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Wegmans' Patriarch Passes

On April 25 Rochester, N.Y., shoppers and supermarket executives paid their respects to Robert Wegman, who passed away five days earlier at that city's Strong Memorial Hospital. Wegman, chairman of the 70-store supermarket chain Wegmans, was 87.

Wegman's father Walter and uncle Jack founded Wegmans in Rochester in 1930. The 20,000-square-foot store was revolutionary for its time, and included a 300-seat cafeteria and refrigerated and misted food cases. After Jack passed away in 1950, Robert inherited the presidency of the company at age 31. In the spirit of innovation, Wegman helped redefine grocery stores as one-stop supercenters, and Wegmans outlets came to be known for their multi-ethnic selection of food as well as shopper amenities like cafes and childcare areas.

Wegman took a leading role in developing a Universal Product Code. He was also well known for employee retention: Based on salaries, healthcare coverage, scholarship assistance and other benefits, Wegmans made Fortune magazine's “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for nine consecutive years.

Today Wegmans has stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland, employs 35,000 workers, and reported $3.8 billion in sales in 2005. Wegman's son Danny was named CEO of the company in 2005 after serving as company president since 1976; Danny's daughter Colleen has since assumed that rule. The company did not disclose Wegman's cause of death.

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