I nearly spit out my coffee this morning when I read that the new Wegmans grocery store in King of Prussia clocks in at a whopping 123,000 square feet. By comparison, the newly opened Whole Foods Market in Glen Mills tops out at 38,000 square feet, which means you could fit three (3!) of those stores inside the KOP Wegmans—and still have room for the Market Cafe.
Aroundmainline.com posted an enthusiastic story about the giant new Wegmans, complete with a list of “fun facts”:
• The in-store Market Cafe can seat 300 people. The Pub, which is purportedly double the size of Wegmans Pubs at other stores, seats 30 at the bar.
• The outdoor dining area features a fireplace, a Wegmans first.
• The store features over 70,000 products (regular grocery stores contain about 40,000), including up to 700 varieties of fruits and veggies and 300 cheeses from around the world. Beer totals 800 domestic and imported bottles.
That’s a whoooooole lot of Wegmans—too much, if you ask me. While it’s all kinds of impressive to tout six-figure square footage and more products than a person could possibly know what to do with, it begs the question: Are all these bells and whistles really necessary? I mean, Wegmans is first and foremost a grocery store, and the last time I checked no one was jonesing to spend their Friday night sidled up to the bar, sipping a Belgian craft beer at … the Acme. I mean, really, is this something you’ve wished for? Like, ever?
What I don’t understand is why a trip to the grocery store needs to be an “experience” (and one we can have 24/7, at that). Does our insatiable need for sensory stimulation and Disney-like entertainment really need to cross over to our supermarket trip? When did a grocery store become more than a place to buy food?
I’m the type of grocery shopper who likes to be in and out in the shortest amount of time possible. It’s why I like Trader Joe’s: the place has everything I need and it’s small, so I can fly through the aisles at top speeds and be back at home before Friends is over. I have no need for an in-store bar and an outdoor fireplace. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’m not really looking to hang out at my grocery store.
Besides, warehouse-sized stores can make those grocery trips when you just need to pick up a few things an absolute nightmare. True story: One time I was in the ‘burbs for my mother-in-law’s birthday, and I had to swing by the Wegmans in Malvern to pick up a few things for a recipe I was making for her birthday dinner. This was my first experience in a Wegmans store, and I distinctly remember walking in and muttering, What in the world? The place was huge! But not huge in a good way—huge in a “I better be careful lest I get lost in this small city of grocery commerce” sort of way. Finding the handful of items I needed was like searching for a needle in a haystack, never mind the fact that I had to cover what felt like miles and miles of retail space to hunt down a bottle of salsa and some black beans.
I’m sure I’m in the minority when I say this, but KOP, you can have your Wegmans. I’ll stick with postage-stamp-size stores that have everything I need—by which I mean: food. Period.