News & Politics

First Person: Wegmans—Just Like Back Home

When I was growing up in New York, Wegmans was my hometown supermarket—and Washingtonians hadn’t heard of it. Now that it’s here, I have to get used to sharing my love affair.

“We all have a little something about our hometowns that feels like only the locals get it,” the author says. For her, it’s Wegmans. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

When people ask if I’ve been to Wegmans, I launch into my standard “That was my grocery store growing up!” After ten minutes in which I act like a teenager talking about her latest crush, the conversation ends with me thinking, “I was hip to Wegmans long before Washingtonians thought it was hip to shop there.”

At the same time, I love that my friends here appreciate Wegmans as much as I did back home in Auburn, New York. We’re talking about my grocery store in my hometown.

In the 1980s in Auburn—near Syracuse—I practically lived at Wegmans. It was in the middle of town next to city hall. If you were a teenage girl, you’d never set foot in the place until you had checked the rearview mirror and reapplied lipstick. My friends and I did that in case we spied an ex-boyfriend or, better yet, an ex’s mother standing over the spiedie sauce. She’d tell her son you still looked fantastic.

Wegmans was the place to go whether you needed full-tilt groceries, a dozen eggs, or just to kill time in the makeup aisle on a summer night.

Fast forward to 1992. I had met my husband, Jack, in college. After a year of living back home after graduation, I packed my 1984 Chevy LeBaron and moved to his hometown, Alexandria.

Every road trip to Auburn meant packing a cooler and bringing back tastes of home from Wegmans—Hofmann Hots, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sauce, salt potatoes. Jack became a Wegmans fan, and that sealed the deal for me: We were a match. We’ve been married 13 years, and now Wegmans is just down I-95.

When the area’s first Wegmans opened four years ago in Sterling, I took my three kids to the grand opening and . . . cried. I walked into the store, which is set up in the familiar Wegmans way, and the tears starting flowing. I couldn’t stop until I got to the frozen-food section.

One of my sons said, “Mom, are you really crying about this?” My daughter buried her head. I knew that (1) I was a complete loser, (2) I will forever love everything that reminds me of my hometown, and (3) I will always have a thing for Wegmans. My fellow flat-A-accented upstate friends understood: Something we all grew up with had moved in next door and now was everyone’s.

Maybe we all have a little something about our hometowns that feels like only the locals get it.

Back home, Wegmans was the “social” grocery store where you knew everyone and could catch some good gossip. My neighbor Jerry used to cut grass for the Wegman family. When I see Danny and Colleen Wegman’s smiling faces on signs in the Potomac Mills store, I feel like I’m running into old friends.

Don’t get me wrong—I couldn’t be happier Wegmans is here. But I’m still getting used to including Washington in my love affair. So if you see a woman crying in the produce aisle of your local Wegmans, that’ll mean I still have some work to do. If you see me in the parking lot reapplying lipstick, you can assume I’m fine.

This article first appeared in the November 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles like it, click here.