I have never been to Wegmans nor do I know anything about it. Forget the chain grocers, we have a plethora of incredible ethnic grocers from all over the world in Chicago.
Chicago is a true representation of what a melting pot represents. It has what most of America does not...one of the most diverse populations in the US. It's full of Greeks, Mexicans, Hungarians, Poles, Colombians, Vietnamese, Thai, a number of African's from many countries, Filipinos, Haitens, etc, etc, You don't have to travel far to stumble on Chicagolands amazing ethnic grocery stores like; Alpine, Riviera, Bari Foods, Kurowski's, Bobaks, Gimart's, middle eastern grocery, Cermak produce, Athenian grocery, Al Kayhayam, etc, etc,
Well, the thing about Wegman's is that from what I understand, they are in mid-sized markets (i.e. cities that can't support smaller ethnic grocery stores). In cities where there are Wegman's, if I understand it, EVERYBODY shops there.
And furthermore, Wegman's is the kind of place that if they don't have it, it probably doesn't exist. It has a HUGE produce section, probably 3 times a Jewel or Dominicks, and it carries a lot of ethnic and specialty items. It also has a fishmonger, cheese monger, butcher, bakery, bulk item selection, prepared foods, and food court, in addition to their "regular" grocery store...plus a drug store. I'm probably forgetting some of the specialty sections of the store. PLUS their store brand is generally cheaper and better than name brands.
It's almost like a Whole Foods, but MUCH bigger, comprehensive, and reasonably priced.
SO, while ethnic grocers are great (I go all the time) Wegman's is a completely different experience. I would love for them to have a location here. I would imagine that it would have to go to the suburbs, though, because of the sheer size of the place.
As much as I like Wegman's, I would have to say that I would far rather have the great number of small INDEPENDENT grocers that we have in the city of Chicago AND the Chicagoland suburbs (and there are many),
Despite their lack of buying power, the independents generally beat the large chains in customer service, price, and quality.
One stop shopping implies that you can get the best at one market, and you can't, not even Wegman's.
Many of the independents are in the Certified or Central Grocers (Centrella) buying groups, so they benefit from some pretty good buying power. Chicago's good network of smaller wholesalers for produce and meats really helps in both quality and price compared to the centralized warehouses used by the big chains. That stage compromises quality, limits sources for other than lowest common denominator products and adds a layer of costs.
Other cost advantages come from few independents being unionized while none have the level of managerial overhead needed by the big chains. The lower managerial overhead also helps in nimble decision making.
The independents we shop in also seem to do a much better job of training the workers in the produce departments than do Jewel or Dominick's. This training affects quality, waste (another cost issue) and customer service.
My wife is from Rochester, NY and I've been to Wegman's and there is NOTHING like Wegman's here. The selection, quality, and price can not be matched.
When we go grocery shopping here in Chicago always have to hit at least 2 or 3 stores (plus a drug store) to get things done. My wife always complains that if we just had a Wegman's we could make one trip and be done.
I love Wegman's sandwiches, too.
I love Wegman's (although my experience with Wegman's has been in Rochester, NY, rather than MD). What I always loved there was the great selection of prepared foods and bakery items, and the friendly service (I was a teenager at the time and I wasn't really up on comparing prices). Chicago doesn't have any one grocery store or chain that matches up with Wegman's.
We have some excellent, high-end gourmet grocery stores - like Fox & Obel, and even Whole Foods, with excellent prepared foods, but prices to match. Our more down-to-earth grocery chains, like Jewel and Dominicks don't have the same quality of prepared foods (although that varies from store to store).
Some locations of Treasure Island are great, and not as expensive as F & O or Whole Foods, but the one I usually go to is a smaller locations with limited selection.