In my time away from Rochester, I haven’t missed much, but what I have missed most is Wegmans. North Carolina has stores that sell groceries but no grocery stores. The “premier” local offering is Harris Teeter. Good things about Harris Teeter…the stores are clean and well lit. The down side? They are over-priced; the meat counters are just that, counters with meat, no butchers; the bakery is very limited and mediocre in quality; produce is hit-or-miss in terms of freshness; staff can be hard to find, much less someone knowledgeable enough to answer a question; ethnic foods comprise one half of one aisle, that’s kosher, Mexican, & Asian; lines are long; self-checkout is open sporadically.
After growing up with Wegmans, grocery shopping in North Carolina is tough. Sausage only comes cased, lamb is only available at Easter, most cuts of meat available are designed strictly for grilling, stores carry mostly hot house produce, prepared foods are the equivalent of Boston Market and often sit for days, there is a general lack of diversity in the aisles, shopping often requires going to multiple stores.
Things are so pathetic that frequently travel to the nearest Wegmans in Sterling, Virginia which is 400 miles away. Even with the ridiculous cost of gas, driving to Wegmans and doing my shopping there costs no more than doing the same shopping in Charlotte. Yes it takes all day to drive up and back, but it is a beautiful drive and only requires going to one store, not three. Another plus is that I can actually buy the products I grew-up with: Zweigle’s hot dogs (nothing beats a white hot), Boss Sauce, Country Sweet Sauce, real bagels (not these Wonder Bread rings they sell down here), Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans, Anchor Bar Wing Sauce, Genny Cream Ale, just to name a few. I can also find any ingredient to practically any recipe ever written and wine to go with it. Yes Wegmans is a “high-end” store, but the Wegmans brand is superior to most name brands and to pricing to comparable to other store brands.
Several of my friends and neighbors are from Wegmans-country, so when I make a trip I always end up picking things up for everyone else. We have heard rumors about a Wegmans in Raleigh and would all gladly travel the 2.5 hours to shop there regularly.
It is amazing what one will do for decent food! While I realize that I take it to an extreme, I am not the only person who goes out of their way to shop at Wegmans.