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MONROVIA, Calif. -- The checkout line snaked around most of the perimeter, and scores of curious and enthusiastic shoppers swarmed the aisles last Friday, the opening day of Trader Joe's first New York City store.
The specialty retailer's debut Big Apple store is located a handful of store fronts along Union Square's southern side from a wildly popular Whole Foods unit, which incidentally celebrated its own grand opening just a year ago almost to the day.
Trader Joe's is betting that Manhattanites will fall in a big way for its hallmark Hawaiian-shirted customer service and gourmet foods at wallet-friendly prices.
Although compact, the new store offers the full complement of the high-quality items Trader Joe's is famous for. A colorful produce section greets shoppers as they enter, with a wall containing packaged salads and lettuces to the right. Following are bread, juice, and coffee aisles, containing many signature Trader Joe's private label products. The back wall of the store is taken up by an extensive deli self-service case, with an emphasis on prepared foods, as well as cheese and meat sections. The center of the store features frozens and shelf-stable foods, including an end cap hawking Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Bisque and Creamy Corn and Roasted Red Pepper soups in aseptic containers, for $2.49.
The day featured a ceremonial "lei" cutting, with Trader Joe's president Doug Rauch in attendance, product demos, and free stickers and balloons for kids.
Sampling was rampant on opening day. Not only was a "crew member" on hand with a platter of nachos for shoppers to nosh on; visitors could also make their way over to "Grand Sample Station" for a taste of Trader Joe's version of Irish soda bread, wittily dubbed the "Blarney Scone."
One noted Trader Joe's amenity wasn't up and running in time for the big day, though. A standalone wine shop remained unopened, with a sign posted at its entrance offering an apology while the retailer continued "fine-tuning the details" of its operation.
"I walked miles to get here!" exclaimed a disappointed New Yorker on seeing the sign, his dreams of stocking up on Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" no doubt dashed. A crew member at the food store said that the wine shop would be ready for business in a "couple of weeks."
One notable aspect of Trader Joe's is the devotion it inspires in customers. At the Manhattan unit opening, Sylvia Meyers, who regularly shops the Trader Joe's in Westport, Conn., described the retailer as providing "the perfect shopping experience," adding that whatever she's purchased in the past has been "great." Meyers also cited the convenience, product variety, and low prices that Trader Joe's offers as reasons for her loyalty. Although the commotion of the opening day made it difficult for her to judge this store against her usual shopping venue, she was positive about one thing: "I surely will be shopping here [again]."
The store will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with grocery delivery available in a limited area. Neighborhood residents can shortly expect to receive a copy of Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer," highlighting currently available products, in their mailboxes.
According to a company statement, "Our future plans call for ongoing development of new, one-of-a-kind food items at value prices, and continued expansion of our chain across the country."
Trader Joe's operates more than 250 stores in 19 states and carries over 1,000 items under its Trader Joe's private label.