Trader Joe's: Texas's Newest Sensation

Categories: Grocery Guide

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Photo by Carla Soriano
A wide selection of competitively priced specialty cheese and cold cuts, dips and pre-made salads are just some of Trader Joe's attractions.
What do you get when you take a grocery store with a jazillion specialty products, organic produce and flavorful freezer food and intertwine it with low prices throughout, then sprinkle it with a laid-back Hawaiian vibe? Trader Joe's. The specialty store, whose roots lie in the small town of Monrovia, California -- something I share with the booming national retailer -- is Texas's newest sensation.

The trading at Joe's commenced in Texas with the opening of its Woodlands and Fort Worth locations on the same date: June 15. Not only did the opening of the two stores mark a milestone in its local communities, it marked the specialty grocery store's much-anticipated Lone Star State arrival. Lines that wrapped around the building, abuzz with excited chatter, characterized Trader Joe's Texas debut.

If I were to take a wild guess, I would predict that the same excitement will surround the
2012 opening of Trader Joe's two Houston stores, along with its San Antonio, Dallas and Plano locations -- not to mention its second Dallas store opening, slated for 2013, and its 2014 Austin opening (assuming the hipsters can wait that long).

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Trader Joe's famous "Two Buck Chuck"
Devoted fans of Trader Joe's, such as my dad, have been waiting years for it to make the move to Texas. Upon my family's relocation to Texas in 1997, one of the first things he did was call the Trader Joe's headquarters.

"When the heck are you opening up a Woodlands store?" he asked the employee who happened to take his call. "Your audience is here; this would be the perfect spot for you guys."

"Thank you for your suggestion," was the response from the Trader Joe's representative. "We have been conducting market research for expansion. We appreciate your call and your interest in having a Trader Joe's opened in your area."

Fifteen years later, now that Trader Joe's has expanded into the Texas market, my father is perhaps a bit resentful that it took them so long, but excited that it finally happened.

Truth be told, Trader Joe's is a sensation. What makes it so? Lots of things. Most prominently: its wide selection of unique edibles -- many "ready-to-eat" or "ready-to-cook" -- stamped with Trader Joe's private label.

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Empty shelves where popular items once rested are a common sight at Trader Joe's.
Examples include cookie butter, s'more chocolate bars and ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-covered frozen bananas, and frozen mandarin orange chicken created by "the chef that originally created mandarin orange chicken," according to a Trader Joe's employee who I chatted with. (That description was a little iffy, but we'll roll with it.) Best of all, every Trader Joe's-stamped product promises "no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, MSG, genetically modified ingredients or trans fats." Not too shabby, right?

For those looking for more traditional foods like produce, baked goods and meats, Trader Joe's offers all of this -- for the most part at very reasonable prices. And many times, in organic varieties. Of course, pretty much any grocery store you walk into can offer such things. What sets Trader Joe's apart from the others is the quality of what they offer at the disproportionately good prices.

And let's not forget Trader Joe's adult beverage selection, most famously Charles Shaw's red blend, otherwise known as "Two Buck Chuck." The California red blend, originally priced at $2, now costs $2.99 due to inflation. Its quality is a tad questionable, yet the product is perfect for putting into sangria or calimochos. You can also get a bottle of bubbly or Moscato for less than $6. Come on, don't even try to hide the fact that cheap alcohol is your guilty pleasure.

Finally, Trader Joe's is known for its excellent customer service. Upon entering the store, you'll be greeted by cheerful employees who actually seem to like their job. That cheerfulness rubs off on you by the end of your grocery shopping experience.

Does Trader Joe's fill your heart with enthusiasm? Or are you indifferent? I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments section below.



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Location Info

Map

Trader Joe's

10868 Kuykendahl Road, Spring, TX

Category: General


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13 comments
Jesse
Jesse

August 10,  I finally and happily sold my vacation home in Arizona, I can't stand the desert and the dirty air and water  any longer, but I was crushed not to be able to go to Trader Joe's any more.

What great timing, Trader Joe's plans to open their first Houston store in the old Alabama Theatre on S. Shepherd on September 21. Whole Foods will see me no more. I will still buy organic produce and wild salmon at HEB on I-10 near Bunker Hill, but everything else will come from Trader Joe's.

 Love those Chicken cilantro dim sum frozen goodies. And the Basque cheese and goat milk cheeses. And TJ organic cocoa, no alkali.

Whole Foods sells GMO food and CEO Mackey supports GM; Trader Joe does not.

And I am not employed by or paid by Trader Joe's to praise them.

I just love good food,  helpful people and smaller stores.

And even closer to me, the  Voss Road location is supposed to open the end of Dec.

 Life is good!

Barbara

Sallie Des Biens
Sallie Des Biens

I love Trader Joe's! Biryani Rice...produce...everything is awesome!!!

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

Yep, every good review means the writer was bribed and every negative review means the writer bore a personal grudge, every single time. How do y'all keep figuring it out? Just too dang clever for us, that's what you are.

Jay Francis
Jay Francis

The chocolate bars with hazelnuts are a winner as are the wines. Trader Joe in my opinion is a place for people who do not cook from scratch but prefer to buy prepare, frozen dinners and microwave them for a convenient and quick dinner.

Megan
Megan

It's the same model as ALDI (oddly enough, TJ's and ALDI are owned by different members of the same family).  TJ's usually stocks just one brand name in their grocery section - theirs.  They will occassionally stock brand names, but not often.  (60 Minutes did a story about 1.5 years ago about the fierce battle to become a TJ's supplier.)  They are famously picky about what they stock, so you get a good product for a good value.  Their organics are very reasonable.  You'll see frozen items that you would never see in a grocery store - we love the frozen gnocchi.  They have a large selection of Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean food.  The alcohol prices are very good - I found a good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for $6, and they sell my favorite Cava for less than the grocery store. 

Lecantu
Lecantu

One major advantage whole foods has on trader joes is its selection of local products. Everything at trader joes is manufactured in Chicago. And while the cost is more a wf, it's worth it to some people to buy local.

Carla Soriano
Carla Soriano

I definitely don't foresee Trader Joe's rewarding me in any way for this article as I am not affiliated with the company at all. But JOE - if you're reading this - I would gladly accept some dark chocolate bars, or some whole wheat bread ;)

Carla Soriano
Carla Soriano

My favorite item to get at Trader Joe's is the three pack of dark chocolate bars for $1.79. They are fabulous! (And addicting).

Carla Soriano
Carla Soriano

I have gone three times -- once early on a Sunday morning, and two times at about 8 pm on a weeknight. There hasn't been much of a crowd during any of my visits. However, I have found a couple of empty shelves where popular products once lived.

TQro
TQro

TJ's Frozen Naan. TIA.

krissybolt
krissybolt

Eagerly awaiting the Shepherd/W. Alabama store - we've been in Houston for 1.5 years after moving from San Diego, and I love love love love Trader Joe's!  And the kicker is that this one will be closer to house than our old SD store - woohoo!  BTW their New Zealand marinated lamb is freaking amazing.  I think it's the first thing we'll be looking for when we hit up the new store - come on, September!

Bruce R
Bruce R

 Eminance, about the word "intelligent."  I do not think it means what you think it means. Because you seem to think that you are "intelligent."

Jbrace
Jbrace

Love trader joes went this weekend. Prices are higher than Michigan and Cali stores...pizza dough in michigan $.99, woodlands $1.99. Simplicity of the shopping experience is great as well as the quality of the food.

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