Food & Drink

The numbers are in: Raleigh breaks records in Wegmans store opening

The highly anticipated anticipated opening of Wegmans’ 100th store in Raleigh broke records Sunday, the grocer reported.

The grocer confirmed Monday that about 3,000 people waited in line Sunday morning for the 7 a.m. opening. That broke the company’s store-opening record, and the company opened the store at 6:45 a.m. — 15 minutes earlier than planned.

The store also reported Monday that more than 30,000 people came through the day, which the Rochester, N.Y.,-based store said “ranks as the top store opening attendance in company history.”

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The chain has a cult-like following, and the Raleigh store is the first of five that are expected in the Triangle, with two also coming to Cary, one to Wake Forest and one to Chapel Hill.

It took 30 to 45 minutes for the line that had wrapped around the building to get inside when doors opened, according to Wegmans spokesperson Jo Natale on Sunday.

“We knew there was a lot of excitement, but the outpouring we saw yesterday was beyond anything we could’ve hoped for,” said Wegmans Store Manager Hallie Johnston in a news release Monday.

The city of Raleigh had issued warning about high volumes of traffic expected Sunday. The company hired 20 off-duty Raleigh police officers to guide traffic, The News & Observer reported.

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Part of the group that tailgated outside Wegmans Cheri McDonald

Wegmans tailgaters

In anticipation of the opening, a group of nine people decided to tailgate outside Wegmans starting at 10 p.m. Saturday. Eight of the nine people were from New York, where 46 Wegmans stores are located, according to the company’s website.

Cheri McDonald created a Facebook group for the event when she first found out a Wegmans was opening in Raleigh.

“I’ve personally been waiting 24 years for this day! Some I know have been waiting even longer. Time to celebrate!” she wrote in the group’s first post.

“Nine of us hardcore Wegmaniacs showed before midnight (Saturday). I was first to arrive at 10 p.m., followed by Stephanie Turner and Jeremy Maciejewski and we officially started the line!” McDonald said by email.

McDonald, a Rochester, N.Y., native, worked her first job at Wegmans and said she loved the experience.

“It was a lot about the nostalgia of it and bringing a piece of our old home to our new home,” she said of Sunday’s opening.

One of the people at the tailgate party even brought “Wegmaniac” shirts. A couple celebrating the first anniversary of their engagement joined the group, dressed in “Wegmaniac” hoodies.

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The engaged couple sported matching “Wegmaniac” sweatshirts Cheri McDonald

Customers from the North

Many other customers were also from the North.

“You can tell from the accents,” said Pamela Fitzgerald, who is from New York.

Fitzgerald felt that the hype around the store was due to the variety of choices at Wegmans.

“The fresh produce; the meat is better than its competitors,” Fitzgerald said.

Mina Botrous, from Rochester, N.Y., said he waited in 45 minutes of traffic to get in the store. He had taken his wife on their first date to a Wegmans in Buffalo. “We bought our wedding flowers from here,” he said.

Despite waiting so long and dealing with the massive crowds, most people were still happy to be at the store.

“Wegmans is not a grocery store. Wegmans is an experience,” McDonald said. “We knew the energy and excitement would be a one-of-a-kind experience, and it did not disappoint.”

Wegmans reported that 34,000 people signed up for the Wegmans Shoppers Club, the largest number of new signups to date.

The store is located at 1200 Wake Towne Drive in the Midtown East shopping center.

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Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.