Update on Wegmans (food store) and walkability
9/28/2005 11:09:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I posted on Sept 20th about Wegman's - Can't they do more?
The walk is nice and about a mile each way from my home, if that. Three things I noticed? 1. there is no sidewalk that extends from the store. You have to walk in on a service road, and over uneven grass. 2. the streets and sidewalks along my route were in such poor shape, with garbage that had been there for months (doesn't anyone clean this area? DPW, etc?) 3. Why is there no public transportation that serves this store? The nearest bus stop seems to be a good distance away, with again, no sidewalk to get there.

Two conclusions: 1. Wegmans has an opportunity to improve it's accessibility and promote good health by making their stores accessible by foot/bike. 2. County/town/local officials should be forced to walk the streets of their district at least once every six months to get a feel for what the pedestrian experiences, and get a closer view of the area, not just in a passing car.
Well I did receive a response from John Mathewson at Wegmans by email, here it is:
Thank you for your recent comments. I agree that pedestrian access to the property is limited. We did look at this when the site was completely remodeled in ’99 and 2000. Because of the commercial setting on this part of Genesee St. and because of the lack of sidewalks on the street we elected not to put sidewalks in connecting to the road, as we did not want a sidewalk of ours to end at a very heavily trafficked street. We do have a sidewalk along the South side of the store going up the hill on Blueberry Dr. This links the residential area of the neighborhood to the store. We also have 3 crosswalks with stop bars and signs in the driving lane in front of the store to make it safer to cross this busy part of the parking lot. We also have curb cuts and crosswalks from our lot leading to McDonald’s and Tully’s as we accommodate overflow into our lot from these businesses. We have several traffic control signs in the parking lot and the entrance and exit roads designed to slow cars down and make it safer for anyone walking in our lot, whether they arrived on foot or in a vehicle.
He did do the following correct things for a response letter. He thanked me. He agreed with my premise. He acknowledged that there was an issue and that it had been included in the planning 6 years ago.

My response however is this:

I understand that a vast amount of money was spent on remodeling the Wegmans several years ago, and that this would have been the optimal time to address these issues. However, you did fail to mention why the business is not accessible by public transportation. As the price of gasoline rises, many will unfortunately be forced to use public or pedestrian means to travel to your store. Some of your workers currently travel on foot past my house, and down the same route that I take to your store. There will come a time (if it hasn't come already) where a worker making $7-9/hour at your store will find it "cost-ineffective" to fill up the gas tank with several hours worth of work of a part-time job, and more will join the ranks of the walking and those taking the bus.

I am not putting Wegmans down. I think that it is a wonderful store with many positive aspects including a growing organic foods section, and fresh produce and meats. You have constantly been ahead of the curve offering meal choices for diabetics, providing labelling for those customers who are looking for low-fat, vegan, or foods that avoid certain allergies. You promote healthy eating, and increasing intake of locally grown fruits and vegetables. (related to this blog - that is one of the most sustainable things that a grocery store can do is to cut down on food-miles)

My premise is this: Get out ahead of the curve on this one as well. Improve and promote your accessibility by foot and by bus. If your sidewalk ends on the town's street? Get the town to extend the sidewalk to the neighborhoods, you have clout as a large local employer who provides the local government with tax revenue. Promote gas-saving methods among your employees including carpooling and taking public transportation. Set an example for your customers. Let the public know that purchasing locally grown foods is not only good for the local economy, but promotes conservation of fuel - as food doesn't have to be trucked in from across the country. Energy costs and energy saving is on the minds of nearly every customer that you have. Many will be cutting back on purchases this winter as home heating bills cut into discretionary spending. Tap into that concern, and take the opportunity to lead the competition again going into the decline of cheap oil/gas.

p.s. another idea: why doesn't Wegmans produce a canvas or other reuseable bags that are inexpensive for customers to purchase aimed at reducing the amount of plastic bags used at your stores. You could sell them at the registers, and promote them upon entering the store. As an incentive for people to purchase and reuse them, you could provide the customer with a small discount in lieu of using the plastic bags that would normally cost you money. Say 1% off your purchase or a dollar off of a $50 purchase or something like that. a) you'd make money selling the reuseable bags (increased revenue), b) encourage their reuse with a discount and lower the number of plastic and paper bags you'd need to provide (decrease your cost), c) provide a environmentally concious way to shop at your store, reducing waste/energy cost and chemical production of the plastic bags (attracting/retaining customers) A win-win proposal for you and your customers. I figured I'd add that while I had your attention.
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On 2:34 PM , Anonymous said...

Regarding plastic bags

Locally, Fred Meyer's provides a 5 cent credit if you bring in a bag. I think Safeway does as well, so others in the area.
Trader Joe's has a drawing once a month for a $25 gift certificate. You enter each time you show and bring your own bag.

In Zurich, one of the stores charges a small amount for a plastic bag. The assumption is that you'll bring your own or else pay for one.

If Wegmans has a "Shopper Card", maybe they could award everyone after $100 (or whatever) with a canvas or GreenBag, instead of the rebate/savings.

Regarding Transit:
Call up your local transit agency and ask them to look into putting a bus stop near/at Wegmans. Or, it sounds like they need to move the bus route to actually pass the store.

Good luck!
An Anonymous Transportation Planner

On 6:51 PM , Liz Logan said...

Great letter! Keep us posted.

On 9:36 PM , Tim of Suburbia said...

I used to live in Buffalo and boy to I miss Wegmans! Piggly Wiggly and Winn-Dixie just don't stack up.

Actually, I'm hooked on Aldi's.