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Wegmans THE smaller imageWegmans has weighed in on the GMO debate.

In a blog post, Senior Vice-president of Consumer Affairs Mary Ellen Burris tells customers if they want to avoid all genetically modified organisms, they need to buy organic food. Wegmans said it has studied GMOs for 20 years. Farmers like GMO seed because they reduce operating costs, reduce the need for insecticides, get a higher yield and can help the environment. Wegmans says 80 percent of American cropland is planted with GMO seed.

Wegmans has an extensive Frequently Asked Questions page on GMO. Wegmans’ answer to the question about “other concerns” with GMO is telling:

It seems that GMOs really stands for “Got Many Opinions.” Check the blogosphere and you’ll find that for every pro-GMO position, there is a counter view. We regularly attend seminars where this plays out. Some wonder why so many other countries restrict GMOs. Others don’t trust those who profit the most from these patented crops. They wonder if too much power has been consolidated into a few seed companies. They see GMOs as part of an agricultural system focused on a few crops at the expense of greater bio-diversity. Others believe that inserting a single trait is not as simple as it sounds and that we may not understand the full range of interactions that are impacted.

On the other hand, some are just as concerned that farmers will be forced to return to conventional seeds which they see as a step backwards. They point out that GMO grains may in fact be less risky since prevention of insect damage results in less aflatoxin, a cancer-causing substance that’s natural, but deadly. And finally, they worry that without modern technologies, like GMOs, we will struggle to feed a hungry planet.

Although Wegmans appears to be very much on board with GMOs, the company said it wants the FDA to come with a more formal process for approving GMOs. Wegmans wants a national standard for labeling GMO products.

The comments on the blog post indicate many people are not buying Wegmans’ line on GMOs. Again, Wegmans encourages those customers to go organic, which is certainly a huge part of the supermarket’s business.

 

Links of the Day:

- Looks like Clover Lanes’ days are numbered.

- Seven percent of students in Erie and Niagara counties opted out of state tests.

- How many jobs does fracking really create?

- I hate when the media links suicide and bullying. This case shows the issue is much more complicated and the criminal justice might want to rethink its role.

- I believe this: Study shows casual marijuana use changes parts of the brain “in areas you don’t want to change.”

- The revised SAT won’t include obscure vocabulary words. It will be years before know if this new test is predictive of college success.

- Rochester’s Joe Bean Coffee Roasters getting some serious love.

- I love that U.S. Airways didn’t fire the social media person who accidentally tweeted out porn.

Wegmans East Ave.

 

The new East Avenue Wegmans has been open for a month. Customers love the store, but I hear a lot of kvetching about the parking lot.

The East Ave. Wegmans is forcing us to rethink the big box store in the city. The planners didn’t get it perfect (The Winton and University sides of the building look like a prison). But it did get the parking right. The complaints shine a light on our car-centric, suburban-shopping mentality.

1. “There are not enough parking spaces.” 

There are far fewer parking spaces than we will find at a suburban Wegmans. The project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement says, “Wegmans is proposing a total of 484 spaces, of which 352 will be surface spaces available to customers…In its suburban locations, Wegmans is providing between 400 and 850 parking spaces, with an average of 628 spaces. By Wegmans’ normal standards, the proposed Food Market would be under-parked by approximately 140 spaces.”

Except on opening day, I have yet to see the parking lot appear full. (Even on the first day, I got a spot.) Peak times are Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, which Wegmans acknowledges could be dicey. Is it such a big deal for customers to have to circle a bit to find a spot or walk a little farther during peak times?

There is a consequence to building too much parking. Parking takes up space for greenery and development. It’s ugly. It is also not feasible to build an expansive parking lot in a dense urban area. Furthermore, there are surrounding businesses with a lot of empty parking lots during off-hours. Businesses should learn to share.

There’s simply no way Wegmans could have built a typical parking lot at East Ave.Keep in mind, parking lots are almost never full. Look at how parking eats up the Lyell Ave. store:

 

Lyell Ave. Wegmans

Lyell Ave. Wegmans

 

2. “There should be more than the two access points on East and University avenues.”

Wegmans predicted a 35 percent increase in traffic to the store. “Because of its urban location the trip rates for this store are skewed since many patrons frequent the store several times per week, often on their way home from work, versus completing one large shopping trip on the weekends, which is typical of other store locations.”

Wegmans’ traffic studies showed there could be backups during peak shopping times, but they weren’t horrible. I’ve been caught in a couple bottlenecks at the East Ave. store and waited no more than 10 minutes to enter or exit.

3. East and/or University should have been expanded to accommodate additional traffic to the store.

Wegmans addressed this in the EIS. “The traffic study does not warrant the addition of travel lanes. Reduction of travel lanes reduces traffic conflicts and makes travel safer. Also, a two lane layout on East Avenue to the west of the Project Site will meter volume of traffic through the area.”

