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Wegmans Redefines Supermarket Model In Anne Arundel Co.

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SHANTEE WOODARDS
The Capital

GAMBRILLS, Md. (AP) — Where to start?

Perhaps with some locally grown produce? Or maybe a latte at the coffee shop? Could grab a slice of pizza. Or a cupcake at the bakery.

Wegmans brings its open air market design to Gambrills as it opens its first Anne Arundel County location. The upscale grocery story is designed so customers can see throughout the store from any point. The produce section is at the center and is supplied with locally grown fruits and vegetables.

To the left of the entrance is an area for specialty shopping and dining. The Market Cafe, which has indoor and outdoor seating, has a coffee shop, soup station, pizza shop and other prepared foods for dine-in or takeout.

This store’s seafood market will be the New York chain’s largest, featuring items from the Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey shores. It will feature a new seasonal fish weekly. The opening-week item will be halibut and then mahi-mahi. There also is a bakery, cheese shop and Mediterranean bar, among other features.

The right side looks more like a traditional grocery store with 29 checkout lanes. Wegmans’ inclusion of so many specialty items under one roof has turned the supermarket experience into an entertainment event for many shoppers.

This will be the third Wegmans at a Greenberg Gibbons property. The grocery store is favorite of the developer.

“Wegmans is probably the single best daily draw of any retail tenant,” Greenberg Gibbons CEO Brian Gibbons said. “It really creates the buzz and people just love it. It’s an experience; it’s not just going to the grocery store.”

Anne Arundel County’s first Wegmans gives this area a chance to experience the devoted following that has sustained the chain’s past debuts.

This is the grocer’s sixth location in Maryland. In the past, thousands of customers have lined up in anticipation of its 7 a.m. grand opening. This contingent of welcomers has included four women from the Woodmore Wegmans in Prince George’s County. The group — which can be noticed in their matching pink shirts — has traveled to each store’s opening.

“We don’t know what to expect. Often there’s a long line,” Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale said. “People just like to see the store fresh and new. They’ll never see it like that again.”

The 125,000-square-foot supermarket will serve as an anchor to the nearly $300 million Waugh Chapel Towne Centre. The Greenberg Gibbons development has about 650,000 square feet of retail space, which is about 97 percent leased. That is largely due to the presence of the upscale grocer, officials said.

The 137,000-square-foot Target opened in March, followed by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Petco and Regal Cinemas.

The Wegmans draw is part of an opening-day phenomenon that comes with the debut of all high-profile retailers. The store also has a strong brand that is reflected in its customer service, University of Maryland marketing professor Janet Wagner said.

“Wegmans occupies what I call a niche market between stores like Giant and Safeway and Whole Foods,” said Wagner, who studies consumer behavior.

Some of the aisles mention low prices for 2012, part of the chain’s effort to freeze prices for different products. Each season, they make a list of products families tend to buy, and keep the prices of those items the same throughout the season. The current list of 65 items will have the same prices through the rest of the year. There also is a selection of organic foods and supplements through the Nature’s Marketplace product line.

In preparation for the store’s opening, Wegmans workers came from other locations to help train the new staff. Three days before the grocer’s debut, workers were arranging aisle signs, icing baked goods and dry aging beef, all to the tune of various Black Eyed Peas songs. The Wegmans family came to town and had lunch with the staff.

“It’s shined, polished and everyone is excited and eager to open the doors,” manager Gerry Troisi said. “We have people who drive by all day (saying) `I thought you were open … it looks like you’re open.”‘

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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