From Groundbreaking to Grand Opening: How to Build a Wegmans
Before the first customer walks through the automatic doors on opening day, thousands of employees from across the company have touched the store in one way or another. From site selection and construction, to hiring and training, stocking and cleaning, and connecting with the local community, the store opening process is a long one, with great rewards.
The length of time between when we announce a store location and when the doors officially open can vary widely, but averages about five years. In that time, our real estate, development, and construction teams are busy submitting plans to local municipalities, finalizing property purchases, hiring local construction teams, supervising site work, projecting completion timelines, and more. All said and done, construction of a new store usually takes about 12 months. Our project managers work closely with the local construction teams to keep the project moving along, from groundbreaking to opening day.
“We only open two to three stores a year, but we’re always busy focusing on different aspects of the store opening process,” said Dan Aken, Wegmans real estate director. “It’s amazing to see a site come to fruition once we can finally open our doors and welcome the community into the store.”
Hiring and Training
To ensure we can offer the highest level of customer service, each Wegmans store employs between 400 and 500 people. Nearly a year before opening, the store manager and a team of recruiters set up shop at a local hiring office, located not far from where the new store will be. We begin with hiring for full-time leadership positions and round out recruitment for part-time positions several months before opening. Since most employees are local and new to the company, hiring so early allows plenty of time for them to train and learn Wegmans’ culture.
Dave LaBranche was hired for a full-time service team leader (STL) position at our forthcoming Reston, Virginia, store in June 2022 after working for a competitor for more than 20 years. Shortly after he was hired, he started training at the Dulles, Virginia, location, shadowing to understand the responsibilities of the job, learning the registers and point of sale systems, and rotating through each department within the store to learn basic procedures so he can assist as needed. LaBranche has also had an opportunity to meet other employees who will work at Reston upon opening, including Tamara Rios, a STL at the Dulles store who has worked for Wegmans for nearly three years.
“Tamara took me under her wing. She showed me the way and answered any questions I had,” said LaBranche. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been with the company for 20 years or two months, everyone wants you to succeed. We all have the same goal to help each other and help the customer.”
Once construction is complete, it’s all-hands-on-deck to prepare for opening day. Teams from around the company descend upon the store to help stock the shelves, test and prepare the ovens, and even hang signs. For our Wilmington, Delaware location, we filled two 53-foot tractor trailers, one 25-foot box truck, and three sprinter vans with signs that were installed at the store. It took several weeks for a team of employees and an installation vendor to meticulously install every banner, shelf tag, and dimensional letter in just the right spot.
Spreading the News
As the store is prepped, multiple teams work to get the word out that a new Wegmans is coming to town. The store team sponsors and participates in a range of local community events to introduce Wegmans to their new neighbors. A few months before opening, we invite local leaders, non-profits, and school administrators to sit down and discuss how we can help in the community and learn about the diverse attributes of each neighborhood. We also work with the local schools to provide honorary scholarships to five local high school students as a nod to our employee scholarship program.
“Our goal is to be a good neighbor in every community we serve, even before a store is officially open,” said Wegmans Community Relations Manager Linda Lovejoy. “Engaging in these events not only helps with recruitment efforts, but it provides the store team with an opportunity to establish relationships with the community they will serve.”
Our marketing and public relations teams are busy telling the Wegmans story ahead of opening as well. From flyers, to digital campaigns, to social media posts, we deploy a variety of tactics to catch the attention of potential future shoppers. Finally, just days before opening, local media is invited into the store to capture the preparations and excitement leading up to the big day.
While customers line up outside the doors, employees bustle around putting the finishing touches on the store. Right before opening, a crowd gathers near the main entrance where the store manager leads everyone in a Wegmans cheer. Once the doors officially open, the leadership team greets customers as they enter their new Wegmans.
“The excitement of opening day is unmatched,” said Senior Vice President of Store Operations Bob Farr. “All the hard work has finally paid off, and the store employees have a chance to really shine and show the community what Wegmans is all about.”
2023 and Beyond
So where can you experience a Wegmans grand opening for yourself? We’re opening two stores in 2023, including the 85,000 square foot Reston location on February 1. The new store will include a Market Café featuring fresh sushi, poke bowls, pizza, chef-created salads, sandwiches, packaged subs, and more. The site will have parking below, residential units above, and is accessible by the Reston Town Center Metro station.
Our last opening of 2023 will also be our first in Manhattan, located at 770 Broadway, in the former site of the Astor Place Kmart. Scheduled to open in the second half of the year, the store will occupy space on both the street and lower levels of the historic building for a total of roughly 82,000 square feet.
We’re always looking for friendly people to join the Wegmans team. If you’re interested in working at one of our locations, please visit jobs.wegmans.com to view available positions and apply.