On the issue of pedestrian safety:

“Wegmans has incorporated several mitigation measures to increase pedestrian safety:
– Reduced number of curb cuts, around entire project site, from 11 to 4
– Direct access to Market Café from East Avenue
– Sidewalks will surround site
– Truck maneuvering completely on-site, which limits vehicle/pedestrian/bike conflicts”

4. The curvy road down the middle of the parking lot is weird and frustrating.

It’s safer. Just imagine how cars would zip back and forth, making it difficult for shoppers to reach their cars on the other side of the lot.

When it came to mitigating impact of cars on the neighborhood, Wegmans did a rather good job. The rest is in our hands. Drive slowly in the parking lot. Look for customers and other cars before we back out of a parking space. Be patient when coming and going. Enjoy a new kind of shopping experience closer to home.

 

Links of the Day:

 

- This is an important read. Erie and Niagara counties added hundreds of miles of roads over the last two decades, even as the population dropped. Sprawl without growth is costly. That’s why developers building in outlying areas are lying when they say they’re adding to the tax base.

- Cornell and Wegmans are teaming up to boost New York cheese.

- Might not be able to call them 315-ers for much longer.

- Buffalo News columnist is fed up with Terry Pegula.

- Brogurt? Yogurt makers target men.

- Beware of the turtle crossing the road.

- It’s ROC Transit Day!

Tops logoYou can’t buy Pepsi or Doritos at this Tops.

Tops Friendly Markets is opening standalone upscale health and gourmet food markets. The first one will open next week in Orchard Park. Called Orchard Fresh, the concept takes the supermarket chain into territory already covered in Wegmans stores.

The Buffalo News reports:

Visitors to Orchard Fresh will have no trouble telling it isn’t Tops.

Part green grocer, part butcher shop and fish market, part gourmet take-out restaurant, Orchard Fresh’s inventory is 85 percent fresh–organic produce, fish flown in daily, hand-cut cheeses, grass-fed beef–and 15 percent packaged dry goods. It flips traditional supermarket percentages, where just 13 percent of inventory is fresh, perishable food, according to Nielsen Perishables Group.

The 18,000-square-foot store – a little larger than an NHL hockey rink – has a station for grinding your own nut butters. An executive chef (trained at the Culinary Institute of America) prepares vegan, organic and gluten-free take-out every day. There are more than 150 varieties of bottled cooking oils and vinegars in bottles on shelves (more are available in a bulk section), the most expensive of which–Dom Diogo extra virgin olive oil–sells for $30.99 for 500 mL.

The store will be 18,000 square feet, about the size of the Trader Joe’s in Pittsford. The concept is considered a gamble for Tops, but if successful, you can bet an Orchard Fresh store will be coming to the Rochester area.

Links of the Day:

- A Chili arms dealer has trouble keeping track of the company’s “arsenal” of guns. The ATF is not empowered to do more.

- People who secretly record cruelty to farm animals could find themselves charged with crimes.

- “There are some casualties” in Rochester’s Garbage Plate Run.

The Boston Wegmans would be built at the property on the left. (Google Street View)

The Boston Wegmans would be built in the property on the left. (Google Street View)

 

Danny Wegman once called opening a store in Boston “terrifying,” but he plans on moving ahead. Boston’s mayor announced Wegmans would be opening a store in Fenway.

Wegmans said the deal is not finalized. No details about the size ad amenities were available. The store will likely replicate the one Wegmans is building in Newton, which will be only 70,000 square feet, the smallest store Wegmans has opened in decades. (The Wegmans prototype is 130,000-140,000 square feet. Calkins Rd. is 110,000. East Ave. will be 90,000.)

Residents are already worried about traffic near Fenway Park. But the news was greeted with joy on Twitter.

Wegmans THE smaller imageWhy do Rochesterians care about this new store? First, Wegmans is one of Rochester’s largest employers. The success of Wegmans is important to the region. Second, the new store will be in a place familiar to Red Sox fans all over the country. Third, the Fenway Wegmans will be a city store, a major shift for a company that has only built in the suburbs the last 30 to 40 years. The Wegmans city prototype should be followed with great interest by Rochester and other urban areas.

We’ll be watching!

Links of the Day:

- Costco is coming to Syracuse. That means it’s only a matter of time before a store opens in the Rochester area.

- The Syracuse University athletic department will get more oversight in determining if players are academically eligible.

- Pity the Buffalo Bills, but don’t call them poor.

 

- Critics say the state budget cares more about the Buffalo Bills than it does cancer prevention and people with developmental disabilities.

- Syracuse got two hospitals to lower the rates for city employees. Rochester should pursue this.

- Nurses are seeking doctor-like authority and could open their own practices.

- The company that makes the Entertainment coupon books is bankrupt.

- Long, juicy read about the Today Show troubles.

This budget season, New York’s lawmakers have wrestled with familiar issues. Minimum wage, school aid, aid to municipalities and taxes on the rich. For the first time I can remember, they did not discuss wine in grocery stores.

