It’s an event so rare, it happens only twice a year nationwide. And it will be just the fourth time in Maryland.
It’s a , and it’s coming to Abingdon at 7 a.m. Sept. 18. The store is off Emmorton Road near Maryland Route 24 and Interstate 95.
While store officials are calling the main attraction it's expected to draw customers from beyond even Harford County’s borders.
to an area where unemployment is higher than 7 percent. About 450 of the workers are from Harford County and 170 of the positions will be full-time. The No. 3 employer to work for in the country, according to Forbes, received a company-record to work in Abingdon.
“That is as important as opening our doors and selling groceries,” Jo Natale, director of media relations for the company, said Thursday. “The health of our community is just as important to us.”
Store Manager Al Jackson said the will have a local flavor, including its custom crab cake recipe that began at the Hunt Valley store, where he last worked.
“They’ll be competitive,” Jackson said. “We have a very good crab cake.”
He said the company does not expect to supplant local powers like Box Hill Pizzeria, which happens to be in the same shopping center as Wegmans' hiring offices. In fact, Natale believes Wegmans benefits local businesses, including .
“We face , national competitors in every market, even international, but you know what we see? We see that just before we [open], nearby , they’ll ,” she said. “People will drive long distances to shop with us. We actually bring business into a community.”
But it’s not just the grocery stores that are gaining a competitor. Wegmans' 220-seat Market Café and fireside seating—with a flat screen TV and free WiFi—serve as a quasi-restaurant, too.
But Natale said the store's and don’t make the products less affordable.
“We have consistently low prices, which means we figure out the lowest price we can charge all the time and we keep our prices constant,” said Natale, adding that the company put a price freeze on 40 “essential” products in February throughout 2011.
“A family could live on that list if need be,” she said. “So we wanted to put some certainty back into pricing for people.”
Food that falls below the quality threshold for selling inside the store, but can still be used, will be donated to local food banks. Community Relations Manager Linda Lovejoy has partnered with the Harford County Community Action Agency.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Lovejoy said. “You don’t want it to go to waste.”
The company’s 78th store will cover 122,000 square feet and feature produce from local farmers, such as Shaw Orchards, as part of its local growers program.
Natale said there will be no when the store opens its doors on the third Sunday in September, because that in itself is a significant event.
“If the community is half as excited as the people we hired to open the store,” Jackson said, “we’re going to have a great day.”