By MELISSA BROOKS, Special to the Local News
UPPER PROVIDENCE — There were occasional shopping cart traffic jams, but that’s to be expected when a store opening generates enough excitement that 1,500 people are lined up at the doors before 7 a.m. on a Sunday.
Sunday’s grand opening of the Collegeville Wegmans, located in the new Providence Town Center, was “a little busier” than most for the family-owned, 74-store supermarket chain, according to director of media relations Jo Natale, who’s been with the company for 24 years.
“We know people were really anxious for this store to open,” she said. “There’s a lot of excitement about The Pub.”
The Pub is a restaurant located inside the store’s Market Cafée. It’s the company’s first-ever full-service restaurant, where shoppers and diners can have a bite to eat and a cocktail while watching the chef prepare their orders.
Kevin Lang, who will serve as store manager when the Malvern Wegmans opens this summer, said, “People have been waiting for this.”
As employees prepared the Collegeville store for its opening, people would see their cars in the parking lot and ask if the store was open yet, Lang said.
Pennsylvania Division Manager Craig Hoffman expected about 12,000 people through the doors on opening day. Well before the store even opened, that same number of people applied online for shopper’s club cards.
Hoffman said the company expects the new store will attract some customers who’ve shopped at the Downingtown or Warrington stores.
Demand for work at the new store was strong, too.
Of more than 6,000 applicants, 600 were selected to work in the new store.
New to Wegmans as both a customer and employee is Lois Carroll of Skippack, who stood behind the “Create-a-Cake” station, whipping icing to top the “Ultimate White Cake” for customers to see and sample.
“It’s an experience,” she said.
For Tara Stewart of Royersford, the Collegeville Wegmans made her “want to stay and shop.”
“It’s just appealing,” she said.
The store’s size — 132,000 square feet — is also a plus, she said.
“I’ve never been in a Wegmans before. I’ll be coming here from now on,” Stewart said.
Hoffman said The Pub, packed Sunday, will serve as a model for future stores, including in Malvern and King
Mirella Paoloni of Berwyn sat in The Pub and enjoyed a glass of wine with her friend Caterina Iacobelli, who was visiting from the Poconos.
Iacobelli said it would be worth it for her to come back to the store for the kinds of Italian bread, prosciutto and parmesan that not all supermarkets carry.
“For us, it’s like a little slice of Italy in here,” Paoloni said, “without having to leave the country.”
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