Wegmans, despite its considerable clout and lobbying dollars, has not been able to uncork opposition. A key player has not given any support wine in grocery stores – Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Sign for Whitehouse Liquor in Wegmans

Sign for Whitehouse Liquor in Wegmans

With wine in grocery stores on hiatus, many have speculated Wegmans will try to get the state to allow multiple licenses. Right now, state law allows one liquor store per person and it does not allow chains. Critics say Wegmans has set up a de facto chain using adjacent stores run by various family members. Wegmans advertises for Whitehouse Liquor, which is located next to its Marketplace store. When you visit Century Wines in Pittsford, you’re asked to swipe your Shopper’s Club. This stuff possibly rides the line between what’s legal and what’s not in our tightly regulated liquor market – and it drives independent stores insane.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Wegmans is leading the charge to loosen restrictions on who can sell beer.

Links of the Day:

- A lawsuit alleges Wegmans lent chef David Bouley $7 million to keep his restaurant business afloat.

- Albany police held a training exercise at a housing project – complete with fake blood – and scared the heck out of residents.

- Rochester’s amateur photographers are undercutting the professionals.

- Close to 10 percent of milk produced in New York State goes to the Chobani plant.

- New York farmers are installing wind turbines to protect their apple crops from frost.

- Hudson Valley Community College cut the hours of adjunct instructors to avoid paying them health insurance.

WegmansTakeout food has been around for a long time. Now it’s gone gourmet – and it’s in your supermarket.

Wegmans has well-established prepared food bars in its Market cafe section. The selections have noticeably expanded in recent months. There are bars for salads, fruit, hot veggies, sushi, homestyle cooking, Italian, Thai, Indian, and Chinese. There are $6 meals already-packaged to go. There are also chefs on hand at stations to cook foods to order.

I did a story this week on Wegmans’ heavy push into vegetarian meals. The stores use a meat substitute that has the taste and texture of chicken. Chickenless Parmesan, anyone?

The Washington Post reports supermarket prepared meals generated $19.5 billion in sales in 2012, up from $5.5 billion in 2011. Wegmans charges $8.49 a pound for meals at its prepared food bars.

What’s driving the growth? Families have always been pressed for time, so I’m not sure I believe that changing lifestyles is the reason. The Post suggested perhaps fewer people know how to cook.

I think the secret to Wegmans’ prepared food success is the food looks and tastes delicious. These are not simple salad bars. These are elaborate buffets with something for everyone. They work for lunch and dinner. Wegmans incorporates the offerings into Menu magazine, so customers can learn to cook the items themselves. The food bars are the ultimate impulse purchase – and we can’t resist.

(Wondering what happens to the prepared food at Wegmans the end of the day?)

Links of the Day:

- Colorado debates how stoned is too stoned to drive. Some say there shouldn’t be a legal threshold for THC in blood, because some have more tolerance than others. But that argument didn’t work when DWI laws were created, even though some people handle their liquor better.

- The Holocaust just got more shocking.

- Teens are tiring of Facebook.

- The Queen Bee in the office. We’ve all worked with one.

Wegmans

 

Have you noticed the prepared food section at Wegmans now has a gorgeous vegetarian bar? The entrees include chickenless Florentine and sesame (non) chicken. I’m not on a vegetarian diet, but the food looks and tastes delicious.

Wegmans is taking its vegetarian expertise to the frozen food aisle, according to a blog post by Mary Ellen Burris. The supermarket came out with a line of $3.99 products with names such as “Don’t Be Chicken” and “Don’t Have a Cow.” The soy-based products feature meat-like crumbles, nuggets and strips. Burris writes:

Our Pittsford store culinary team, led by Eric Wendorff, developed some items for the new Prepared Foods Veggie Bar; these sold so well we worked with the supplier (Gardein in Vancouver, B.C.) on a line of frozen Wegmans brand meat alternatives. Gardein says that their product is made from soy, wheat and pea proteins, vegetables and ancient grains (quinoa, amaranth, millet and kamut).

The advancement in meat substitutes has been very interesting and is appreciated by many people watching their diets.

Update: I went and checked out the chicken-less chicken myself!

Wegmans has a video of how to make Vegetarian Bolognese:

 

Links of the Day:

- It’s been almost 50 years since Rochester’s race riots.

- Auburn residents and the descendants of William Seward are upset about the removal of a valuable painting from the Seward House.

- A historic Syracuse church was dismantled. Now activists want to be sure other churches are preserved. 

- Could Upstate New York become the Silicon Valley of drones?

- The team that recommended tearing down Midtown Tower is evaluating new uses for Buffalo’s HSBC Tower.

- Could this be the year mixed martial arts is allowed in New York state?

Wegmans East FeaturedThe East Avenue Wegmans is “my” Wegmans. Its closure for the next few months to make way for an expanded store will be a big pain, but it’s not the end of the world.

As I saw the news headlines and laments on Twitter, I wondered why the fact it’s shutting down for a while is such a big deal. No one paid as much attention around here to the permanent closure of other Wegmans stores (Britton Rd.) or the arrival of new ones (Calkins).

