The retailer's story began like that of many other businesses: In 1916, two brothers, John and Walter Wegman, started a humble produce pushcart, which soon turned into a brick-and-mortar market, in upstate New York. A few years later, the brothers purchased the Seel Grocery Co., a local shop, and turned it into a full-scale grocery store and bakery called Wegmans Food Market in 1921.
The Wegman brothers soon opened an even larger store, stuffed with a vast variety of meat, produce, dairy, and baked goods. But the real game-changer was a newfangled 300-seat cafeteria.
Up until then, grocery stores were only places you could go to pick up ingredients for a meal. "The Wegmans saw a need to invest in takeout foods and do it right," says Jordan LeBel, another self-proclaimed Wegmaniac, who also happens to be an associate professor of food marketing at Concordia University. The company put millions of dollars into building kitchens and hiring professional chefs for each location. "It was a bit of a gamble in the late '80s," he says, "but they were able to produce in-house cafeterias with a level of craftsmanship that rivaled restaurants."