy to pass on compliments such as yours. It
>encourages all of us to renew our efforts to operate stores that will keep our customers satisfied.
>Thank you for taking the time to e-mail.