We visited the regional chain that beat Trader Joe's for the title of best grocery store in America — here's what it's like

The best grocery chain in the US is one that most Americans have never visited.

In fact, Wegmans, which has fewer than 100 locations, gets thousands of calls per year from people begging for a store to open in their hometown.

Wegmans has ranked number one in Market Force Information's annual survey of the best grocery stores for the last two years thanks in large part to its loyal fans.

But we, like many other Americans, had never been to a Wegmans, so on a recent trip to Charlottesville, North Carolina, we knew we had to visit one.

Here's what it was like:

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What it's like to shop at Wegmans
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What it's like to shop at Wegmans

Driving up to the Wegmans in Charlottesville, North Carolina, it was immediately clear that this wouldn't be a normal shopping trip.

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The impressive attributes of the store shouldn't have come as a surprise. Wegmans was voted the best grocery chain in the US in 2017, based on Market Force Information's annual survey of the industry.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

It was when we walked into the store, however, that we realized Wegmans isn't just large — it's a behemoth.

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According to the company, locations stock up to 70,000 products. That's a ton, compared to the slightly more than 40,000 products that the average supermarket stocks, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

(Hollis Johnson/Business Insider)

Unlike Trader Joe's, which keeps prices low with minimalist locations and almost exclusively selling in-house brands, Wegmans is all about variety.

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Wegmans features spacious aisles full of everything from paper goods to champagne.

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The stores sell both Wegmans' brands — which tend to be less expensive — and pricier options.

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While it's not as budget-focused as chains like Trader Joe's or Kroger, Wegmans isn't completely devoid of deals.

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Comparing prices between Wegmans and a nearby Kroger revealed that eggs and tomatoes were evenly priced, and bananas were actually cheaper at Wegman's, where they cost 49 cents a pound, compared to 59 cents a pound at Kroger.

(Hollis Johnson/Business Insider)

Family-sized packaging also helps cut down on costs.

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Wegmans' wine store highlights the company's dedication to variety, providing options for both the discerning drinker and the budget-minded boozehound.

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The Charlottesville Wegmans sells everything from a $42.99 bottle of Veuve Clicquot to a selection of wines for just $6.

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The grocer makes an effort to highlight local brands, including beer from Goochland, Virginia's Lickinghole Creek brewery to wine from the nearby Trump Vineyard.

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Another major perk of shopping at Wegmans is the prepared food.

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Wegmans fans praise the store's ready-to-eat section and, seeing the options from chicken wings to sushi, it's easy to understand why.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The store even has a "pub," complete with happy hour specials, perfect for thirsty shoppers.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The experience of grocery shopping is increasingly crucial for companies, as ecommerce makes shopping more convenient and chains like Whole Foods add in-store bonuses like restaurants and bars.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

However, few grocery chains have successfully made shopping as enjoyable — even aspirational — as Wegmans has. After visiting a store, we understand what these cultish customers see in the brand — and are ready to go back for more.

(Hollis Johnson/Business Insider)

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