GERMANTOWN, Md. - It's a supermarket people are willing to drive out of their way to get to, and now a new Wegmans is about to open in Montgomery County.
The store is in the new Seneca Meadows Plaza in Germantown off Interstate 270 near exit 16.
It opens Sunday at 7 a.m., but WTOP took a preview tour Thursday.
"A comment that we often get is that this is a happy place, and we truly believe that's because people enjoy working here, they're proud of what they do," said Colleen Wegman, president of the chain.
"We hired 500 people from this community to really run this store and to be the personality of Wegmans in this area," Wegman said.
The store is 123,000 square feet, and will have a dizzying 70,000 products to choose from.
"What surprises people about Wegmans is that our prices are so low. I think because we build these big beautiful stores, we offer such a high level of service, such high quality, that the assumption is it must cost more to shop there, when in fact the exact opposite is true.
"Our prices are 10 to 15 percent lower than other supermarkets, and they're right in line with club stores and mass merchants," said the company's Jo Natale, who led our tour.
The store's features include a coffee shop, a seafood market with whole fish delivered daily, a cheese shop with 300 cheeses, a kosher deli, a pizza shop and Asian food bars.
"The demand is growing for organic. We offer it. Among the 700 choices we have in the produce department, about 150 are organic," Natale said.
Wegmans also has a entire section devoted to gluten-free products.
Another thing that might surprise the unfamiliar Wegmans customer: the chain doesn't like to keep customers waiting in long lines to check out.
The new store has more than two dozen checkout lanes.
"As a general rule, once the store settles into a normal pattern of business, we only want to see one person checking out, and one person waiting behind that person. [In] express [lanes] we allow the line to get a little longer because they're quick orders, but in the regular full lanes, if we see another person get in line, we'll open another checkout," Natale said.
Wegmans has stores throughout the region, so what took so long to get to Montgomery County? Natale said one reason is, Wegmans only opens two or three new stores a year.
"We've been working on this site for four years. It took four years from the time we identified the site until we're opening the store," Natale said.
The Germantown location has a two-level parking deck, but all of the shopping and seating is on the first floor.
"We can seat up to 200 people indoors and outdoors at this store, and we have a lovely patio with a pergola," Natale said.
Escalators and a "cartolator" will carry customers and their groceries to and from the top level of the parking deck.
Click here to check out the official Wegmans news release.
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