WHAT: 25th Anniversary of the 1992 opening of Wegmans ’superstore’ in Canandaigua. Cake, music, food tastings and more. Employees with 25 or more years of service will wear anniversary jackets and share memories with customers.
WHEN: Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 13, 2017. Cake cutting at noon.
WHERE: Wegmans Canandaigua, 345 Eastern Boulevard, Canandaigua, NY 14424
Eyes grew wide in 1992 when a brand-new Wegmans Food Market in Canandaigua at the intersection of Routes 5 and 20 opened its doors, replacing the original Canandaigua store located at S. Main and E. Boulevard that had opened in 1966.
At 107,152 sq. ft., the new superstore was nearly twice the size of the town’s previous Wegmans store, and it took one-stop shopping to a whole new level. It was a supermarket with plenty of extra attractions, noted the Canandaigua Daily Messenger. It housed a multi-ethnic restaurant with Thai, Chinese, American and Italian cuisine, including a coffee bar. You could perk up your evening’s entertainment at home by renting one of over 10,000 videos, and save money on items your family used often by buying them in bulk. In nice weather, you could take a meal or snack outdoors on the patio, enjoying the view of a pond while relaxing and listening to music.
A few of those opening attractions have changed through the years (who rents videos today?), and the store has expanded to 113,600 sq. ft., but what hasn’t changed is the love for this store. Nineteen employees who have greeted customers at the Canandaigua store since opening day will be on hand at the 25th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, May 13 to enjoy cake with customers, share recollections of the grand opening in 1992, and talk about other memorable moments through the years.
The store holds a special a place in the hearts of employees and customers for many reasons. One is the proximity to Canandaigua Lake, one of the most majestic of the Finger Lakes. There’s a feeling of small-town closeness sensed by both year-round residents and those who come to enjoy the sailing and water sports on Canandaigua Lake in the summer.
“The store becomes reunion central each year as summer cottages open, the pantries need to be stocked up again, and customers and employees who haven’t seen each other for months run across each other and catch up,” says current Store Manager Sarah DePeters. “People are hugging, everybody’s happy to be together again.”
The store also has its own traditions that customers remember and look forward to. The patio is where summertime special events like oyster shucking, or the Clam Slam happen. Every Thursday, the parking lot is where antique car aficionados bring their trophy vehicles to show them off and strike up friendships over car talk.
Another reason the Canandaigua store feels special to those who know it is that generations of the Wegman family have lived near the lake, and long-time employees remember the regular visits to the store that the late Robert Wegman and his wife, Peggy, made through the years.
Bulk Team Leader Lisa Narcott recalls a memory from the night before the store opened, “They gave us a dinner. We were all lined up in the back of the store and Mr. Wegman came in and spoke to each of us. It was really nice.”
Ronda Sperlazza, a 29-year employee currently working in Prepared Foods, remembers making omelets for Mr. Wegman on Sunday mornings while Mrs. Wegman shopped. Ronda’s brother, Chuck Hurlburt, has 25 years of service and currently works in the Sub Shop. He remembers working in the Market Café, bussing Mr. Wegman’s table, and making sure he had everything he needed.
“He would hang around and talk to the people working in the Café after his breakfast,” says Hurlburt.
But perhaps the most important reason for the affection both customers and employees feel for the Canandaigua store is the sense of being part of one another’s lives. It seems like there’s always a birth or graduation or wedding or other special occasion to celebrate.
“This store has great multi-use spaces, so we’ve catered lots of baby and bridal showers,” DePeters says.
Other times, it’s not a celebration, but a very important moment in a customer’s life. Nature’s Marketplace Manager, Michelle Harford, recalls that an elderly customer she chats with had stopped visiting the store recently, and she wondered why.
“One day she called me at the store to say that her husband had passed away, and he wouldn’t be in to see me anymore. It was very touching.”
“What our customers seem to love the most about this store is the relationships they’ve developed with long-time employees who become like family to them,” says DePeters. “This store definitely has that family feeling.”
As the Canandaigua store celebrates this special milestone, DePeters will pass on her store manager torch to Larry Gamer, the new store manager and a 30-year Wegmans employee who previously managed the Lyell Avenue store. “I am excited to be joining the Canandaigua store at the beginning of our busiest time of year and just in time to celebrate our 25th anniversary.”