Wegman-ia! Massive upstate grocery store draws thousands on rainy opening day

Wegman-ia! Massive upstate grocery store draws thousands on rainy opening day
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Thousands of shoppers lined up during an early morning downpour to be among the first to buy groceries at a new supermarket in Fort Greene on Sunday.

Upstate retail chain Wegmans opened its first Five Boroughs branch inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Flushing Avenue, bringing the comforts of spacious suburban consumerism to Kings County, according to one patron.

“You live in New York and you’re used to grungy New York grocery stores,” said Carolyn Schiff. “It’s really big, it’s really clean, there’s a lot of space to move around because it’s not like a city grocery store where everything’s cramped.”

The store opened its doors to Brooklyn shoppers before dawn at 7 am on Sunday, but customers started showing up about an hour earlier to get a good spot among the whopping 700 parking spaces grocery gurus built over the ruins of admiral’s row and the hundreds of mature trees that once grew within the manufacturing complex.

“My friend arrived at 6:15 am and she had a spot six cars away from the entrance,” said Schiff. “I overslept, I didn’t get there until 7:30.”

Traffic along Flushing Avenue and Navy Street heading into the food emporium was gridlock throughout Wegmans’ opening day, as drivers inched their way towards the store’s massive 74,000-square-foot retail space.

Schiff said she chose to abandon her rideshare and walk the remaining few blocks to the supermarket because of the traffic jam.

Wegmans staff Jeff VanAtta, Kevin Butler and Morgan Eger enjoyed the upstate grocery emporium’s first day in Brooklyn.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

The masses of cars and people continued throughout the day, with vehicles moving at a snail’s pace along Flushing Avenue and lines snaking around the store.

All told, some 25,000 people made the pilgrimage to Wegmans on Sunday, breaking the company’s all-time opening day record, according to a spokeswoman.

“Despite heavy rainfall, hundreds of people lined up around the block before dawn yesterday,” said Valerie Fox in an email.

Schiff, who comes from Wegmans’s hometown of Rochester, NY, moved to Park Slope almost two decades ago and has been eagerly awaiting the store opening in her adopted home.

“I have a friend whose been teasing me about this for two years,” she said. “If you come from Rochester you grew up with Wegmans. It’s a way of life upstate.”

Wegmans [21 Flushing Ave., between Navy Street and N. Elliott Place in Fort Greene. www.wegmans.com, (347) 694–8510]. Open daily from 7 am-11 pm.

— Additional reporting by Jessica Parks

Thousands of shoppers braved the heavy downpour at the Flushing Avenue outpost.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@schnepsmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.