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Not sure what the Wegmans fuss is about

I guess I just don't see what all the fuss is about. It's only a grocery store, after all.

Others, however, I'm sure will argue that Wegmans is so much more than "just a grocery store."

And I must be mistaken, based on the number of people who were at Harford County's first store when it opened at 7 a.m. Sunday in Abingdon. Our reporter, Marissa Gallo, reported 1,000 cars in the parking lot. Assuming two people per car, that's 2,000 people who turned out for opening day.

My kids' day care provider, Miss Pat, said she went during the Ravens game, thinking it would be a little less crowded. "Boy was I wrong," she said. Apparently Wegmans can be just as big a draw as football.

I've always been a Klein's shopper. And to me, it will always be Klein's, not ShopRite. It's where my mom shopped, and it's where I worked. Perhaps I have a little bit of loyalty to the people who treated me well when I worked there, or maybe I just don't like change, but I've been shopping there since 1996 or so, when I moved out of my parents' house and had to start grocery shopping for myself.

I know the store, where things are, the people who work there — it's comfortable for me. (Except when they moved things around when it became ShopRite, that was annoying.)

I think their prices are good. Some things are more expensive there, some things are cheaper. Overall, I think it's reasonable. I'm not one of those super-coupon people, who scours all the grocery inserts each week and goes to each store to use a coupon on a sale item. I just don't feel like I have time for that. I use coupons, but I've been finding more and more that the generic (ShopRite) brand is still less expensive than the name brand on sale with a coupon. I don't buy everything generic; some things require brand: toilet paper, peanut butter, yogurt.

But back to Wegmans. I've only been in a store twice, both times in Hunt Valley. I think I was so overwhelmed by the place that I didn't get a chance to really get beyond the prepared foods section, the sushi bar, the café and meat and seafood counters and bakery.

A good friend of mine who lives in New Jersey shops at Wegmans all the time. Once you get past the showy parts of the store and into the regular shopping area, she says, the shopping is great. The Wegmans store brand is significantly cheaper than other stores near her, she said.

Miss Pat, who was shopping Sunday, said the store brand canned vegetables are 39 cents and boxed macaroni and cheese is $1.69. Sorry, but Klein's can't touch that. Other things were more expensive, like strawberries and blueberries; she can find those cheaper elsewhere, she said.

But like I said, I'm not going to one store for a few things, to another store for a few others. I want one-stop grocery shopping. Unless, of course, I need to pick up dinner on the way home from work. Then I'll stop at the most convenient place (working two blocks from another Klein's helps, I can just walk there during the day and not worry about having to tote the kids in with me). Wegmans would be beneficial in that instance, but it's not on my way.

I'm sure we'll be making a trip to Wegmans one day soon. My husband is super-excited one is open in Harford County. Not that he goes to the one in Hunt Valley often, but he's a little more enamored with the store than I am. It's not that I don't like it, I'm just ambivalent about it.

When some of the Wegmans staff from the Abingdon store sat down with us at The Aegis office, I asked them about people like me, who are pretty set in their ways. They said they understand people are brand loyal and will continue to shop where they've always shopped.

"We just hope you're interested to come once and will want to come back," Manager Al Jackson said.

I'll give it a try — maybe they'll make a believer out of me yet and I'll be one of the thousands of other people who won't shop anywhere else.

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