|The former Wegmans on Pond Street less than 24 hours after closing its doors.|
I have lived on the North Side for nearly 30 years. I bought my first house here and one of the reasons this section of the city appealed to me was its convenient location. One of those conveniences was the Wegmans store located a half mile from my house. I loved being able to "run up to Wegmans" when I was out of an ingredient for dinner or to pick up a muffin on Saturday morning. I almost always ran into people I knew and had a chance to catch up. I got to know many of the employees, including the young people whom I watched grow up over the years they were employed at this store. This was more than a grocery store for me and for many others in the neighborhood. It was essentially its heart.
|Sign coming down Saturday|
The company claims they closed this store due to a declining customer base and low profits. Their research concluded that only 10 percent of their customers did the majority of their shopping at this location. Well count me into that 10 percent - me and almost everyone I've spoken to since the June 1 announcement. No, I didn't go up to Wegmans once a week and load up my cart. My shopping habits are more sporadic. I buy what I need when I need it. Still, I was at that store at least four times a week (usually more).
We've all read the comments on syracuse.com and other sites regarding this closure. The perception seems to be that the North Side is some kind of thug-infested battle ground and people need to fear for their lives when they leave their homes. I read comments from people who claimed they felt they were taking their lives in their hands when they went to that store and felt the employees were in constant danger. While no one is arguing that the North Side is not what it used to be, it's not nearly as bad as some people want you to believe it is.
As elderly "lifers" die off and their children either rent their homes or sell them off, the texture of the neighborhood has changed, not always for the best. One only needs to look at the headlines to see that. But there are also many people who live here who are not drug dealers and thugs - working people like me and many of my neighbors. We who have transportation made a choice to shop at this store and I can say for myself, I went there at all hours of the day and night, and never once felt as though I was in any danger. And every time I went, I spent money.
I've already scoped out Dully's, which is three blocks from my house, and in response to the closure, is now offering chicken, meats and veggies. Those quick trips to Wegmans for something to cook for dinner, will most likely turn into "running down to Dully's." I want to support local, small businesses and stop propping up these corporations who clearly do not have the best interest of the people in mind. Sure, Dully's stands to gain business, but they were motivated to do this to fill a need.
The store is closed and there's nothing we can do about that. What we can do is to continue to lobby for the company to sell this property to another grocer. Wegmans needs to understand that they are going to lose money whether they sell to another grocer or not. If there wasn't enough business to sustain this location, there can't be that much for them to lose! And, once we're out of the Wegmans habit, we'll be shopping closer to home. I am not driving to James St. to pick up a few things for Saturday breakfast or for that late-night gallon of ice cream. Tops in Shop City is five minutes from my house.
Allowing another grocery store in this location will redeem Wegmans "community friendly" image, at least for those who depended on this store. In the end, they may actually gain back some of the disgruntled customers they lost over the way they handled this closure.
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