On Wednesday morning, Astor Place in the East Village was abuzz with excitement for the grand opening of Wegmans, the well-known supermarket chain from Rochester, now making its debut in Manhattan.
Wegmans is renowned for its enthusiastic customer base, who often turn out in large numbers for store openings.
Among the eager crowd was 27-year-old Casey Whyland, conspicuous in her Wegmans attire, accompanied by a group of high school friends. They all share fond memories of visiting the Wegmans in DeWitt during their youth.
“The culture, the fandom, the community — it’s a gift,” said Whyland, an actor residing on the Upper West Side. “It’s so much more than a grocery store.”
Spanning 87,500 square feet, this new Wegmans is one of Manhattan’s largest grocery stores. Occupying two levels in the historic Wanamaker Building, it fills the space left by the Astor Place Kmart that closed in 2021, and has employed over 600 new staff members.
Wegmans, with over a hundred stores on the East Coast, had previously opened another New York City store at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2019.
Jeff Pollock and Brad Orego, who celebrated the Brooklyn store’s opening with a tailgate party, were present again. “That time around it was pouring rain, about 45 degrees out I think. So it seemed like better weather (and I figured) why not?” recounted Pollock, 35, a marketing professional.
Both Buffalo natives, they were dressed in Buffalo Bills attire, offering breakfast foods prepared with ingredients from the Brooklyn Wegmans.
Store manager Matthew Dailor, who has been with Wegmans for 30 years, recognized the duo from the Brooklyn opening. He emphasized the store’s friendly staff as a key strength.
“That’s always been our competitive advantage is our people,” Dailor mentioned to the Daily News. “From a competition standpoint within New York City, there’s a lot of really great employers, a lot of great stores, a lot of really exciting things going on, and we’re excited to be in that mix with everybody else kind of with our own spin.”
The store boasts a range of prepared foods and stations for custom orders of seafood, pizza, sandwiches, salads, and more. Although there’s no current seating, a dining area focusing on sushi is planned for early next year.
Michael Zorek, 63, a retail worker living on the Upper West Side, praised the store’s pleasant shopping experience. He contrasted it with other crowded New York stores, noting the spacious aisles at Wegmans.
Zorek’s shopping cart was full within minutes of the store opening. “I didn’t even know where to begin,” he said. “So I just began.”