Here's some Trader Joe's-related good news and bad news for your Friday.
The good news: Southeast Florida finally has a Trader Joe's. The store officially opened at 8 a.m. today, October 18, with a ceremonial lei cutting.
The bad news: This particular Trader Joe's is in Pinecrest, a tony suburb, located about six miles south of downtown Miami. That means a bit of a schlep if you live in Broward and Palm Beach.
More good news: Palm Beach County will be getting three Trader Joe's locations soon, with a 12,500-square-foot TJ's opening in Boca Raton's East City Center in the near future; and another shop opening at Delray Place in Palm Beach Gardens in October, 2014.A Wellington store is also in the works.
More bad news: Broward residents, so far, are left to drive north or south to experience this grocery chain's own brand of tiki-inspired awesomeness.
So what's in store for you at Trader Joe's and why are so many people fanatical about a grocery store? Well, it could be something in the green plant juice that everyone was raving over at the opening celebration down south, or it could just be the sheer awesomeness of the store itself. Here are a few highlights of what to expect:
Trader Joe's Prices are Cheaper than Competitors
Perusing the aisles at Trader Joe's, you'll catch onto one thing instantly... nearly everything is named after the store. Cookies are Joe Joe's. Tangerines are Josies. Cereal is Joe's O's. Just go with the flow, because you're basically buying the same stuff, just packaged cuter. That's because the company, based in Monrovia, California, buys direct from the manufacturer and brands it with private labels -- but the savings go in your pocket. That means 30 different cereals all under two bucks a box. Go Joe!
Trader Joe's Products are Free from GMO's
When you buy Trader Joe's branded products, you're also buying GMO-free. According to their website,
"When developing products containing ingredients likely to come from genetically modified sources, we have the supplier of the product perform the necessary research to provide documentation that the suspect ingredients are from non-GMO sources. This documentation is in the form of affidavits, identity-preserved certification of seed stock, and third-party lab results from testing of the ingredients in question. In addition to this work done in developing a given item, we conduct random audits of items with potentially suspect ingredients, using an outside, third-party lab to perform the testing."
If You're Feeding a Family, Trader Joe's is Your Friend
Here's a familiar scenario. You're a working mother or father and you need to put food on the table. You can marinate a piece of chicken, put some rice on to cook, and chop vegetables for a nutritious meal. Or... you can buy Trader Joe's premarinated meats. We ran into Michelle Loretta, a Trader Joe's veteran who used to live in California. Her cart was filled to the max with prepared foods for her family. She told us she loves the easily prepared foods, especially the chicken tenders with curry. "I don't have to think about a TJ dinner. I can buy the ingredients at Whole Foods, but it would cost me two, three times more. Plus, look at the label. These are real ingredients."
It's One-Stop Shopping
Don't think Trader Joe's is just about procuring inexpensive exotic foods. You can buy everything here on the cheap, from toilet paper to dog treats (check out the pumpkin cookies for Fido) to sunscreen -- all at lower prices than you're used to. Plus, shipments on perishables arrive daily, so everything is fresh.
See also: Trader Joe's Opening in Pinecrest
Wine and Beer Here
You've probably heard about Two Buck Chuck, the incredibly good wine that's only $2.99 a bottle. But there's also French rose for $5.99, Italian prosecco for $6.99, sparkling sake for $6.99, and Trader Jose beer, imported from Mexico for $7.99 a six-pack. Cheap enough to try several bottles, good enough to serve to guests.
Bring It Back If You Don't Like it
Seriously. Pinecrest captain Jodi McCullough (she's the store manager) confirmed the "we'll take that back even if you've eaten half of it" rumors. So if your Greek yogurt wasn't creamy enough, or your frozen gyoza didn't work for you, or even if Fido didn't like those pumpkin dog treats, bring it back for a refund. As captain Jodi says, "Even if you tried it. That's what I would want for me."
It Really Is More Fun Shopping Here
At the end of the day, cheap prices are good, but if the experience sucks or the store is depressing, who wants to go there? Think of the last time you were at a dollar store. How much fun was that?
But Trader Joe's is fun. Caribbean music plays in the background. Murals on the wall depict local beach scenes. Friendly crew members dressed in Hawaiian shirts say hello and ask how they can help you (and they mean it). The effect is contagious.
Just this morning, a man gave me first dibs on the last precious parking space in the lot. I waved thank you, and we made eye contact. I later recognized him in the store and thanked him. Chris then said that he was in such a good mood because he could finally get his hands on his favorite treat, cookie butter (sold only at TJ's). That friendliness was all over the store as people hung out at the galley, where free samples are dispensed, and oohed and aahed over pumpkin cheesecake, moshi ice cream, and dried coconut chips.
So the big question for Broward and Palm Beach residents, obviously, is Trader Joe's worth the drive? Well, since most of the people shopping this morning said they made regular pilgrimages to Naples and Fort Myers (or had relatives send TJ care packages in the mail), we'd say yes. Just grab a coffee, fill up your tank, empty your trunk, and go for it. After all, Miamians make the trek to Sunrise for IKEA. Consider this shopping karma.
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