I think East Ave. got a ton of attention because a lot of reporters and young people live close to the store. In addition, the design of the new facility took forever to get approved by the city. It’s not often we witness Wegmans expanding a store. It’s located on a heavily trafficked corridor. It’s also cool to see pictures of bare Wegmans shelves.

I think the biggest reason the East Ave. Wegmans transformation has captured our attention is it’s the only Wegmans left in the city. That makes it the most convenient Wegmans for a lot of people, including me. I don’t even think it’s that convenient, as it’s four miles away.

But if you love Wegmans and live downtown, East Ave. is “your store.” The next closest store is Lyell Ave. which is 5 miles away. Marketplace and Hudson-Titus store are both 5.5 miles away.  I realize it’s not terrible to have to drive a little further to get to Wegmans. I’m super-happy Wegmans is reinvesting in its last remaining city store (even if it does look like a giant wall on Winton). But I miss the days when there were Wegmans all over the city. Driving Park was “my” store growing up. Mt. Hope would be “my” store today.

East Ave. the only store “we” have left.

Wegmans

Links of the Day:

- Six of the nine Best Picture nominees used Kodak film, which is made in Rochester.

- A suburban Rochester neighborhood deliberately planned to have a diverse mix of residents.

- Wall Therapy is gearing up for its third year painting murals around Rochester.

- Not a single Grandstand act has been booked yet for this summer’s New York State Fair, after scandal prompted a leadership change.

- The state slimed a government official who claimed he was fired for not getting permission to speak to the press. Meanwhile, the DEC has a ridiculously restrictive press policy.

- In Albany area, farmers and suburbanites clash over a way of life.

- Need a nosh? The Jewish deli is on the decline.

Wegmans THE smaller imageDanny Wegman is mad about obesity.

In an interview with Supermarket News, Wegman said the right measurements must be in place to win the war on fat. Specifically, who is measuring and tracking people’s health? Wegman said there are a lot of programs, but no one knows if they’re working.

Wegmans is monitoring its own 44,000 workers. Wegmans stopped selling tobacco products and offers employees a variety of food and exercise programs. It’s using specific measurements to track success. Supermarket News reports:

So what’s been the impact of all this? Danny noted that in measuring results, Wegmans focuses on high blood pressure over weight, because it’s a less charged topic, and the necessary lifestyle changes have a beneficial impact on weight as well. The retailer began measuring results in 2008, and most recently reported that the percentage of its employees with high blood pressure has dropped from 24% in 2008 to about 14% today.

Meanwhile, even though Wegmans hasn’t specifically focused on weight, it does track body mass index, and found the percentage of its employees with healthy weights rose from 29% to 40% in the same period, and those considered obese dropped from 32% to 25%.

(snip)

So what is Danny urging? “As individual companies we should be measuring these things,” he said. “Communities should be measuring these things. Then we’d begin to see how we can make a difference.”

His recommendation is that companies focus on five standard measures: blood pressure, body mass index, sugar, cholesterol and smoking versus nonsmoking.

How would you feel if your company, which may subsidize your health insurance, measure you? While this raises privacy questions, it’s possible there could be an opt-out provision.

Links of the Day:

- Governor Cuomo is floating the idea of a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls. The move could get the Senecas to pay money they’re withholding from the state. The tribe believes video slots at racetracks violates its gaming compact.

- The University of Rochester has an old swimming pool that’s now filled with chairs and desks. Check out these eerie photos.

- The Albany Times Union contrasts two very different neighborhoods and points out more of America is divided by class.

- Health care aides are awaiting a decision on whether they can get minimum wage and overtime.

- The New York Times profiled the case of a young man who killed himself after a long addiction to ADHD medication. It’s a sad, infuriating read.

 

Tweeted by Wegmans 12/19/12

Tweeted by Wegmans 12/19/12

 

Wegmans, where you can sip a frothy latte while you fill your cart with fruits so perfect you wonder if they’re made of wax, is now offering a line of yoga products.

Stency Wegman, wife of the CEO, launched a line of yoga wear and accessories late last year.  She’s a longtime Hatha yoga practitioner and instructor who started selling her DVDs in Wegmans stores in 2011.

Glamorous CarrotThe Wegmans Organic Farm was an inspiration for the yoga wear. The clothes are made of organic cotton. The pants and shirts are emblazoned with a yoga-posing carrot. It’s what Stency Wegmans calls the “glamorous carrot” pose. “Love Your Veggies” is printed on the back of each shirt.

One could look at this as a CEO merely indulging his wife’s yoga passion. But this is incredibly smart. Yoga remains popular. Even little kids are doing downward dog. Wegmans and yoga go together like Wegmans and…the “Chickenless Florentine” that was featured today in one of the $8.49/lb. self-serve buffets at Calkins Rd.

It’s not supposed to make sense, but it does.

For example, Jane walks by the yoga display and thinks, “I really need to get back into a class. I’m feeling stressed and out of shape.” (There’s no John, because there doesn’t appear to be any menswear.) Jane puts a $59.99 tank top in her cart. She has a new resolve to be healthy, so she circles back to the produce section and loads up on organic vegetables. The next time she visits the store, she picks up the pants and the mat. Let’s face it, once you’ve spent nearly $60 on a tank top, there’s no turning back.

