The employee area of the 732-car parking lot at the new Wegmans in Harrison was almost full while the area reserved for customers was empty when we toured the long-anticipated food store in Harrison just two days before its grand opening on Aug. 5.
Inside of the 121,000-square-foot store at 106 Corporate Park Drive, some of the 500 new employees were busy stocking shelves and making final preparations at specialty sections that range from an area with fresh seafood to a bakery, a section where meats are aged, a freshly prepared salad station, an area for hot foods, a cheese shop, beer section and row upon row of shelving and displays for the rest of the approximately 70,000 packaged, fresh, organic, and frozen items the store has in stock.
There’s a coffee bar, a place for pizza and a casual restaurant known as The Burger Bar.
Wegmans has been inviting residents to open an account via its internet site so they can preorder groceries for curbside pickup or delivery. It also has an app that allows prepared foods and meals to be preordered.
The store is on a 20-acre site that Normandy Real Estate Partners bought for $26.5 million. The Harrison store opening follows a July 29 store opening in Morrisville, North Carolina. Wegmans has 102 stores: 47 in New York, 18 in Pennsylvania, nie in New Jersey, 12 in Virginia, 8 in Maryland, six in Massachusetts, and two in North Carolina. It has approximately 50,000 employees and in 2019 its sales were $9.7 billion. The company was founded in 1916 and is headquartered in Rochester.
Harrison store Manager Matt Dailor told us that getting ready to open safely in the midst of a global pandemic has posed some unexpected challenges.
“It’s redesigning how we do our business, but we still have to be focused on providing an absolutely exceptional experience,” Dailor said.
He added that a lot of effort has gone into making sure that the newly hired employees love what they do.
“If we do that then we can provide an exceptional experience when shoppers come in and they’re going to love shopping with us. Obviously with Covid right now in the world that we’re in, making sure we’re doing that in a way that’s extraordinarily safe both for our customers and the employees is certainly more challenging than business as usual six or eight months ago.”
Dailor said they have placed numerous visual cues around the store to remind people about the need for social distancing and the wearing of masks. Store capacity will be monitored and the number of people allowed in at one time will be metered.
“We’re going to have lines in the front of the store,” Dailor said. “We’re anticipating that we won’t be able to let everybody in at the same time specifically so that we can make sure we keep an environment inside the store where customers and employees can make sure they have adequate space to maintain some distance.”
Dailor said that the store is featuring a contactless scanning program that allows customers to scan the barcodes on items they’re buying as they shop, bag the items as they go and then use self-checkout.
“You don’t have to have anyone else touch the food that you’re buying,” Dailor said. “As an entire team here in this building we’re excited to show them a world-class experience that’s extremely safe….”