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Since Wegmans Store Manager Brien MacKendrick started his career as a part-time cashier in 1996, one could say he’s spent more than half of his life working toward the June 3 opening of the family-owned company’s newest location in Chantilly, VA.
There, MacKendrick will oversee a small village of employees: 500 in all. He’s dedicated to the development and success of his team, currently focusing his energy on hiring enthusiastic people who love food and share the Wegmans values of caring, respect, high standards, empowerment, and making a difference. For the last several months, new employees have been immersed in hands-on training at nearby Wegmans stores in Fairfax, Dulles, Lake Manassas, and Alexandria.
“Happy, prepared, ready employees are key,” MacKendrick says.
He speaks from first-hand experience about how Wegmans invests in training, promotes from within and offers unique development programs. Beginning at age 17 in Newark, NY, he learned the importance of exceeding customer expectations in every way: by pushing shopping carts and carefully packing customers’ groceries into their vehicles, actively listening to compliments and concerns at the Service Desk, and quickly opening new checkout lanes on the Front End so customers didn’t have to wait in line.
During college at the State University of New York at Oswego, MacKendrick participated in Wegmans’ management internship program. He spent several summers gaining exposure to different areas of the business, like the Seafood Department, Internet Marketing, and the Wegmans Bakeshop. Flexible scheduling granted him the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand and have a job waiting for him upon his return home. He graduated in 2002 with degrees in business and economics.
The next step in MacKendrick’s career was full-time service team leader in Rochester, NY, which marked the beginning of his path in management. Within six months, his store manager encouraged him to consider relocating for advancement opportunities in areas where Wegmans was opening new stores. MacKendrick took that advice and went on to spend three years in New Jersey, rising rapidly through the ranks from management trainee to front-end manager in 2003 and service area manager by 2005.
Another move brought him to Northern Virginia, where he became perishable area manager and set down roots after meeting his wife, Rhonda. MacKendrick was named store manager in 2011 and most recently led the Potomac store. He’s now eager for Wegmans Chantilly to make a big impression.
“People in this area already know Wegmans, and we’re going to wow them with this store,” he says. “We’ll offer the same great customer service experience, along with our newest bells and whistles in Prepared Foods, like The Burger Bar and made-to-order stations for Mexican food, salads, and pizza. Wegmans is a community gathering place and shopping in our stores becomes a social event.”
When the Chantilly store opens, MacKendrick will spend the majority of each day out on the floor, checking in regularly with employees in each department to see how they’re doing and help solve any challenges they may face. He refers to it by an acronym he learned from a mentor earlier in his career: MBWA, or ‘managing by walking around.’
As the chef in his household, MacKendrick takes a personal interest in Wegmans’ wine and culinary areas.
“Food starts with family,” he says. “My grandmother was Italian, and food has always been a big deal for our holidays and gatherings.”
While he enjoys cooking from scratch and finds plenty of meal inspiration on the job, he notes that time spent in traffic can make it challenging to put a healthy meal on the table during the week.
“You can’t buy time, and Wegmans Ready-To-Cook meals are the next best thing. They go over well with my family and we also eat more veggies because of the convenience of the Fresh-Cut Veggie Market in the Produce Department.”
MacKendrick lives with Rhonda and their two children – son Colin, age 4, and daughter Allegra, age 2. Rhonda works in the cytogenetics field at an office near the new Wegmans. During their free time, the young family enjoys hiking and other outdoor activities, taking full advantage of the trails and ponds near their home in Haymarket.
Wegmans Executive Chef Halit Ozdemir learned early in life that he loves pleasing people through food. As a child, he practiced cooking alongside his mother and sisters at their home in Northern Turkey.
“Growing up, my mom made the most delicious Turkish meatballs called Kofte,” he says. “It was always a special day for us when they were on the menu.”
The family moved to Collegeville, Pennsylvania when Ozdemir was 10 years old, and he discovered a passion for food several years later when he took an after-school job as a dishwasher at a nearby family restaurant. The restaurant chef mentored him by demonstrating basic cooking techniques and food safety practices.
Ozdemir worked hard and took on additional responsibilities in the kitchen over time. As a first task, he spent an entire shift peeling onions. When the restaurant was short-staffed or became busy, he pitched in where he could, eagerly learning new skills on the job. His efforts were rewarded when he had the opportunity to do what he loved: cooking on the line.
