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New Prince George's Wegmans becoming a social hot spot

Wegmans grocery store is gaining a reputation as the latest pickup place in Prince George's County.

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 12:38 AM

He slid next to Randi Frazier while she was eyeing the fresh fish. He had his eyes on something else.

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"How are you?" Frazier remembered him asking. She politely replied: "Good."

He told her he was from the area. An awkward silence ensued. "Maybe you can take my number?" he said.

"Sorry," said Frazier, of Capitol Heights, her shoulder-length black hair brushing against her gray wool jacket. "I'm married."

It wasn't the first time Frazier had fended off a request for her number since shopping at the new Wegmans in Prince George's County.

Indeed, Georgetown may have the "Social Safeway," but Prince George's has what many have dubbed "Club Wegmans." Singles hook up in front of bins of fresh produce; couples gather for dates in the grocery store's sit-down restaurant; and shoppers sway to music from overhead speakers, singing along with Prince, Luther Vandross and Teena Marie.

"[One] Saturday night, I saw a couple hand-dancing to a Rafael Saadiq song," said Ayana Douglas, the store manager, who plays R&B and smooth jazz on the store's sound system. "The couple was getting their boogie on."

Douglas brought in a live jazz band during the store's grand opening in October. After getting requests for more live music, she has decided to occasionally bring bands in on Friday nights.

"This is not your average supermarket," Kelly Webster of Upper Marlboro said one Friday night.

Webster, who has been in a relationship with his girlfriend, Andi Austin, for four years, said he has watched men approach women at Wegmans. "This is the new spot."

Austin, also of Upper Marlboro, smiled at what her boyfriend had to say. "Men will meet [a woman] anywhere," she said. "Especially when you don't have to spend any money."

Fireplaces and TVs

In the competitive grocery industry, today's stores have expanded far beyond being places where people run in for a quick gallon of milk or to fill the weekly shopping list. In some ways, they have come full circle to the general stores of old: They're community gathering spaces that enlarge the idea of one-stop shopping.

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