Wegmans wins. (Doesn’t it always?)

Is Upstate New York, the land of Wegmans, becoming more fertile ground for rival grocery stores?

PriceRite has moved into the Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo markets over the past five years. Trader Joe’s recently opened its first Upstate store in Rochester.  Now there’s word Costco is about to open its first store north of the New York City region in Syracuse.

The Costco would go in a large retail, housing and entertainment complex in the suburb of Camillus. The Syracuse Post Standard reports:

(Developer) Cameron is telling the town — and The Post-Standard — that they still need to wrap some loose ends up for that particular, mysterious tenant. They are telling town council and board members it is a “large national retailer” — 144,000-square-feet — that’s not in Upstate New York and that retailer has a gas island.

Since the other two non-supermarket large national retailers with gas islands — B.J.’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club — are already Upstate, the town is left to do the math.

Costco isn’t talking… much.

“Unfortunately, it’s our corporate policy not to comment on specific markets,” a spokeswoman said recently from Costco’s corporate headquarters in Issaquah, Wash.

Costco’s website says it has 612 “warehouses,” most in the United States. The stores average 143,000 square feet, which is larger than the Pittsford Wegmans. Shoppers must be members, who pay a $55 fee. Costco offers private-label brands, typical grocery store fare, electronics and automotive services.

If Costco is moving to Syracuse, does this mean the mega-chain might take a look west down the Thruway?

 

I got a pleasant surprise when I went to Wegmans over the weekend. Wegmans now has its own brand of single-serve coffee pods, known as “K-cups.” They cost $5.99, up to $3 less than the big brands.

Wegmans is among the grocers taking advantage of the expiration of Green Mountain’s patent on K-cups. This is good news for consumers, as the store brands are cheaper. But it could be very bad news for Green Mountain. K-cups for Green Mountain are what film was for Kodak. Green Mountain sells its Keurig coffee machines cheap and banks on people buying lots of K-cups.

Green Mountain has sued the makers of these generic K-cups. Reuters reports:

Green Mountain has said it expects to continue to benefit from its scale and expertise in manufacturing K-Cups, and that it will “aggressively defend” its intellectual property.

Green Mountain has dozens of patents governing the brewers, the K-Cups and the interaction between the brewers and cups. The company has already sued Rogers and Sturm Foods, a unit of TreeHouse Foods (THS.N), for selling Keurig-compatible cups that allegedly infringe its patents.

Rogers’ president, Jon Rogers, told Reuters he was confident that he would prevail in the patent fight, saying his cup is as different from the K-Cup as “apples and oranges” – the K-Cup is made of plastic, while the Rogers cup is made of mesh.

Some patent experts wouldn’t be surprised if Green Mountain sued grocers who sell the generic K-cups. The Wegmans box doesn’t indicate who makes its K-cups. It does say “patent application pending for capsule technology.”

Skeptics say Green Mountain could go the way of Kodak. Supporters say it offers a superior product and the generic stuff made with slightly different coffee pods doesn’t taste as good.

I bought Wegmans dark roast. I like very strong, black coffee. The Wegmans K-cups don’t have the same strong aroma or flavor. I’m going to try other roasts. But I do like the price.

Links of the Day:

- A Democrat and Chronicle columnist loves the idea of a new Buffalo Bills stadium – and cites some of the reasons that have been debunked by economists.

- Kids say the new healthy school lunch rules leave them hungry. I lost all sympathy when a student complained 850 calories is not enough for lunch.

- Is the Time Warner modem fee newor not?

- What if the collective-living, nose-ring-wearing candidate who’s talking issues decides the Buerkle-Maffei race?

- Syracuse is launching a campaign to reduce infant deaths related to unsafe sleep - and it’s targeting men.

- Oh, Pittsford.

It appears Wegmans is ramping up its strategy of opening liquor stores next to its supermarkets.

Wegmans plans to build 15,000 square foot retail spaces adjacent to its Mt. Read and Amherst stores. Wegmans claims it hasn’t decided who will lease the stores.

The Democrat and Chronicle reports on the Mt. Read location:

(Spokeswoman Jo) Natale said no decisions about a retailer had yet been made.

“And there’s no timeline on what we might build there,” she said. “It is our intention, though, to certainly do the roadwork there sometime next year, but we don’t have any firm plans for what the retail space would be used for.”

The Buffalo News reported on the Amherst location:

“We can’t specify what type of retail store it would be, but there are about 20 possible uses for it,” Martin Herrmann, of Wegmans Site Development Group, told those gathered in Assumption Church Hall.

One of the operators of Gates Circle Wine & Liquors, a few blocks away at 1430 Delaware Ave., wasn’t stumped.

“It’s going to be a liquor store,” Shannon Carscallen predicted, “and we’re going to do what we can to fight it.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out these will likely be liquor stores. Companies don’t go through the trouble of knocking down houses and getting town approvals to build things for the heck of it.

