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King of Prussia Wegmans charms local shoppers

After 16 years, the Wegmans King of Prussia store finally opened Sunday, May 6 and continues to draw customers by the thousands.

After patiently waiting for 16 years, Helene and Marc Cohen were finally able to set foot in the new Wegmans Food Market in King of Prussia.

The Ardmore couple, hardly strangers to the megastore chain, were eager to attend Wegmans' grand opening, but realized the store would be overcrowded. Since they were both off from work on Monday, the Cohens decided to stall the excitement by one day.

"We've been to the Wegmans in Mt. Laurel, Cherry Hill, Collingwood and Malver...we were so thriled when we heard this one was opening," Helene Cohen, 60, said. "It's big, and it has everything. I can get everything I need, all in one trip."

The sentiment is one shared by the sheer volume of shoppers filling the King of Prussia store's parking lot to capacity, and purchasing carts full of groceries, toiletries and the diverse assortment of Wegman products.

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 8, about 15,000 customers came out for the store's opening day on Sunday and those like the Cohens, who waited until Day 2, were among the estimated 5,000 shoppers in the store by midday.

The store, which sits on land previously occupied by the Valley Forge Golf Club, is the 80th Wegmans in six states and the 15th in Pennsylvania.

Turnout over the past two days demonstrates the chain's ability to cultivate a loyal and large following.

"It was atypical of an opening in that people came here and actually shopped," said Kevin Lang, the store manager of Wegmans in King of Prussia.

Lang, who helped opened the Wegmans in Malvern in July 2010, said that the allure of Wegmans isn't just the product, but also the employees.

Employees even gush about Wegmans, given that the Rochester, NY-based chain is continually voted one of Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work since the recognition's inception 15 years ago.

Lang said that Wegmans offers a rigorous training training program to help workers understand the importance of giving satisfactory service. Lang believes its this kind of support that fosters store loyalty among employees, which in turn affects customers' perceptions.

"People love to be happy at work, and when they're happy at work, they're more than happy to help customers," Lang said.

Wegmans King of Prussia Food and Human Safety Coordinator Bill Peters couldn't agree more. Peters has worked for the company for three years, first at the Collegeville location, and then with the opening of the Malvern branch.

"Wegmans respects its employees, it wants to hear from them," Peters said. "It helps workers feel more confident about what they do. Customers can see that."

Worker confidence is not the only thing customers see.

When customers roll in with their shopping carts, they're greeted not only by smiling employees, but also the end-all-be-all of supermarkets.

Wegmans carries a plethora of organic offerings, as well as foods that cater to people on diet restrictions, such as those who are vegetarians or have allergies to foods containing gluten.

The store has the typical grocery necessities and those not quite necessary, but nonetheless fun, such as countless beer options, prepared foods from fruits and veggies to Thai cuisine and the pub, a new edition to Wegmans.

For customers like 38-year-old Amy Ziegler, the new Wegmans location means grocceries and supplies of Whole Foods-caliber at a bargain price.

"Everything – they're prepared foods, organics – it's all laid out very nicely," the Drexel Hill resident said. "It's so great, it's a little overhwhelming."

Cohen of Ardmore felt the King of Prussia store wasn't so much overwhelming as it was organized differently from its sister stores, which is part of the reason she and her 61-year-old husband will enjoy shopping at this location near their home.

"The kosher meats are all in a 'kosher meats' section, whereas at other locations, the meats are mixed," Cohen said. "It's like a quick shopping method, and those who need to find a specific item quickly are going to be thankful for shopping here."