Case Study: Wegmans



Wegmans Food Markets and Leonard’s Express have reached the pinnacle of their respective industries with a time-tested formula for success, deeply rooted in family values

Leonard’s Express has been a commercial carrier for Rochester, New York based Wegmans Food Markets Inc. for more than 30 years. In that time, the relationship between these two family-owned companies has  grown into much more than a business relationship. Both organizations see their work together as a kinship based on a strong alignment of values and a bone-deep commitment to excellence.

This partnership has flourished over the years, allowing Leonard’s Express to emerge as Wegmans’ number one transportation services provider in terms of volume and revenue. “Leonard’s Express transports just about every category of product in our stores,” said Dan Reilly, Wegmans Supply Chain Category Merchant. 

“Perishables, non-perishables, produce, grocery product, health and wellness product, hundreds of thousands of pallets of bottled water and paper products per year. You name it, they deliver it.”

“The product that comes to mind when I think of Leonard’s Express is bananas,” said Wegmans Supply Chain Director Joe Morgante. “Leonard’s hauls virtually all of our bananas that come through the port in Wilmington, Delaware. It’s a significant volume on a daily basis. I wouldn’t trust anybody else to do it. Bananas are very price sensitive and temperature sensitive, and we take that extremely seriously. Leonard’s Express is a huge part of Wegmans being competitive and offering the highest quality bananas. It’s probably the most important item in our entire store.”

“Every Day You Get Our Best”

Wegmans is a regional supermarket chain with 108 stores, mostly in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., and four Southern States. Founded in 1916, the company has facilities in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., with planned expansions into Delaware and Connecticut. Wegmans is one of the largest private companies in the U.S., with 52,000 employees. In 2021, its annual sales were $11.2 billion.

Wegmans has gained a strong base of loyal customers over the years. How loyal are these customers? So loyal that each year, thousands of them contact Wegmans asking for a store to be built in their community or to just say how much they love shopping at Wegmans, and how they enjoy the products and services offered. This loyalty is a result of Wegmans raising the bar on the shopping experience, consistently providing the highest quality products for a reasonable price with an abundance of choice, offering 50,000 to 70,000 products in its largest stores. The stores also offer restaurant-quality prepared foods, including entrées, soups, appetizers, gourmet sandwiches, and side dishes. Freshness means everything to Wegmans and its customers, so having a carrier like Leonard’s Express as an integral part of its supply chain is invaluable.

Wegmans employees provide what one industry expert called “a nearly telepathic level of customer service.” Their commitment to customers says it all: “Every day you get our best.” Wegmans has won dozens of awards and distinctions for their remarkable shopping experience, and for treating customers, employees, and communities with care. The company has appeared on Fortune’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list every year since the list first appeared in 1998, and in 2022, was number three on the list. In 2021, Wegmans was also ranked #1 on PEOPLE’s Companies that Care list and in 2018 Market Force Information named the company, “America’s Favorite Supermarket.”

Leonard’s Express Supports Wegmans Success

Wegmans’ exceptional product quality and abundance of choice are two important reasons for their customers’ extreme loyalty. To maintain that reputation, Wegmans vendors must exhibit that same dedication to exceptional service.

Leonard’s Express does precisely that. With more than 650 trucks and 14 facilities located throughout the United States, their nationwide footprint means they’re big enough to tailor solutions to fit the specific supply chain needs of a wide range of industries and customers. Meanwhile, at their core they are a family-owned business, which means Leonard’s Express, like Wegmans, treats every customer with the highest level of personal attention and care.

Specialized Services

As part of the transportation and warehousing services they provide Wegmans, Leonard’s uses cross-docking, a unique procedure which involves minimal storage time. In distributing product directly to the customer, the process relies on precise timing and space management for efficient delivery from the inbound truck to the outbound truck. The result? Lower transportation costs and quicker delivery times—which is exactly what a company like Wegmans needs to ensure the product variety and freshness they’re famous for.

“Six days a week, products come into our warehouse and we divvy them up and deliver them directly to the stores,” said Leonard’s Express Vice President of Sales Troy Wiitanen. “The products change frequently depending on the time of year. In the summer it’s strawberries, watermelons, and other seasonal produce. And there are pop-up programs, especially right before a holiday. Holiday greens, pines, wreaths or poinsettias.” Depending on the store’s needs, Wiitanen said, “We’ll build the right palette with a bunch of different holiday greens.”

Temperature-controlled services are critical, and Leonard Express’s new state-of-the-art, 114,500 square-foot refrigerated warehouse meets Wegmans’ most stringent requirements for storing perishable products. The facility, located in Shortsville, New York, is comprised of five 20,000-square-foot rooms, each of which can be set between -10- and 45-degrees Fahrenheit. Authorized users can remotely monitor and easily adjust temperature, pressure, and fan motors at any time of the day. Carriers can pull their vehicles into a refrigerated loading dock and open the truck’s doors with no risk of damaging cargo due to a sudden temperature change.

“The new temperature-controlled warehouse is so attractive because this type of facility is very hard to find in this region of New York,” explained Reilly. “There are lots of warehousing partners that can offer ambient storage but there are not many options for refrigerated, let alone a facility that can be temperature controlled from frozen up to 55 degrees. It’s a huge opportunity for us.”

The refrigerated warehouse’s docks are unique, too, equipped with ComboShelter Soft-Sided Dock Shelters engineered to address the distinctive challenges at docks that accept standard trailers, as well as those with lift gates, step ledges, or other rear extensions. Extended projection side frames allow for proper sealing around the lift gate and standard trailers alike and eliminate potential damage to trailers. The conditioned loading dock’s drive-thru design keeps the cold chain integrity secure, and cargo as fresh as when it left the warehouse.

On-time Service at a Fair Price

Providing the freshest products to their customers means Wegmans’ requirement for on-time delivery is non-negotiable—and year after year Leonard’s Express hits the mark with near-perfection. As of mid-October 2022, Leonard’s Express has moved an impressive 12,715 loads for Wegmans with 98.9% of those loads delivered on time.

We know we can depend on Leonard’s Express to provide the highest level of on-time delivery,” said Morgante. “Leonard’s is always at the top of the list to me.
When it comes to price, again, Leonard’s Express makes the grade. “You can count on them for service at a fair price,” said Reilly. “We know they’re going to give us a price that’s realistic and achievable for them, but fair for us.”

A Partnership Based on Shared Values

“Our relationship is about more than just dollars and cents,” said Leonard’s Express CEO Ken Johnson. Like Wegmans, he says, “we’re a family business and have a family atmosphere.” For both companies, he adds, “It’s about doing the right thing and treating people the way you want to be treated. Our values are totally aligned.”

“We all have the same goal in mind,” Morgante added, “service when the need is greatest.”

Nowhere was this more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Things just went absolutely insane,” said Reilly. “I don’t think we could have survived without Leonard’s Express support. They were a critical piece of our network, and we were really able to lean on them and partner with them. They helped us manage a period of extreme growth, uncertainty, and challenges where we really worked hand-in-hand with them as a peer and a partner.”

“Our decades-long relationship is a testament to the people of Leonard’s Express,” concluded Reilly.
“Our experience during COVID really demonstrated how they are so much more than a vendor to us. We see them as a peer and a partner, from the executive level to the drivers, to the office staff. We all care about each other and that makes it a win-win for us. I would describe it as more of a family than a business relationship.”