Wegmans Astor Place
By Ede Rothaus
On a recent windy and chilly afternoon this reporter joined the long line of fellow New Yorkers that snaked down East 9th Street in pursuit of our common goal: to explore and shop at the brand-new Wegmans Astor Place supermarket.
Located on Astor Place between East 8th and 9th Streets (official address: 770 Broadway) this is the only Manhattan outpost of the longtime family-run Rochester, New York-based grocery chain.
Wegmans Astor Place fills its two floors with 87,500 square feet of food and merchandise. Friendly and energetic employees, some with their names embroidered on crisp white uniforms, seem to be everywhere to help.
The street level features prepared foods and bakery, a small floral selection, restroom and that rarity–a rack stacked with most of New York’s daily newspapers. Wegmans prides itself on its baked-in-house sourdough bread and pastry. While there is no salad bar, there are extensive choices of prepared ready-to-go salads, meals, hot Asian food, chicken wings and soup. The store does not have a cafe although it plans to open a full-service restaurant in the coming months.
The lower level features conventional and organic produce, grocery and dry goods items, dairy products, an exceptionally large selection of beer and, at its very center, seafood and sushi.
The Sakanaya (Japanese for ‘fish market’) offers an extensive selection of excellent quality local fish and seafood along with some from Japan’s top suppliers. Due to Wegmans long relationship with Uoriki, a prominent Japanese fishmonger and retailer based in the famous Tsukiji fish market, fresh seafood deliveries are made to the store several times a week.
A master fish cutter from Tsukiji is now working at the center counter and shouts out loud at prospective customers beckoning to them to let him cut and slice their selection. The best part of the store for this shopper.
A Landmarked Location
Wegmans owns more than 100 East Coast stores. The Astor Place location is a New York City landmarked designated building, site of the original John Wanamaker Department Store. Working closely with support from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, their common goal was to restore the exterior facade of the building as closely as possible to its original design elements.
Built and designed between 1903 and 1907 by the Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, the building was part of the Renaissance Revival movement popular at the time. The 15-story steel framed building, utilizing limestone and terra cotta, was one of the first of its kind in the United States. As part of the restoration, windows made of green glass were installed to match those of the original building and the main entry door was moved to its initial location.
The new store’s interior also offered its restoration challenges as over the years previous tenants had gutted it. Historical photographs were used for reference. During the construction process, original store elements were found that aided in design decisions. Terrazzo flooring, widely used when the building was originally constructed, is now used again throughout the store. Large columns in the basement level were restored and integrated into the floor plans.
Wegmans Astor Place
770 Broadway -entrance on Astor Place between East 8th and 9th Streets
Open 7am -11pm 7 days a week.
Closed on Christmas Day.