Think about one central place where shoppers can find all the ingredients for a gourmet dinner, pick up a fresh floral centerpiece to adorn the table, and even purchase cookware and dishes to prepare and serve the meal.
This possibility comes a little closer to reality with the openings of two Wegmans stores in the South Jersey area. The supermarket chain's Mount Laurel location opened its doors back in March, and its Cherry Hill branch is set to open on Sunday along Route 70 West.
"We offer everything from Tide detergent to black truffles," said Jo Natale, spokesman for the chain. "We pride ourselves on quality and low prices."
In addition to housing a "market cafe" including ready-to heat-entrees, sushi, pizza, sandwiches and specialty coffees, the 125,000-square-foot supermarkets contain rather extensive kosher selections. They offer kosher party platters, bakery goods and various meats and dairy items, said Ellen Campbell, category merchant for Wegmans.
Though the stores are not under rabbinic supervision, Campbell said that as required by the Kosher Enforcement Bureau of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, a certificate is displayed in the kosher section describing their understanding of the term "kosher" and explaining how the store keeps it.
Of particular note to its Jewish customers, the Mount Laurel shop published a meal guide to Passover this year, which suggested breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes for the notably hard-to-be-creative-in-the-kitchen holiday. Also, for just a buck, parents could buy the Wegmans Passover coloring book, which explained various parts of the seder and the history of the holiday.
Betzy Abramson, the administrative assistant at Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill, said that there's been quite a buzz around the synagogue over the fact that a Wegmans is opening in their neck of the woods.
"I've gone to the Mount Laurel store and had dinner in their café, which is very convenient," said Abramson. "It's nice to go there and eat." (The Wegmans eateries are not certified kosher.)
Abramson said, at this time, the synagogue didn't know if Wegmans would be participating in SCRIP, a fundraising program where congregants can purchase gift cards to certain area stores, like ShopRite, Macy's and Stop and Shop. The synagogue receives 5 percent of the card.
It All Began With Produce
The Wegmans stores began in 1916 when Jack Wegman opened Rochester Fruit & Vegetable Company in Rochester, N.Y., selling merely produce. Over the next several years, the store took on its now eponymous name, expanded to include general groceries, bakery items and frozen foods, and eventually opened stores across New York state. It wasn't until 1993 that the family-owned chain crossed the border and set up shop in Erie, Pa.
Within the past few years, the store rolled out Menu magazine, its in-house quarterly that is also mailed to certain shoppers. On a regular basis, said Natale, cooking demonstrations are given in the stores utilizing recipes from the magazine.
According to Natale, each year the company opens about two or three stores within New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
The opening of the Cherry Hill store will be the 71st for the chain. As with other Wegmans, it will offer a French pastry shop, fresh seafood, international foods, a cheese shop and imported olives. In addition, it will house a pharmacy, photo lab, and offer greeting cards and gift items.