Matt Palmer lives across the street from a Fairway in Kips Bay. But when it’s time to grocery shop, he rents a car and drives 330 miles northwest.
The 26-year-old sports-media professional is a Wegmaniac: a lifelong devotee of Wegmans, the cult-favorite Rochester, NY-based chain beloved for its fresh, reasonably priced groceries and prepared foods.
Every two or three months, he and his cousin and roommate, Ben Kroll, trek to their hometown of Pittsford, an affluent suburb of Rochester, to visit family — and shop at Wegmans.
Palmer, who’s made the drive since 2015, stuffs the trunk of his car “with enough food to supply me until the next time I go home.” Must-haves include family packs of Wegmans-brand chicken breasts and salmon that he’ll shove into an insulated cooler bag, then immediately throw in his freezer when he returns to Manhattan — another 330 miles later.
When Palmer’s mother comes to Manhattan, he’ll send her a grocery list of items to bring, including the brand’s popular basting oil made with sunflower oil, garlic and herbs.
When friends ask Palmer why he doesn’t just shop at city markets, he tells them, “It’s not as good.”
“It’s sad for a 26-year-old man,” he adds, “but it is what it is.”
That’s about to change. The long-awaited Brooklyn Wegmans will open its doors Sunday in the Navy Yard. It’s the five boroughs’ first outpost of the chain, which has 100 locations throughout New York and down the East Coast to North Carolina and routinely tops Consumer Reports’ annual list of the country’s best grocery stores. Superfans have their shopping lists ready.
“I’m gonna push through to the front of the crowd,” says Park Slope resident Suzanne McKenzie, a 29-year-old editor. She plans to arrive at 7 a.m. with her friend, a fellow Wegmaniac. “We want to christen the store.”
McKenzie grew up down the street from a Wegmans in Canandaigua, NY. Her childhood favorites were the store’s peanut-butter-filled pretzels and cookie cake.
“[Wegmans] was basically the social center of our town,” says McKenzie, who would spend her Friday nights at the supermarket, buying candy in bulk and finding a movie to rent with friends. “I definitely want to load up on stuff, but I also just want to enjoy the atmosphere.”
Max Platoff, a 32-year-old Pittsford native who works in real estate, and his wife, Grace Kim, are also overjoyed about the opening — so much so that, three years ago, the couple deliberately rented an apartment near the forthcoming location.
“[We’ll be there] multiple times per week,” says Platoff, who loves the store’s house-made pizza and sushi. When he moved from Pittsford to south Williamsburg in 2009, he missed the supermarket fiercely. “It was pretty devastating,” he says. “Not only was there no Wegmans, there wasn’t really any large grocery store around. So I was shopping at local delis and it was really disillusioning.”
Some Wegmaniacs have their eye on openings beyond the Brooklyn store.
Meghan Golden, 33, a native of Syracuse suburb Jamesville, currently lives in Hoboken with her husband and 1-year-old daughter, but the family is looking to buy a place in Westchester. Conveniently, a Wegmans is set to come to the area in the spring.
“When I found out Wegmans is opening in Harrison, I was like, ‘OK, we can definitely move there now,’ ” says Golden, who’s pursuing a career in education and grew up eating the store’s rainbow-chip cookies. “Nothing was ever going to compare or compete with Wegmans. It’s like the Holy Grail.”
Superfan Palmer is stoked to pick up turkey sandwiches from the new Brooklyn location.
“The bread’s big and thick, and it’s like two or three meals in [one],” he says. “It’s better than anything I’ve had around here.”
But he and Kroll still plan to make regular trips to Pittsford to shop at their hometown store.
“Can’t have Danny Wegman” — the chain’s chairman — “hunting us down and being upset,” says Kroll. “You gotta rep what’s your own.”
Organic basting oil, $8.99
Palmer and Golden love Wegmans’ popular flavorful blend of sunflower oil, garlic and herbs. “If I make Brussels sprouts, I coat them in that with some salt,” says Golden.
Boneless and skinless chicken breasts family pack, $1.99/pound
Palmer makes a point to stock up on these when he goes to Pittsford. It’s a really good deal, he says, and it “will last me a month or two.”
Sunday Sauce meal, $4.99
Wegmans is famous for its prepackaged foods, and this jarless Nonna’s sauce with sausage, meatballs and pork loin is a customer fave.