If you don’t live in New York, which means you exist under a rock and your entire existence is meaningless, you might have missed the news that a Wegmans supermarket opened in Brooklyn last weekend. People lined up at 4 a.m. on Sunday in the rain to experience this gloriousness. No, it makes no sense to me, either. I guess you had to be there. Or put in in years of shopping in understocked New York City grocery stores without kiddie corrals.
Among those waiting in line (or “on line,” as New Yorkers say) was Jesse Wegman, a member of the New York Times editorial board. Wegman, who grew up outside Wegmans’ territory, had only visited a Wegmans store once, on a road trip through upstate New York, but throughout his life, he has fielded questions about whether he was one of those Wegmans.
I can relate! Well, kind of. In college, one of my nicknames was “Levittown,” although, as far as I know, my family isn’t related to that Levitt. My father did grow up in a Levitt house, built by his father, who was a bricklayer, and uncles—a contractor, painter, and another bricklayer—but those Levitt brothers stopped at one house each and then informed the next generation that none of them would be builders. And so it was. I do not know of a single Levitt relative now who can operate any tool more complicated than a screwdriver.
One advantage a Wegman has over a Levitt is that you can give someone a gift of Wegmans merchandise. Growing up, Jesse Wegman’s family had an entire pantry shelf filled with Wegmans peas and pasta and other unopened grocery items. And once, after Jesse was denied a Wegmans hat at a store, his mother called up corporate HQ to order him one, and once she gave her name, the person on the line was so awed, she offered to send an entire box of hats. For free! It turned out she shared the same first name as the Mrs. Wegman, but still.
Now Jesse Wegman has been to the promised land of those Wegmans and has seen the light. And his whole essay about the experience is pretty charming.