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Wegmans plans to open smaller-format stores

The food retailer has been building smaller-format stores in less traditional sites in recent years to serve more densely populated urban and inner-ring suburban environments.

While Wegmans Food Markets is known for its large stores — sometimes spanning 120,000 to nearly 150,000 square feet — that typically require 15 to 20 acres of land in suburbia to accommodate, the food retailer has been building smaller-format stores in less traditional sites in recent years to serve more densely populated urban and inner-ring suburban environments.

Case in point: Wegmans has recently identified three locations in mixed-use developments for new stores set to debut in 2022.

Opening in the spring, the Carlyle-Alexandria, Va., store will be 81,300 square feet, the smallest of the three locations opening next year. The unique design includes two levels of parking below and residential units above. The store will be part of Carlyle Crossing, a 1.7-million-square-foot development including commercial, residential and retail facilities steps from the Eisenhower Ave. Metro stop.

The grocer's first location in Washington D.C., will be the Wegmans Wisconsin Ave. store. Scheduled for a summer 2022 opening, the store is located at the former site of Fannie Mae’s headquarters, a large mixed-use development called City Ridge. To accommodate the 84,000-square-foot store and three levels of underground parking, the existing historic building was jacked up by millimeters so new columns could be put in place before it was set on a new foundation.

“The developer, Roadside Development, was required to preserve the historic nature of this building and therefore had to be very creative,” said Ralph Uttaro, Wegmans' SVP of real estate and development. “We’re very happy with the way everything is coming together and we’re looking forward to opening our doors next summer.”

Wegmans will also make its debut in Delaware in the fall of 2022 with a new store located just outside the city of Wilmington. Following the grocer's more traditional suburban design, this location will be about 84,000 square feet. It will also serve as the anchor in a mixed-use development with other retail stores, offices, townhomes and apartments.

“The store development process is lengthy but rewarding, from identifying the best location to opening day,” noted Uttaro. “It’s a great feeling to bring the Wegmans experience to a whole new community of customers.”

Each year, Wegmans receives more than 7,500 customer requests with suggestions for new store sites. With all these requests, how does the retailer decide where to open a new store when it typically only opens two or three new locations a year?

“We serve customers in the area that immediately surrounds our stores, but we are also a destination,” explained Uttaro. “Therefore, we look for great regional locations that are easy to find and easy to get to. We also examine density of population and demographics surrounding the site.”

Distance is, in fact, a major consideration. With distribution hubs in New York and Pennsylvania and one in the planning stages in Virginia, Wegmans can service potential stores in most of the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states.

Although Florida is the most requested site from customers, with 287 requests so far this year, Wegmans said that distributing products to Florida would be cost-prohibitive at the present time.

In 2014, Wegmans opened one of its first urban-style locations in Chestnut Hill, Mass. At 80,000 square feet, the store was one of the smallest that the retailer had opened in decades, but the model proved successful and Wegmans went on to open smaller-format stores in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2019, and in Tysons Corner, Va., in 2020. All three sites are located in mixed-use developments with multilevel parking garages.

Looking ahead to 2023, Wegmans already has its eye on the Big Apple for a second urban location in New York City. The grocer recently released plans to open an approximately 82,000-square-foot store in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

This story originally appeared on Progressive Grocer

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