BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Is it Wegmans yet? Not quite — but soon.
The popular supermarket is set to open an outlet this fall in an 82,000-square-foot space at Eighth Street near Astor Place that was formerly home to Kmart. The market will span two floors, plus have a basement level.
This will be Wegmans’ second location in New York City, following its much-hyped arrival at the Brooklyn Navy Yard three and a half years ago.
Founded in 1916, the Rochester, N.Y.-based chain currently has 110 stores along the East Coast stretching from Massachusetts to North Carolina.
The chain is known, among other things, for its own branded products, which sell for less than national brands, as well as its “Food You Feel Good About,” which is fare without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Products are coded with “wellness colors” to make shopping more convenient.
The Wegmans public-relations team recently spoke with The Village Sun about the Astor Place store.
There will be 500 employees and the store is still hiring locally. It’s a nonunion shop. The store manager will be shifting over from the company’s Harrison, N.Y., outlet in Westchester and has 30 years with Wegmans.
The Eighth Street store will be open seven days a week, though not 24 hours. During closed hours, shelves will be restocked and food prep done.
Asked if they looked at other sites in Manhattan for this second Wegmans and why they settled on Astor Place, one of the P.R. representatives said the chain scouts for spots with “high population density and growth potential.”
The Astor Place address obviously has great access to transportation since the subway station is literally right outside its door.
The P.R. team said that they do expect the East Village Wegmans to be a destination, and that Wegmans does tend to attract destination shoppers who come from a distance away to make purchases, even if it’s just once a month.
While the relatively remote Brooklyn store is doing heavy e-commerce sales, the Astor Place store obviously is going to have far more walk-in business.
One local small market owner said he had been waiting to hear when Wegmans would open, and that it would have a major effect on other local retailers.
“When Whole Foods opened in Union Square in 2004, it sent shockwaves all around,” he said. “When Trader Joe’s opened on E. 14th Street, it was a second tsunami. A lot of independent stores closed.”
Told that Wegmans plans to open in the fall, he said he figured as much, since it’s, of course, the holiday season, when people gather over meals.
“Their presence will have a long-term impact,” he said of newcomer Wegmans. “It’s really gonna hit Whole Foods head-on. Trader Joe’s will probably be O.K.”