Nothing against Shop Rite or Dearborn Farms, but having a Wegmans in my hometown would be incredible. While Trader Joe’s will always remain my favorite “niche” store, if I had to pick a full-on supermarket, it would be Wegmans. Aside from a normal selection of what you would see in any major food store, they also offer great sushi, a quality sandwich shop, gourmet markets for cheese, cured meats, seafood, prepared meals, and a liquor store with prices and a selection that turns heads.
Rumors that Wegmans is coming to Hazlet are already swirling. I happened to be speaking to someone at their Ocean location who told me that they are going to be taking over the land where Frank’s Nursery used to be, on Route 35. Currently, Ray Catena owns the property, and with no plans on putting a dealership there, he intends to sell it. The problem with this is that the land does not seem big enough to support a store the size of Wegmans. This has led to speculation that the Red Oak Diner will be sold/closed and knocked down to provide for the larger space. However, at a recent visit to the diner, their menus had notes attached to them saying that the Hazlet institution is not going anywhere.
It would make more sense for them to use the massive vacancy created by Pathmark and K-Mart going out of business, almost directly across the highway. But, this would put Wegman’s almost right next to Shop Rite, owned by the Saker Family (who now owns Dearborn Farms—also on Route 35). Can the move be blocked? Anything is possible and everything is political in Hazlet. Costco (again, same stretch of road) which offers liquor at most of their locations is not allowed to sell at their Hazlet one. I’ve heard arguments over the years that the reason for this is they are too close to Bertucci’s (which has a bar) and also a movie theater which is a family-friendly atmosphere. To me, all of these items are mutually exclusive and to connect them makes no sense. It’s more like their being multiple smaller-business liquor stores in the vicinity (most of which are outrageously overpriced).
If a Wegmans then is given the okay, would they not be allowed to sell liquor as well? Any move to the area at all regardless of that issue would certainly challenge the Saker conglomerate and affect all businesses. Should this happen, we would see a Stop and Shop, Shop Rite, Wegmans, Costco, and Dearborn within two miles of each other on the same road. A Whole Foods, at the edge of Red Bank, is four miles farther down.
But alas, there have been other rumors of businesses coming to Hazlet over the years that never came to fruition. During my childhood, Olive Garden was supposed to take over where the old Jim’s Burger Haven was. It is now an Auto Zone. And for longer than that, Wal-Mart was and is “comin’ to town”, usually to where the empty Bradlees and Foodtown is on Route 36 in Union Beach. Nothing ever came of that.
Just speculation or seriously in the works? Either way, people are talking, and I would absolutely love to have a Wegman’s in Hazlet. We shall see.