WHAT: 30TH Anniversary Celebration of the opening of Wegmans in Corning
WHEN: Saturday, June 18, 2016, from 1- 3 p.m.
WHERE: Wegmans Market Café, 24 South Bridge St.
CORNING, NY – When Wegmans Food Markets opened a store in Corning in 1986, people drove from miles around to check out the biggest supermarket most had ever seen. Some left their homes at dawn to get to the store as it opened, to see what “one-stop shopping” was all about. Just imagine all those foods, and being able to rent a movie, fill a prescription, get stamps, or order photo prints on your grocery shopping trip!
In fact, so many people were waiting outdoors for the grand opening to commence that store officials opened the doors early to let the eager crowd in. Since then, Wegmans in Corning has grown bigger and better, and is firmly rooted in the daily lives of Corning-area residents.
“We’re part of the social life of our small town,” says Store Manager Garret Callahan. “It’s hard to get through a shopping trip without running into someone you know. There’s also a level of pride customers have about the store. You often hear them refer to this store as ‘my Wegmans.’”
About one-third of the store’s 325 employees have worked there for more than 10 years. Several have been there since opening day, including Mary Hale at the customer service desk and Linda Rossman in the bakery.
“So many of our people have been with us for years and years that this anniversary celebration will feel like a family party,” says Callahan.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY (open to the public):
- Cake and coffee reception in the Market Café. Rossman, who has worked continuously at the store’s bakery since the grand opening, is overseeing the decoration of a three-tiered cake with images from the store’s photo archive.
- “Mix and Mingle” with veteran employees in the Market Café. Walk down memory lane with familiar faces. Eighteen employees are celebrating 30 years of service; 33 employees have at least 25 years; 62 employees have at least 20 years; and 103 have at least 10 years of service. Many of these store “veterans” will be on hand to connect with customers and share recollections.
- Food sampling throughout the store, featuring the fresh tastes of summer.
- 30th anniversary donations: Each of the 18 employees with 30 years of service will choose a community organization and Wegmans will donate to that organization to honor him or her.
Though Callahan himself was just finishing eighth grade in 1986 when the Corning store opened, he began his career with Wegmans six years later at the Corning store in 1992. He was a student at Corning Community College, working part time slicing cold cuts in the deli. After graduating from college later that year, he began working full time at the Corning store. Over the next 10 years, he kept an eye out for advancement opportunities and worked at various Wegmans stores in New York’s Southern Tier and in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. In October 2012, he returned to Corning as the store manager.
“Lots of things have changed in the way people shop for food over the past 30 years,” says Callahan. “People are looking for fresh foods, but they often have less time to shop and cook, so they appreciate being able to buy packages of ready-to-cook meat or seafood, and cleaned and cut fruits and vegetables. Organic foods are continuing to grow, along with regionally sourced foods that are raised or produced near our stores.”
On the other hand, he says, some things haven’t changed at all. “Pharmacist Jim Fazzari has been here since the store opened, taking care of our customers for 30 years. Think about the trust that’s built on relationships like that.”
Recently, as part of the store’s 30th anniversary celebration and the 100th anniversary celebration of Wegmans Food Markets, the Corning store increased its financial support to Pathways, Inc. As a result, Pathways, a not-for-profit organization that provides educational, rehabilitation and mental health services to about 2,000 area families, was able to feature Jim Kelly, former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, at its annual fundraising dinner.