Seeing a future career for himself in the culinary arts, Ozdemir sought out formal training in classical French cooking techniques. To satisfy his appetite for advanced skills, he began taking weekly lessons from a private chef. Together, they made the “mother sauces” of French cuisine from scratch and mastered challenging dishes like Duck a l'Orange.
Meanwhile, Wegmans was expanding with new locations in Southeast Pennsylvania, including a store in Collegeville.
“Wegmans was the talk of the town and there were hundreds of jobs available,” Ozdemir said. “It’s known as a great place to work and I wanted to see where my career could take me.”
He joined Wegmans in Collegeville as a part-time cook in 2009 and quickly found that he enjoyed not only the fast-paced work and quality of the ingredients, but also the people he met there. Only eight months later, he became a full-time line cook and began working his way up the culinary ranks.
From 2013 to 2015, Ozdemir participated in Wegmans’ Culinary Management Trainee program, which involves in-depth culinary and leadership training for aspiring chefs. After completing the program, he was promoted to sous chef.
In summer 2017, he took the next step in his career by moving to Northern Virginia as executive chef for the Chantilly store, opening June 3, 2018. He’s responsible for hiring, training, and overseeing a team of more than 130 culinary employees that will make Wegmans’ restaurant-quality prepared foods there.
When asked about the new store’s highlights, he points immediately to The Burger Bar, a casual, family-friendly restaurant, with a menu of flavorful burgers, fresh salads, soup, and even signature margaritas. In preparation for Chantilly’s debut, Ozdemir traveled to Wegmans’ headquarters in Rochester, New York, and spent time training at its original Burger Bar location.
“We’ll have an amazing variety of restaurant food in Chantilly. I can’t wait for our customers to see this store,” he says. “On any given day, you might find me at the new made-to-order Mexican station, expediting orders at The Burger Bar, or rolling sushi. I like to work side-by-side with members of my team. We all learn from each other.”
He aims to lead by example in Chantilly and show what it means to deliver on Wegmans’ commitment to incredible customer service.
“It all goes back to my first job and wanting to please people with delicious food,” Ozdemir says. “On Valentine’s Day, a customer asked me how to cook a steak for his girlfriend. After we talked, he took the ingredients home and impressed her with a romantic meal. I love how food can touch people’s lives.”
Outside of work, Ozdemir enjoys traveling, exploring around his new home, and naturally, trying all different kinds of cuisine.
Gregg Garbach has been employed by Wegmans since 1995 and has prior experience in a variety of positions, including service team leader, deli manager, and merchandising area manager. Most recently, Garbach was perishable area manager at Wegmans’ Alexandria store. In Chantilly, he will supervise fresh product quality, sales, and employee development to ensure that the perishable departments (produce, floral, bakery, seafood, meat, cheese, and deli and charcuterie) meet Wegmans’ high standards.
Alisha Aponte began working at Wegmans part time in the Coffee Shop in 2000. She previously served as a Wegmans management intern, service team leader, management trainee, employee representative, business analyst, wine store manager, and service area manager. In her new role, she oversees the merchandising departments of the store, including grocery, dairy, frozen foods, natural wellness, home and entertaining, health and beauty, and wine, beer, and spirits. Aponte will work collaboratively across the store to ensure that displays are well merchandised and employees are prepared to share a high level of product knowledge with customers.
Kirk Van Ry has been a Wegmans employee since 1995 and previously worked in positions ranging from part-time customer service to front end coordinator, management intern, service team leader, front end manager, and business analyst. As a new service area manager in Chantilly, he will manage the front end, customer service desk, maintenance, accounting office, and Helping Hands (parking lot attendants). Van Ry will also oversee local community giving, carrying out Wegmans’ commitment to make a difference in every community it serves.
Megan Ruby started her Wegmans career in 2004 as a part-time cashier and customer service desk employee. A Wegmans Employee Scholarship recipient, she also completed two internships and worked as a business analyst. She continued her employee development as a service team leader and front-end manager. As service area manager in Natick, Ruby will lead the front end, service desk, maintenance, Helping Hands parking lot attendants, and accounting office. She will also oversee local community giving, carrying out Wegmans’ commitment to make a difference in every community it serves.
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