The Fearless Flyer…Trader Joe’s finds a home in NYC


The uncontained excitement exhibited by New Yorkers on the opening of the City’s first Trader Joe’s (an eclectic California grocery chain) in Union Square on St. Patrick’s day was something to write about – or so certain publications and media outlets did.  NY Times reported on “A Tiki Room with Aisles“, and Slate posted the “Insider’s Guide to Trader Joe’s“.  The secret is out on Trader Joe’s, AKA, ‘TJ’s’ to those who have had a longer term relationship with him — that it is overflowing with aisles of ‘bourgeois products at proletarian prices’ and people love it. 

TJ's Photo

(Trader Joe’s opening in Union Square, New York City – photo: NYT)

fearless.gifJust visit TJ’s or pick up their “Fearless Flyer” to sample their goodies.  Their selection of fresh produce, organic foods and ‘2-buck Chuck’ (‘drinkable’ Charles Shaw wines sold very cheaply – I have seen older, well groomed men in well to do suburbs of Boston and Southern Connecticut walk out with a case or two on many an occasion!), frozen delectibles, gourmet coffees & teas, unusual and large array of authentic sounding foreign foods and ingredients would send anyone flying down their aisles.  For many in California, it was first known as Pronto Market in the 1950s:(exerpt from Slate’s “Insider’s Guide to Trader Joes”)

In the ’60s, founder Joe Coulombe renamed the stores after himself, introduced the endearingly goofy nautical theme and Hawaiian shirts for all employees, and started stocking more upscale foods and wines… In recent years, the company has expanded to more than 200 stores across the country, but it remains privately held.

So for all of you financial fiends, sorry, can’t buy their stock…yet.  Trader Joe’s, found in almost all California counties, is also a neighborhood grocer in the East Coast metropolitan suburbs of Westchester (NY), Fairfield (CT) and suburban Boston.  For people in need of gluten-free, soy based, dairy-free specialty diets, Trader Joe’s is a lifeline.  All products carrying the Trader Joe’s private label contain NO Genetically Modified or Engineered ingredients.  It is more economical than shopping at Whole Paycheck, err, Whole Foods (now seen widely in most suburbs and 3 NYC locations), but perhaps not as ‘upscale’ or bulging with variety or bulk.  It has a down home, family friendly feel – which the clerks exude with much natural-ness.  They have a ‘clanging of the bell system’: 1 ding could mean price check, 2 dings: product check and 3 dings – need more cashiers!  It is quaint.  And kids get free balloons – which is ALWAYS helpful for that hassled mother or father shopping with a fiesty toddler, screaming: “wannah ballooooh” as they fish out their plastic money card, hastilly swipe it through and sign their incomprehensible electronic John Hancock, again with screaming child in tow…and then, voila, the balloon!  Smiles…and a great dinner is on it’s merry way home.

Reading the write-ups on the accounts of the giddy New York TJ’s shoppers, provided it’s share of giggles:

(From New York Times – Mar-18-06)

And thus the day went, Manhattan impatience mixed with dried hibiscus flowers, a specialty sweet of Trader Joe’s. “It’s my favorite store in the world,” declared Barry Lapidus, 47, a freelance writer in Brooklyn. “I used to take a train and a bus for two and a half hours to the Trader Joe’s in Hartsdale” in Westchester County.


“Why?” he exclaimed. “They have the best minestrone soup and egg rolls. The egg rolls are better than you can get in a Chinese restaurant.”

Loni Sherman, a retired food-service manager who lives nearby in Peter Cooper Village, said her friends were planning a Trader Joe’s party, at which mass quantities of Trader Joe’s products would be consumed at will.

Steven Arvanites, 40, a Manhattan screenwriter, had never been to a Trader Joe’s. “This is like a designer Costco,” he said.

Never realized how crazed people could get about their produce. That they stood in line waiting for an hour before opening time, is a testament to the lengths people will go to in New York!



1 Comment »

  1. Joe Nanto said


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