Upscale supermarket chain Wegmans is making moves to open its first Long Island grocery store.
The grocer has entered into a deal to buy 8.5 acres of land in a shopping center in the village of Lake Grove, where it plans to build a 100,000-square-foot supermarket, the Rochester-based chain announced in a statement Monday.
A timeline for construction and opening has not been established.
“Wegmans will be such a positive addition to our village, as it will help rejuvenate all of the retail in the area. The company has a reputation that will bring folks near and far into Lake Grove to do their shopping,” Lake Grove Mayor Robert Scottaline said in the statement.
The Wegmans would be located in the 28-acre DSW Plaza at Lake Grove at the corner of Middle Country and Moriches roads, the grocer said in the statement.
Prestige Properties and Development will continue to own and operate the rest of the shopping center.
Asked why Wegmans is choosing to enter the Long Island market, spokeswoman Laura Camera told Newsday that the grocer picks new sites based on several factors, including the properties being in densely populated areas and Wegmans wanting regional locations that are easy for customers to find and access.
Wegmans picked a good location for its Long Island store, since the village is centrally located and the shopping center property is across the street from Smith Haven Mall, Scottaline told Newsday on Monday.
“Smith Haven Mall used to be an anchor in the area but [that has declined] with online shopping. I think that Wegmans will become the anchor for the area,” he said.
Wegmans has not submitted any building plans to the village yet, Scottaline said Monday. He and other village officials will be meeting with Wegmans officials May 12 to discuss the project, he said.
The last supermarket in the DSW Plaza was a Fairway Market, which was 2 years old when it closed in July 2016, months after its Manhattan-based parent company’s bankruptcy filing.
But Wegmans would not be taking Fairway’s former space, said Jerry Welkis, president of Welco Realty Inc., the New Rochelle-based real estate firm that represented Prestige in the Wegmans deal.
Wegmans plans to demolish buildings in the shopping center to make space for its new supermarket, Welkis said. The new construction would include a site that holds an Ashley Furniture store, which will be relocating to another unit in the shopping center, he said. Also, a vacant Babies R Us/Toys R Us space will be demolished as part of the project, he said.
Founded in 1916, Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is a private, family-owned company that operates 106 stores in seven states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia. The company has more than 50,000 employees.
Wegmans typically hires 400 to 500 people for a new store, Camera said.
The chain has been focusing on expanding into new markets in recent years.
Wegmans entered New York City with a grocery store in Brooklyn in 2019. The chain's first Westchester County store opened in 2020, and it plans to open a Manhattan supermarket in 2023.
Last month, Wegmans announced that it was planning to open its first Connecticut store.
Wegmans is a popular supermarket chain because of its upscale appearance and the value it offers, said Jon Hauptman, senior director of Inmar Intelligence, a retail industry analytics company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“There is a degree of theater to their stores. They’re easy to shop. They’re fun to shop. There is always something going on … there’s always something interesting to see,” he said.
Also, the retailer has a strong selection of its own private-label brands, which helps it keep the prices of its center-store items comparable to those of most traditional supermarkets, he said.
Founding: John Wegman opened the Rochester Fruit & Vegetable Co., which marked the beginning of Wegmans Food Markets, in 1916.
Store features: A typical Wegmans has a Market Café with in-store seating, The Buzz Coffee Shop, a pizza shop, fresh sushi, an organic salad bar, a pharmacy and housewares, as well as the fresh produce, seafood and meat found in most traditional supermarkets.
Store count: 106 (48 in New York state, 18 in Pennsylvania, nine in New Jersey, 13 in Virginia, eight in Maryland, six in Massachusetts and four in North Carolina).
Company's 2021 sales: $11.2 billion
Source: Wegmans Food Markets Inc.