Adult 623 #4: What the Steinbergs could learn from the Wegmans


Can I let you in on a secret?  Wegmans Food Market will open 3 stores in Central Virginia in 2016!  Hold on to your hats…one will come to the Midlothian area, one to Henrico-Goochland and one to Charlottesville!

What’s so exciting about Wegmans?  

Consider what my Yankee Facebook friends had to  say-

  • It is the BEST!!!! I cannot wait for Wegmans to get here!
  • I LOVE Wegman’s! So excited for it to come here.
  • Love it! Great store!!!!
  • OMG – WEGMAN’S is an amazing store. I wish to God we could get them to open in CT. , our mom’s group would go to Wegmans, put our kids in the supervised playroom and go and have a cup of coffee together. Seriously life-saving for me!
  • I’m dying for it to open. I love it!
  • I love Wegmans!! I used to shop there all the time when I was in Fredericksburg. I miss it!
  • Awesome! Highly recommend it!
  • Love it. Stop every time we head north.

What makes this store so appealing to customers? A look at the culture of the organization may provide the evidence for the theatrics of my friends-

Wegmans Best Place to Work    Wegmans was identified as one of the top 100 companies to work for over the last 18 years, according to Fortune Magazine.  In 2005, it was named “the” best place to work. To suggest that the organization is the best company in the world to work seems like a stretch but look closer-

  • Routinely named the best supermarket in the US
  • Has a “cult-like” following (see above comments)
  • Follows the “Be an extraordinary” employer format
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Broad career-track opportunities
  • Scholarship program approx. $81 million
  • Adoption assistance program

Wegmans provides an amazing customer experience, they considered new innovations such as bar coding before other organizations. They practice being a force for good in their community.  Their magnetic appeal was made public when the actor Alex Baldwin told David Letterman that his mother refused to move to the West Coast because she would need to leave behind Wegmans!  What followed was a commercial with the actor’s mother in 2010.

Diversity, hiring the best and a true commitment to training allows this organization to serve a community better than most grocery stores.  A team that reflects the community engages shoppers with superb service.

“We have to respect thoughts from different people. that’s where diversity begins. It’s a respect for differences.” Danny Wegman, CEO

The motivating culture is comprised of a value in recruiting and training individuals. A way in which they sustain the culture is to recruit and retain employees who fit.  Team members are then “socialized” into their positions.  Stores open when employees are fully prepared. Behaviors that are reward and not rewarded are known to all.  Wordpress no longer supports the inclusion of video into the free website, however, I’ve embedded a short clip that highlights their values and culture. Wegmans “Our Values & Culture” 


And now for the dark side of family owned and run food markets-

Steinberg Grocery Store, as described by Schein, painted a rather grim image of a company with an overload of bad cultural vibes.

  • Close supervision ensures adequate success
  • Losing temper and berating subordinates who do not follow the rules
  • Culture carriers were family members +1 outsider
  • Power and authority for this organization remained very centralized.

Sam Steinberg’s espoused values and behavior were in conflict with each other.  His contention, according to Schein, that open communication and a high level of trust were not evidenced in the way that he engaged family members in the business. When the leader of an organization is unable to perceive his own conflict and inconsistencies, skilled employees may jump ship. An organization that rewards family members who do not deserve positions infuses negativity and resentment into the political climate. When only a select few individuals in the Steinberg Grocery organization were identified as the “culture carriers” it’s easy to understand why turmoil ensued with the death of Sam Steinberg.

Schein’s illustration is a lesson to understand the value of engaging others in carrying the culture of the organization. “Culture does not survive if the main culture carriers depart and if the bulk of the members of the organization are experiencing some degree of conflict because of a mixed message that emanates from the leaders during the growth period” (2010:224)

Something to chew on-dog-from-chewing-e1438880851338

I’ve driven by the Wegmans in Lake Manassas many times over the last several years.  After a few minutes of shopping, I could certainly understand why customers flock to the market.  It will be interesting to understand how it all really works when the markets come to Central Virginia.



Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (Vol. 2). John Wiley & Sons.






2 thoughts on “Adult 623 #4: What the Steinbergs could learn from the Wegmans

  1. Man! Its stories about companies like these: Wegman’s- grocery store heaven, (for both customers and employees!) and its antithesis, the Steinberg Grocery Company- retail hell, that makes it so hard to refrain from labeling companies as “good” or “bad”. Now I know we aren’t supposed to use these labels, but give me upper management that values diversity and believes in respect versus being berated, and I’ll show you a good and a bad company. So interestingly enough, I had an “Ah-Ha!” moment when it comes to labeling companies as good/bad cultures. It was SOUTHWEST! Awesome organization! They are leading with a purpose, they have a clear vision to reach people and in emanates in every aspect of their organization. Even in how they treat each other…The scene where the employees were running up to and hugging and kissing the CEO, well, it kind of made me cringe to be totally honest. I’m all for a fun work atmosphere, but being happy-go-lucky all the time is a little horrifying to me. So the moral of the story is, I guess, and as Schein says, there is no good or bad culture. It is “to each his own”. There are just cultures that fit some people and not others!

    Also!!! I love WEGMAN’S too! I cannot wait until one of them opens up. I already know the first thing that I am buying! Wegman’s makes this AMAZING cake! But not just any cake! It looks like a regular cake until you cut into it and reveal all the beautiful delicious fresh fruit inside! Get one, it will change your life 


    1. You’re right. It’s difficult to refrain from the overuse of “good” and “bad.” Perhaps the idea of effective and progressive or forward thinking is more useful when considering the climate and culture of an organization. I’ll take your word on the cake! The next time that I drive through Lake Manasses I am going to stop in the store again-providing that I can find a parking space. Now this would be a place for a culture field trip!


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