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Correction to This Article
This article about the opening of a Wegmans store in Prince George's County misstated the last name of the supermarket chain's chief executive. He is Danny Wegman, not Danny Wegmans.

Pr. George's takes a bite of economic equality with weekend opening of Wegmans grocery store

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 Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 7:59 PM

When the glass doors at Wegmans in Prince George's County glide open at 7 a.m. Sunday, shoppers will be stepping into a place that symbolizes the county's continuing transformation.

For a county without any other high-end grocers - no Whole Foods, no Trader Joe's, no Harris Teeter - officials and residents describe it as an impressive achievement.

"One thing about Wegmans is they are very selective in terms of decisions on location," said Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association. "They are not going to open a store and in two years close it. They are good about picking locations that make a profit."

For decades, residents of Prince George's have complained about being snubbed by the business community, arguing that the wealthiest majority African American jurisdiction in the country is underserved by retail stores and restaurants. The opening in 2008 of National Harbor, a multibillion-dollar, mixed-use development on the Potomac River, expanded the options.

But county officials hope the arrival of Wegmans, which will now have just seven stores in the greater Washington area - Montgomery County doesn't even have one yet - signals the county's climb toward economic equality.

"They are known for the highest of standards," said County Executive Jack B. Johnson.

"It's a really big deal for us, considering how many others have asked for stores."

Developer Walter Petrie said it is the first time Wegmans has opened a store in a mostly minority market. "It was difficult," he said. "It took a lot of help from a lot of people."

For the past two years, county leaders had met with other upscale grocers about opening in Prince George's but none had made a move, said Kwasi Holman, the president and chief executive of the Prince George's County Economic Development Corp.

"The retail market crashed," he said. "So it's an ongoing process."

Changing the landscape

Wegmans is one of four anchor stores in a new 245-acre, mixed-use development that will create a mini-city just off the Capital Beltway about a mile from FedEx Field.

Woodmore Towne Centre at Glenarden will eventually consist of 800,000-square-feet of retail space, one million-square-feet of office space, two hotels and 1,100 residential units. Costco, Best Buy, Petco and JCPenney are also tenants. Best Buy opened last month, Costco plans to open next week and JCPenney will open in spring 2011.

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