Wegmans has long rented space in its plazas to liquor stores. Controversy ensues when the stores are owned by Wegman family members. Most recently, the sister of Danny Wegman moved her store, Whitehouse Liquor, from Monroe Avenue to space next to the Marketplace Wegmans.

Critics say the Wegman family is violating the spirit of state laws prohibiting liquor store chains and barring supermarkets from selling wine and liquor. Competitors also allege the Wegman family uses the same liquor reps and could be violating rules prohibiting individual liquor stores from making group buys. Wegmans insist the family members own their stores independently.

Whatever you think of state liquor laws, the little guys want Wegmans to follow the same rules. Wegmans has lost the wine-in-grocery store fight (for now), so the next frontier could be getting the state to allow multiple liquor licenses. In other words – chains.

Links of the Day:

- Wegmans is pushing into the Washington, D.C. market. One store has a very “crab-like” focus.

- Wealth is being redistributedupward.

- Are we putting too much faith into college rankings?

- Don Alhart is in a Louise Slaughter ad. He had no choice.

- Wanna renew your vows? Rochester is holding a mass ceremony at High Falls.

Lyell Ave. Wegmans

 

When a Wegmans opened in Columbia, Maryland, there were the usual concerns over how the superstore would impact mom and pops. But there was another concern. With Wegmans less than two miles from a village, residents were interested in walking over. They found it wasn’t easy, Patch reports:

But, at least in Owen Brown–a village center that has two pizza places, a bar, a McDonald’s, and three places to get a haircut–some are talking about how to embrace the new super-retailer, and find a way for residents to walk there.

“There’s not a safe way to walk to Wegmans,” said Howard County Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, who represents Owen Brown, along with King’s Contrivance, North Laurel and Savage. “I heard from a lot of residents who are walking distance from Wegmans who would like to walk over there.”

(snip)

Wendy Webster, manager of the Wegmans in Columbia, said she has not heard any concerns from residents about a lack of access, but said they have modified the curb to be more handicapped-friendly and added bicycle racks.

“We’re working hard to make sure that we’re accessible,” Webster said. “If there’s someone from the community who wants to partner with us, if we need to do more, I’d be open to listen.”

But Webster said there are currently no specific plans to change pedestrian access to the store.

Besides East Ave., is there a walkable Wegmans in Monroe County? I would occasionally walk to my job at Driving Park and I would always ride the bus with my grandmother to get her groceries at Midtown. But those stores are history.

Building stores away from villages and cities means you have to get there by car. That’s long been an accepted part of big box shopping. That’s why I thought it was interesting Wegmans’ newest home asked, “Why can’t we walk to Wegmans?”

Links of the Day:

- Like Rochester, Buffalo is cracking down on convenience stores. Buffalo’s efforts have focused on stolen goods, but there are also quality of life concerns.

- Thinking of switching to an ESCO? National Grid data shows customers end up paying more.

- …”when teachers point out the relationship between income and achievement, they’re not shirking responsibility. They’re just stating an inconvenient truth.

- Welcome back to Rochester, John Lithgow.

I was taken aback when I saw the new East Ave. Wegmans construction. Approaching the store on East Ave. from the east, it looked like a giant wall along Winton.

Big Box, welcome to the neighborhood.

Rendering of view from East & Winton

Indeed, the renderings of the final design of the east side of the building look very wall-like. There will be plants and a nice sign, but the back of the building is to a major arterial.

I get why the neighborhood fought to have architectural elements included in the design, but there’s only so much you can do to dress up a big box. I shop at the East Ave. Wegmans and I’m very much looking forward to the new store, but I can’t say I’m happy at how this is progressing.

The south and west sides of the new store will be quite attractive. But when you get off the highway at University/East/Winton, you’ll see the Wegmans Wall.

Rendering of east side of Wegmans East. Ave.

Links of the Day:

- A developer broke ground on Brooks Court, a 29-home subdivision near Brooks Landing. A cul de sac will be built on the 4.5 acre parcel. The layout and the homes are positively suburban. It seems like a weird fit for the 19th Ward.

- The developer of BayTowne Plaza in Penfield thinks he can “replicate a traditional town center combined with a massive Super Walmart and an ocean of parking.” That’s simply not possible.

- Buffalo and Rochester have the lowest percentage of underwater homes in the country.

- Syracuse has a large mural made up of QR codes that can only be seen on cell phones.

- The New York State Fair discovered outsourcing bathrooms doesn’t work.

- Buffalo, the rudest city in America.

I don’t get coupon-clipping.

I thought the Wegmans Shoppers Card was supposed to make coupons obsolete. I thought the Internet made coupons obsolete. Even Groupons can just be scanned from our phones.

Who has time for coupons? Even if I wanted to save a few bucks on my weekly grocery bill, the time I would spend going through ads is not worth it. It’s like driving all the way to Eastview to return and rebuy an item that’s now on sale to save $5. (I know people who do this.)

