Often-snubbed Pr. George's scores the grocery grail: Wegmans

A throng of customers lined up outside Wegmans in Prince George's County to be among the first to shop in the county's first high-end grocer and the specialty chain's seventh store in the greater Washington region.
Map of new Wegman's in Prince George's County.
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 11:51 PM

There will be plenty of swooning this Sunday over the wheels of Parmesan that roll in from Italy, the tilapia al fornoto go and the posh gourmet butter bar.

That's a given when a Wegmans opens. The grocery store's groupies camp out in the parking lot the night before an opening; they blog about it; they wear their "I (Heart) Wegmans" shirts; they sing the Wegmans' song and dance to the store's special cheer.

If all that didn't tip me off, the Wegmans truck Pez dispenser did. This place is a cult.

But when this particular Disneyland for foodies opens in Prince George's County at 7 a.m. Sunday, the triumph will be far, far sweeter than the fabled grocery store's patisserie section.

Ready, Prince George's residents? Face west, put your thumb to your nose and wiggle your fingers toward Montgomery County with all you've got.

You won!

Montgomery got the Nordstrom. It got the Cheesecake Factory. It got way too many health clubs. But despite Montgomery's online groups, petitions and endless, whiny love letters begging for a Wegmans, Prince George's beat them on this one.

"Finally, finally, we can say we have something that Montgomery County does not have," Arthur Turner told me this week. The community activist who has fought for better restaurants and shops in Prince George's for more than a decade said he's been beaming, "smiling a Kool-Aid jug smile" all week.

This is a big step toward ending the red-lining of Prince George's, he said.

"We don't have a Whole Foods; we don't have a Trader Joe's; we don't have a Clyde's restaurant; we don't have a Sport & Health," he explained.

This has been a point of insult and outrage for one of America's wealthiest predominantly African American communities.

Whole Foods has a warehouse in Landover. "They store their food here, they make their food here, but they won't open a store to sell food to the people who live here," Turner said. "And there is a pent-up need here. People are tired of it."

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