CARY, N.C. — Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is looking to enter North Carolina with a store here alongside the state’s Research Triangle.
The outlet would be the Rochester, N.Y.-based chain’s first outside of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. Its operating area includes New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.
The company is negotiating a lease for a site opposite the Cary Towne Center mall. It hopes to ink a deal during the first quarter of this year.
The 88-unit retailer is negotiating with Columbia Development Group, which has drawn up plans for 90 acres across from the mall including thousands of square feet of retail, restaurant and office space, plus some residences, structured parking and possibly a 130-room hotel.
Wegmans would join a highly competitive grocery market in Cary and western Wake County. Publix Super Markets Inc. entered Cary in 2014 — soon after a new Harris Teeter premiered in the area — and Publix plans two more outlets here, including one in a former Lowes Foods LLC store. Whole Foods Market Inc. is also unveiling a unit in the area, which lies beside the triangle formed by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
Lowes, meanwhile, has remodeled its remaining stores here and purchased land in Cary for another. Lidl, a Germany-based chain that competes with Aldi, is also endeavoring to enter the Cary and Apex, N.C., markets.
Wegmans, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, last year debuted in Concordville, Pa.; Alexandria, Va.; and Westwood, Mass. The store here would be the southernmost unit.
Its stores are said to provide a European open air market ambiance, with departments including Nature’s Marketplace (with natural and organic food), a cheese shop and a Mediterranean bar.
Wegmans topped Consumer Reports’ supermarket rankings last year. It drew high consumer ratings for freshness, baked goods and overall shopping experience.
The company also ranked No. 1 for corporate reputation among the 100 “most visible companies” in the 2014 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study.