In honor of doing business in Western New York for the past 40 years, Wegmans Food Markets will show its appreciation for area customers and employees at 10 of its local stores this Saturday, Jan. 28.
Forty-year Buffalo employees will join senior executives, local vendors and community partners to thank the community during the event, which will feature cake at 11 a.m. and a $100 gift card to be raffled off each hour, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the local stores.
"We know that our customers are looking for great food at valuable prices, incredible service, and a one-of-a-kind shopping experience," said Michele Mehaffy, Buffalo consumer affairs manager for Wegmans. "We love being part of the WNY community, and we're glad to have this occasion to thank our customers."
Western New York companies that produce products sold at Wegmans will have representatives on hand at stores throughout the region (including Landies Candies Co., Perry's Ice Cream Co., Louretta's Custom Chocolates, Frank Wardynski & Sons, Costanzo's Bakery, Mayer Brothers, Yancey's Fancy and First Light Creamery. Local brewers and apple growers will also attend, with Sun Orchards Fruit Co. presenting a New York state apple called Pazazz for the first time.
Participating store locations include Military Road in the Town of Niagara; Alberta Drive in Amherst; Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst; and Dick Road in Depew.
At the Dick Road location, both Michael Weiner of the United Way will speak and Marylou Borowiak of the Food Bank of Western New York will speak. Perry's Ice Cream will provide samples of its commemorative flavor, "Zero Visibility: Blizzard Anniversary Edition."
The event is also a way to acknowledge the opening of the first Wegmans in the buffalo-area, the store at 651 Dick Road, Depew.
"The opening was delayed by two days because of the Blizzard of 1977, so the theme of the day this Saturday is 'Taking Buffalo by Storm,' " Mehaffy said.
Before the Dick Road store's opening in '77, a group of employees, who'd been working hard to get the store ready, were stranded when the blizzard struck. For a few days, they grabbed naps when they could and made meals from food off the shelves.
At last, opening day came on Feb. 8. The new Wegmans "appears to have everything but a swimming pool and restaurant to make it a complete daylong shopping holiday," exclaimed a story in the former Buffalo Courier Express.
The 65,000-square-foot store was roughly twice the size of most other supermarkets. The cheese shop offered hundreds of different cheese varieties. There was a bakery, a fresh seafood department, a clothing department, a cookware shop, a fabric department, a plant and flower shop and a linens department with towels and sheets.
The biggest novelty was Wegmans' futuristic checkout system that used scanners to read the Universal Product Code (bar code) on each item and enter its price on the register receipt for faster, more accurate checkouts.
Today, scanners are used throughout the retail industry, but Wegmans was one of the first supermarkets in the country to install scanners in checkout lanes.
One 40-year Wegmans employee remembers the crowds and long lines as customers waited for a look at things they hadn't seen before, like the live lobsters for sale in the seafood department. Also, partly because of the extra spending power some customers had, thanks to emergency food vouchers given out during the blizzard, the first Wegmans store in Buffalo set a new store grand-opening record.
"The Blizzard of '77 was truly a massive storm that tested all Buffalo residents," Mehaffy said. "But Buffalo residents are resilient, resourceful and caring. We owe a special debt of gratitude to all the people who've made the past 40 years such good ones for Wegmans - especially the customers who trust us to help them feed the people they love, and the employees who've worked in our stores. We're glad to have this occasion to thank them."
Wegmans Military Road Store Manager Michael Sigurdson said, "We're very humbled that people choose to use us, because, obviously, in any area, there is competition in the marketplace and we feel like we've done our part to be intertwined with the community, not just in terms of groceries, but in terms of charitable contributions, activities with charities and doing all those kind of things that make a good neighbor."
Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is a 92-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. The family-owned company, recognized as an industry leader and innovator, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. Wegmans has been named one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" by Fortune for 19 consecutive years, ranking No. 4 in 2016.