Tops Friendly Markets is trying to resurrect coupons by making them digital. You go onto the chain’s website and download your coupons onto your Bonus Card. The Buffalo News reports:

 

Though the coupons themselves are paperless, customers are urged to print a list of the coupons they’ve added to their cards in order to keep track of which items and varieties are valid for each coupon. Otherwise, there are no signs on shelves or other visible reference in stores to guide them.

Wait, you want me to print my digital coupon list?

Wegmans is also coming up with a similar scheme, according to the story.

There’s no question I could stand to save a few bucks. But my free time is worth something. I’d rather be with family and friends, swimming or blogging. (Maybe I’ll make fifty cents on this post.) I don’t see how this online coupon is any more convenient from a time-saving perspective than clipping paper ones.

I’m just going to keep looking for the yellow sales tags and call it a day.

Links of the Day:

- Syracuse area law enforcement officials fear bath salts could be in schools this fall.

 – You knew this was coming. Niagara Falls sent Nik Wallenda a bill for security.

- We are super lucky to live near the Great Lakes during a drought.

Colorado Tragedy:

- “I don’t know if James Holmes cared deeply about Batman. I suspect he cared deeply about seeing himself on the news.” – Roger Ebert on the Aurora shooting.

-“America has gotten very good at being shocked by mass shootings.” 

- Colorado gun laws are lax.

- The New York Daily News says politicians have blood on their hands in the wake of the Aurora shooting.

A study that rated companies by customer experiences ranked Disney number one. But other companies are putting on performances, too. Wegmans and Trader Joe’s landed in the top 10. Customer Experience Excellence 2012 by Nunwood found the best firms created a theater-like experience for customers.

The study describes Wegmans as “more like a theme park than a supermarket:”

For these companies delivering brilliant basics is a given. They achieve competitive differentiation by layering a “magic moment” experience on top of service excellence. By seeing service as theatre they combine the elements of design and production to consistently stage “live performances” that wow and delight their customers.

(snip)

Daniel Wegman CEO of new top 10 entrants Wegmans, describes his stores as “theatres of food supported by almost telepathic levels of customer service”.

(snip)

Wegmans customers describe how shopping has now become an adventure, an experience to be anticipated, a food theme park that involves the whole family and captivates adults and children alike.

(snip)

Wegmans and Trader Joes epitomize the customer experience revolution taking place in retail. These organizations have taken the servicescape, atmospherics and decor to a whole new level.

(snip)

For Wegmans it is about range and theatre, carrying twice the number of stock items as the average supermarket, organized into different cuisine groupings, you meander rather than walk up and down straight aisles, the experience is supported with live demonstrations, education, entertainment for children and even Michelin starred restaurants. Who wouldn’t want to shop there?

- Wegmans is huge. It’s now the 65th largest retailer in the country.

- Trader Joe’s likely won’t open in Pittsford until the fall.

- Syracuse residents, angry their tiny Wegmans has closed, created a “Dear Danny” video:

syracuse.edu

- Rochester’s city residents have suffered through the closure of Wegmans at Midtown, Mt. Hope and Driving Park. We mourned the loss of our smaller, neighborhood stores. Those stores belonged to us. They were a refuge from the massive, suburban boxes with their chaotic parking lots. They were home.

As much as it hurt to say goodbye and despite the pangs of betrayal, there was no community angst the likes of which we are now seeing in Syracuse.

Wegmans announced recently it is closing the smallest store in its chain on Pond Street on the North Side. The Post-Standard reports:

…the Pond Street Wegmans is the primary source of food for a significant number of people in a high poverty area, and in a quarter-mile radius of the store, almost a quarter of the population has no vehicle…

(snip)

Richard Zalewski, a North Sider since the 1970s, has a vehicle, and two days after the Pond Street news broke, he drove to the chain’s corporate headquarters in Rochester to hand-deliver a letter of protest. He is especially worried about his neighbors without transportation.

“I really was upset enough to want to make a dramatic statement,” said Zalewski…

Zalewski, like some others interviewed for this story, does not buy the reason Wegmans is giving for shuttering Pond Street. He thinks the real issue is that the store, with is lower-income clientele, doesn’t fit the Wegmans corporate image. Zalewski says he will no longer shop at any Wegmans.

There have been endless news stories and letters to the editor and even a proposed law requiring the site to stay a grocery store. A Syracuse council member wrote an open letter to Wegmans:

Is denying immigrants, the elderly and the impoverished reasonable access to fresh foods the sort of difference you want to make in the community?

These are moral questions about your business culture.

Ouch!

Perhaps Rochesterians have more goodwill for our hometown grocer, so we’re more accepting when Wegmans abandons its city stores. Perhaps Rochesterians are more accepting of the suburbanization of our community. Perhaps Rochesterians are used to being disappointed by big business.

Syracuse will eventually learn there is life without Wegmans. PriceRite, Aldi and Tops have filled the void and are doing very well. And as Wegmans has often pointed out, the chain has a plethora of stores near the city…just over the border.

Update – Wegmans wrote a letter to the editor acknowledging the backlash.

