Wegmans Plans New Wine and Liquor Store, Culinary Center

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Wegmans Food Markets Inc. here said late last week it was seeking approval for two innovative projects in its hometown stomping grounds: a 19,000-square-foot venue in Pittsford, N.Y. that would sell wine and liquor; and a $28 million "culinary innovation center" in Chili, N.Y., which would operate as a corporate research and development facility and contain a new central kitchen.

The Pittsford location for the wine and spirits shop is already the site of Wegmans' flagship grocery store and its Tastings Restaurant, to which the new structure would be adjacent, according to local press reports.

Last year, Wegmans v.p. Nicole Wegman said she would form a separate company with the assets of Century Liquors and Wines of Greece, N.Y. The sale depends on her receiving approval for a state liquor license, a request that's still pending. The new company is to be known as Nicole's Wine and Spirits, Inc. Wegmans currently has wine shops in Virginia and New Jersey.

The transaction comes as a state senate committee is gearing up to consider changes to a law banning grocery stores from selling wine, with statewide hearings on the issue to begin late next month.

Wegmans' culinary innovation center will turn out products to be sold in the retailer's stores and enable it to shut down its existing meat center when the culinary center opens in mid-2008. Wegmans said it has determined that its ready-to-eat, case-ready and sausage/hot dog items could be procured from outside vendors at company standards.

About 60 people would work at the culinary center, while the meat center currently employs around 240, out of which about 150 are full-time workers. Meat center employees will be able to apply for positions at the new culinary center, with those not chosen who want to remain with Wegmans able to seek jobs elsewhere in the chain.

According to Wegmans spokeswoman Jo Natale in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the new center's goal is "to produce products that are unique and different."
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