A Tale of Two Grocers

Before I move forward, I’d like to start by saying my family and I are as New Orleans-bred as you can get. I like my iced tea like I like my King Cake. With a LOT of sugar. Another thing I enjoy is cooking for my family.

My three kids and husband keep the grocery trips a regular event. Whether it’s a Wednesday supper or a fun baking project with my babies, Rouse’s Markets is always my go-to. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, even before I created NolaPapa.com, I shopped at Rouse’s. So, point blank, our current business partnership has no warrant in the opinions I am expressing today. I was quite taken aback when I was told we were to be moving UP to the Northeast portion of the country. Rochester, New York, to be exact.

My husband is an addiction psychiatrist and has accepted a job in a local emergency room. Everything I had ever known was about to be flipped upside down. I have lived in New Orleans for almost 25 years, by way of South Mississippi. I have never experienced cold weather of the likes we were about to endure. With all due respect to the region, it is gorgeous, the summer was spectacular and the fall was the most magical thing I have ever seen. With all of these changes happening, one obvious one was the experience of buying groceries.

Now, before I begin - please don’t take anything I say as offensive. This is only my account of grocery shopping with three kids in two different parts of  America. It is safe to say that we were quickly thrust into a new way of life. For a few weeks, Douglas kept telling me to go make groceries at Rochester’s version of Rouse’s, Wegmans.

When the time was right I finally did as he asked. When the kids and I walked in it immediately felt like a “shopping experience.” And can I just say, “Never have I EVER!” They have facades of sweet little villages inside with Italian string lights draped over the bakery and hot section. I suppose it’s to make it feel like a real market? Well, it works. It absolutely works. It almost feels like I am walking around Epcot in Disney World. And on the hour every hour, a large sale rooster comes out of the henhouse to crow. Afterwards,  the door opens and it goes back inside. All three kids LOVE this feature. I have to give it to them, it is pretty cute. Then, above the cheese section is a large oval train set that hangs from the ceiling. The locomotives pull cars the entire length of the dairy portion of the store. Shane is entranced by this!

And, can I just say, when the kids are happy PAPA IS HAPPY. Back home, depending on the stores where you buy groceries, each has a different experience. Honestly, what I love the most is their simplicity. When I make groceries, I want to be IN and OUT. Because of this, I even have my favorite Rouses to visit, on Freret Street. I can easily run circles around it in the time it takes to visit one Wegmans up north.

Another thing I was REALLY impressed with was how everyone returned the carts to the corral. Literally. I walked the Wegmans parking lot in search of a random buggy but was unsuccessful. Y’all. Come on. Every guest legit walked their cart back to its home. I watched them. It is an ethical thing to them. For us, it is also a safety thing. I get that. But we can still be a good human and return the cart. We can justify and rationalize all day. We need to return the darn cart!

Can we just talk about BRANDS? One thing that made me roll my eyes was the lack of National Branding. Most of EVERYTHING Wegman’s offers is their OWN brand.  Yes, from the toilet paper to the Dino chicken nuggets. This weirds me out, to be frank. The quality is good. Sure. But like, you are just not allowing any competitors? But y’all got damn good cheeses. I’ll give you that. Rouse’s has a family in Italy that gets many of their sauces, noodles, and such from there. And it is great. Honestly. And it isn’t overwhelming to me that every option is Rouses. I love my Rouse’s brand but I also love my national brand.

Speaking of competition, another thing that weirds me out about Wegmans is how there hasn’t been a GOOD grocery store in the CITY LIMITS of Downtown Rochester in A DECADE. The last Wegman’s grocery store in Rochester closed ten years ago, forcing people to go to surrounding suburbs like Pittsford. This is a VERY different area than downtown Rochester.

Downtown has sketchy places like Family Dollar or TOPS. The more  I looked into it, the more angry I got. I also found out that Wegmans pays big bucks to keep competitors away from downtown or any store they have! From the outside looking in, it looks like Wegman’s wants to remain the titan it is by bulldozing other competitors at all costs. This just weirds me out!

You see, coming from what I know of New Orleans, Rouse’s and the epitome of what they stand for aligns with the inclusion of us all. When I saw this for the 6 months we were there, the more I knew if I lived there, the city council would know me by name. They do here too but that’s neither here nor there. Ha! New Orleans could be one of the most crime-stricken places in America and the Rouse family has remained committed to opening stores where people need them most. I don’t see Wegmans doing that.


HOWEVER, for Christmas time they do sponsor a Christmas Ice Rink that is adorable. We never got to sit with a black Santa before and this year we got to!  The experience was free and they offer this great addition to downtown during December. The urban community of the downtown area in Rochester is very appreciative of this very kind gesture. I would think another gesture would be. to open a smaller, less flashy Wegman’s… ya know, so everyone can benefit.

I could go round and round but ya’ know that last thing that pushed me over was… BAGS. Oh Lord, the bags. I never EVER could remember to put the reusable in the car. I always had to pay for the paper bags. Which are fiiiiiine. But I REUSE my plastic bags for things. Uh- Save the world. I get it. Meanwhile, let me collect my little grocery bags under my sink, OK?

In a world of so many grocery stores, two will continue to grow. Both offer their interpretation of what making groceries mean to them. One thing I have learned, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. Papa will stick to Rouse’s Markets. Preferably the one on Freret, if not there then the one on Carrolton.