- Tops is remodeling stores and adding gas stations. The company has a decidely different strategy than Wegmans.

- School #50 principal Tim Mains is up for the Albany superintendent job. Mains ran for mayor in 2005 and lost to Bob Duffy. We know how that story ended. He was a finalist for RCSD superintendent along with Jean-Claude Brizard. We know how that story ended. How would things in Rochester have been different if Mains ascended to either of those positions?

- New York’s dairy farmers are being left behind in the Greek yogurt boom. Chobani is forced to expand its operation in Idaho because it can’t get enough milk from New York farms.

- Rochester’s mayor has had a very quotable week. First, he complained MCC is treated the Damon Campus like it’s Afghanistan. Then he called his deputy mayor a “big boy.” His discussion of the Bug Jar in City Newspaper takes the cake and started a brief Twitter meme:

“There’s nothing wrong with being funky. There’s nothing wrong with being hip hop. It’s just, you can’t shoot each other.”

Created by: @bryanjball

Created by @dragonflyeye

I started working at the Driving Park Wegmans as a cashier right after I turned 16 years old.

I couldn’t believe how much out of my first paycheck went to taxes. I was scammed by a quick-change artist. I figured out everyone just wants to be treated with respect. Smiles didn’t hurt. I never argued with a customer. I saw a WIC check for the first time. I watched kids go through separate checkouts with $1 food stamps to buy a 10-cent piece of candy (they had those back then) to get 90 cents back to give to their mom to buy a $2.22 pack of cigarettes (they had those back then, too). If I ever had any doubt, I knew why I had to go to college.

I still know the banana code is 4011.

When I started working the service desk, I hated get stuck on the bottle line. (This was before the days of bottle redemption machines.) Some of the homeless men brought in bottles with cockroaches that got into my hair. The line to hand out food stamps never ended on the first of the month. (This was before the days of EBT cards.) I got to know people who came in to play their lottery numbers – boxed or straight. They had on worker uniforms and didn’t look like they could afford $50 a day.

I remember a lot more than food stamps, bottles and lottery tickets. I liked my coworkers. I liked getting the Wegmans scholarship. I liked talking to customers. I liked feeling busy and helpful. I liked being part of my neighborhood store.

That’s why I was sad to read the teenage job is disappearing. Only 3 out of 10 teenagers has a job, the lowest level since World War II. Kids from poorer homes are less likely to work than affluent homes. The Associated Press reports:

The drop in teen employment, steeper than for other age groups, is partly a cultural shift. More youths are spending summer months in school, at music or learning camps or in other activities geared for college. But the decline is especially troubling for teens for whom college may be out of reach, leaving them increasingly idle and with few options to earn wages and job experience.

Older workers, immigrants and debt-laden college graduates are taking away lower-skill work as they struggle to find their own jobs in the weak economy. Upper-income white teens are three times as likely to have summer jobs as poor black teens, sometimes capitalizing on their parents’ social networks for help.

That’s too bad. Jobs you work as a teenager teach you about responsibility, problem-solving, teamwork, work ethic, customer service, money and most importantly – life.

Lyell Ave. Wegmans

Links of the Day:

- What do you do when you want a Wegmans to move to town, but you don’t want more giant parking lots? Washington City Paper also hopes the chain is amenable to urban locations that might not necessarily be off highways:

Wegmans builds the way it has over the years because nobody’s asked it to do anything different. In the suburbs, everybody’s just thrilled to get their gourmet cheese bar. The District doesn’t have that kind of land to burn, but it’s also the most desirable urban market in the country, and it’s worth Wegmans’ while to make Washington their first experiment with an urban format store. If Walmart can learn mixed use, which it’s at least doing in some places, then anybody can.

Wegmans is experimenting with an urban model in Newton, Massachusetts. The City of Rochester took a lot of heat over pushback against the Wegmans East Ave. plans, but big box designs don’t necessarily fit into urban locations.

Meanwhile, Wegmans announced it is locating in Central Virginia for the usual reasons (emphasis added):

(Wegmans spokesperson) Colleluori said the company is concentrating on two markets — the Mid Atlantic and New England — and typically looks for two elements when considering new locations, a large piece of property and a strong, existing road infrastructure network.

- There’s a reason Wegmans doesn’t have an apostrophe in its name.

- When a judge ruled against Kodak’s patent claim recently, the value of its patent portfolio may have fallen by more than $1 billion.

- Syracuse’s mayor has a shadow payroll to avoid civil service laws. She hides workers on the economic development agency payroll. Some of them are relatives and political supporters. The Post-Standard reports:

“I am proud that I’ve gotten the caliber of person who has wanted to be associated with me in this administration,” (Mayor Stephanie) Miner said. “And the fact that they are related to people who happen to be my supporters or my family, I will not hold against them. It’s the nature of living in a small city.”

- A Henrietta couple struggling to pay a subprime mortgage tried and failed to get help from federal mortgage modification programs.

- Crossing the street just got more interesting in the City of Rochester.