Chapel Hill Wegmans

The rumors started when the car dealerships on 15/501 started moving, a Wegmans was coming to Chapel Hill. Or was a Wegmans’ coming? Years we waited. First the old buildings for three car dealerships with all the parking lots surrounding were torn down, then the land lay fallow. Through multiple springs and summers nothing happened. Finally last year small stakes appeared on the empty land and then a foundation, some walls and acres of parking.

Yes, Chapel Hill, it is a Wegmans. It opened last week. Everyone I know went. I heard that despite the cavernous size people were shoulder to shoulder. So I stayed away. My friend Kathi and her husband Steve, who really don’t cook, even went as if on a date, perusing the whole store for hours.

People asked me my opinion. I had none. I hadn’t gone. The advice I got was, “go early on a weekday morning to avoid the crowds.” So I did that this morning. The parking lot felt very full, but perhaps because of the circuitous route you have to take in it. The store had lots of shoppers and it seemed like an equal number of workers, but I was able to social distance from them all.

The produce section was big and full of fresh fruits and veg, but it should be since the store just opened. Russ needed chili peppers and the selections were slim on those, but the mushrooms were plentiful. I was able to get two packages of our favorite Lion mushrooms and previously I have only gotten those from the mushroom grower at the farmer’s market.

As I was looking for miso paste I was directed to the “fermented foods” refrigerator case. I have never been in a store in the US with a whole case dedicated to fermented foods. There was also a huge case of horseradish with six different types. Usually I am hunting for the only horseradish between the refrigerator canned biscuits and the individual servings of cozy brand rice pudding at the Harris Teeter. One thing I loved was a “G” scale train that ran on a track suspended from the ceiling above the fermented and fresh pasta cases.

I window shopped the large selection of vegetable based meats in the freezer since Russ loves those. Across from the vegetarian/vegan freezer cases was the gluten free aisle. It certainly did appear that if you have any special diet Wegmans has an aisle for you. On the other hand I had a hard time finding the eggs and when I did I had to wait for three other people in front of me to make their selections because the eggs were in a small glass door case. Seemed like horseradish was given more space than eggs.

I did not go down all the health and beauty aisles or the canned goods, but I wound my way over passed the cheese, deli, charcuterie sections on my way past meats/game/poultry on my way to seafood. I was there to find a good fish for dinner and I was not disappointed in the selection. I got two hunks of mahi mahi. The fish monger could not have been kinder. I am going to have to take Russ over to shop the “smoked fish” display which is its own tall refrigerator case. I skipped the bakery and just did a drive by of the Poké bowl station and all the other lunch type foods of pizza, made to order subs and the like.

The store is really perfect for people who don’t cook as it seems like you could get any meal you might want pre-made. I would like to get to spend a little time with the right glasses on going up and down the aisles just looking at what is available as inspiration for new recipes, but I think I need for the newness of the store and perhaps the whole pandemic to be over before I can do that. Wegmans will certainly give other stores a run for their money, but since nothing was very cheep, except the large container of cherry tomatoes, it is going take the top end shoppers from Whole Foods and Fresh Market. I think Food Lion shoppers will still be Food Lion shoppers and quirky Trader Joe’s devotees may stop in at Wegmans, but still love TJ’s. Bottom line, while everyone is still cooking at home most of the time due to the pandemic Wegmans will be busy.

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