I’ve never been to a Trader Joe’s.
This statement gets a mix of reactions from people, ranging from mystification to judgment. Some people just can’t understand how you can completely miss a cultural phenomenon like that, while others seem to lower their opinion of you simply because you’ve never been to a store. The fact remains, I’d just never had occasion to head into a Trader Joe’s before, so when the announcement of a new Trader Joe’s location right here in Hoboken came I didn’t quite understand the excitement that seemed to sweep everyone around me.
Naturally, here at HoLi we’re a journalistic bunch who like to answer questions like why is everyone so damn excited about Trader Joe’s? So, I marked my calendar for May 19th and when that storied day arrived I took myself down to the Harlow and checked on what all the fuss was about. And I discovered that Trader Joe’s … is a supermarket.
A Really Nice Supermarket
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really nice supermarket, and I’ve done some research so I know the advantages that trader Joe’s offers in terms of quality of food and products, sustainability concerns, and uniqueness of some of their offered products. I get that, and it’s all very laudable: Trader Joe’s sells only cage-free eggs (then again, so does King’s), it has phased out imports from China due to concerns over quality and food safety, and they currently get a Grocery Store Score of 65% from Greenpeace (compared to Whole Foods’ 75%, Shoprite’s 51%, and A&P’s abysmal 17% (yikes).
Still, walking around Trader Joe’s I couldn’t help but think that it’s a nice place to shop but not so different from King’s or the Aspen Marketplace—except for the fact that most of the stuff on the shelves is kind of over-packaged, and branded as Trader Joe’s.
The Festival of Food
People sure seemed excited, though. The mood was celebratory, and people crowded in, apparently starved for some Trader Joe’s specialties. Free samples were being handed out, and the place was positively bursting with staff members eager to say hello and help you out. There was a buzz of energy in the air, to be honest, that was a lot of fun.
Folks who live in the Harlow, of course, get to take an elevator right down to the store, which makes grocery shopping a pretty easy process. I’m jealous.
In the end, I need to try some of Trader Joe’s signature products and branded offerings to really form an opinion. It’s a big, goods-looking store, and the produce, meat, and other products all looked fantastic. The staff was friendly and well-trained and everything seemed to be going very smoothly, which isn’t always how opening days go. I’ll be heading back to see what all the fuss is really about. How about you? Excited for Trader Joe’s or mystified?