Iconic Wegmans opens in New York, Jamaican fruits on display
It’s more than a supermarket. It is a lifestyle infused with health and nutrition; and the owners of the Wegmans Food Markets, which recently opened its Manhattan outlet in New York, say they plan to share more of Jamaica with their customers.
The company recently opened its Manhattan outlet on Astor Place and has been turning heads with the wide variety of fresh international food at the location.
From pastry to poultry and vegetables to vibrant fruits, all were on display when the doors were officially opened to the two-storey feeding oasis, clutched in the city. In fact, every day at Wegmans is infused with wines and liquor, tantalising foods and an international cultural appeal.
This celebration of foods encompasses bread made from locally grown wheat, charcuterie from Spain and Italy, and aged Bushido and Wagyu from Japan. Then there is beef from cows that only feed on a particular grass, allowed to grow at a particular height, which, as explained by owner and operator Danny Wegman, results in the most ‘tender beef one has ever had,’ according to owner and operator Danny Wegman.
To put things in context, the building itself, which has some 90,000 square feet, is one of the largest in the chain, and only a portion of it is anything resembling a traditional supermarket. The rest is a large-scale dining hall with tonnes of prepared food to choose from.
There is also a bakery, with items made from home-grown ingredients, and a cave where cheese from all origins, shapes, sizes, and textures are stored. Not to be outdone, vegans are also represented with a section catering to their nutritional needs, and the fish-slicing show, which has become a signature move is a spectacle to behold.
“This is a magical place and I think it is the culture and the people who love working here,” highlighted Paula Kerr-Jarrett Wegman, social entrepreneur and Jamaican-born philanthropist.
“The products are always fresh, and you know you are getting quality. No matter what, it’s the same standard of service at every store, and that is just incredible,” she said, as she hoped to bring more Jamaican and Caribbean options to the establishments.
Danny and Paula tied the knot in 2019, and with Danny’s 50-year affinity to Jamaica, and Paula’s commitment to her homeland, the husband and wife duo are bent on showcasing the island’s produce.
“I would like to sell more fruits from the island in my stores but the inconsistency of the supply chain from the island is one of the challenges of doing so,” Danny acknowledged. He continued, “The one food that Jamaica makes that is better than anywhere else in the world is fruits, whether it is mangoes, avocados, or papayas; it is just incredible!”
“Every now and again we celebrate when these fruits come in but I can’t have it all the time, and that’s the problem,” he added, noting the high demand for fresh fruits at his outlets.
According to Paula, they just started importing avocados, which she is very happy about. “I think Danny did that for me,” she quipped. In Jamaica, Paula has worn many hats, from businesswoman to lawyer and now, she specialises in fine dining.
Founded in 1916 in Rochester, New York, the iconic Wegmans chain has grown over the decades, now serving communities in eight states in the US, and employing some 53,000 individuals. The company, which has appeared on Fortune’s annual ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’, currently operates 111 outlets, with the Manhattan branch, which opened last month, being the newest.
The couple say they plan to open seven new stores in the near future, within which more Caribbean food will be on display. This is particularly needed in New York which is home to many diaspora groups.
“There are some things that I have always wanted to do in Manhattan. As you can see it is quality foods that we concentrate on and I always thought Manhattan would enjoy what we do. So, we are so happy to be here,” shared Danny.
“We needed the right audience, and New York seemed to be the right audience for it,” he added.
During a visit by The Gleaner, the cheese cave appeared to be the most prominent and memorable feature. “Danny loves cheese. We all do. But when he was going to France years and years ago he couldn’t figure out why their cheese tasted so good, and when he brought it back here it just didn’t taste the same. Why? Because there were cheese caves over there. And, here we have the only cheese cave in America,” Paula explained.
“It is basically a room that is temperature and humidity controlled. All of the machinery is flown in from France. So it is a state of the art for people that know what they are doing. It really helps us to age our own cheese, and that is any of the cheeses,” he explained.