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2016-05-18 / Front Page

Sneak peek: Wegmans readies for opening

By Rich Griset
STAFF WRITER

Wegmans offered reporters a first look at the new Midlothian store on Wednesday. The store, including the expansive bakery, officially opens on Sunday.Ash Daniel/Chesterfield ObserverWegmans offered reporters a first look at the new Midlothian store on Wednesday. The store, including the expansive bakery, officially opens on Sunday.Ash Daniel/Chesterfield ObserverThough its parking lot is nearly full, don’t let the Midlothian Wegmans fool you; it still won’t open for another few days.

Instead, the parking lot is filled with the cars of hundreds of local and national Wegmans employees, all working to ready the grocery chain’s 89th store for its opening on Sunday.

“This is among our largest stores,” explains company spokeswoman Jo Natale on a Wednesday afternoon sneak-peek tour.

The Midlothian store will be the first in the Richmond region and has generated quite a buzz. The one-level, 115,000-square-foot location’s numbers are staggering: A small army of 550 employees will peddle more than 65,000 items, including more than 700 varieties of beer and 300 to 400 types of cheese. Roughly 3,000 of the store’s items are organic.

First-time Wegmans shoppers will see expanded offerings of pretty much every item and probably experience a few surprises. For example, the cave-aged cheese counter includes a mister to maintain the temperature and humidity needed for the cheese. The seafood counter offers whole fish that can be cut-to-order. If you happen to need 3 pounds of cubed vegetables, they can handle that too.

To the right of the entrance is a “cookie pod,” offering more than three dozen varieties of fresh cookies at any given time. Employees start baking the cookies at 4 a.m. and don’t finish until 9 p.m.

“They’re hot off the press,” says Maureen Mason, Wegmans’ divisional bakery manager for Virginia. While two of her associates say they love the snickerdoodles and coconut macaroons, Mason is a fan of the almond paste cookies.

There are service counters for coffee and breakfast food, sub sandwiches and pizza. There are also separate self-serve bars for vegetarian food, salads, soup, barbecue, chicken wings, and a “Taste of Asia” bar that features Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisine. There’s also a fresh sushi counter and both indoor and outdoor café seating for 250.

In a first for the Richmond market, the grocery store has The Pub, a full-service restaurant and bar that offers standard American fare. As a “tribute” to this being Wegmans’ southernmost store, they’ve included a double-dipped buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, says Kathy Haines, director of restaurant operations for the chain.

The Pub will also feature the Evelyn, a Hardywood-brewed beer made just for this Wegmans location. The Evelyn, a session IPA with 4.9 percent alcohol and 45 IBUs, is named for the brewmaster’s daughter.

“It’s got a nice grapefruit on the nose, but really balanced,” Haines explains.

For wine lovers, the store will have “Fine Wine Friday” during which they will open one of their more expensive bottles for tasting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“I feel excited,” says Jerry Shelly, manager of the Midlothian store. “Everybody’s pumped up. The community’s been fantastic to us.”

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