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Trader Joe's, Hadley, MA, Now Open - Am I Missing Something?

  • j

Returned home after a weekend in Vermont to find the new Trader Joe's on Route 9 in Hadley open for business. After a walk-around, up and down each aisle, I'm left with a single question - Why all the fuss? Am I missing something? (Okay, two questions!)

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  1. They've got the best frozen foods I know of-- especially their fish, and their house brands are tastier and cheaper than what you can get at the regular supermarket or even the B & C. I like their dried fruits and nuts especially.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Erika

      This is true, but if you are like me, you will always need to go to another supermarket after each trip to Trader Joe's, to stock up on the stuff that they don't have (a decent beer selection, baking stuff like simple bags of sugar, decent choice of fruit).
      Kinda makes each trip to Trader Joe's irritating for me.

      1. re: johnnym

        Trader Joe's is not, nor does it claim to be, a full-service market. It's a specialty food store. It's rather silly to be irritated at it for not being something it doesn't promise to be.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          And yet I remain irritated. I think it's because it's so close to being a full service market, without being one. I don't mind going to a bakery for bread, cheese shop for cheese, produce place for fruit, etc. But it bugs me that Trader Joe's ALMOST has everything I need, but never finishes the job. Plus that produce section is so pitiful, and the fruit goes bad quickly.

          1. re: johnnym

            This is the differene between me and most other people. I love grocery shopping and going to as many stores as I can! In any given week I'll go to Stop & Shop and Bread and Circus once, Serio's and State Street Market five times each (yes, five!), and maybe an Asian or Italian specialty market. I'm not one for making lists, and when I do it's multi-store! I can't wait to go to TJ's!

            1. re: port

              *sniff* I miss Trader Joe's. Used to stop off there on my way home from work (the Brookline store) when I lived in Boston; it has a fantastic selection of frozen things at low low prices. I actually go there every time I'm back in town to visit family and drag the stuff back to Maine, and my sister will bring TJ's stuff with her when she visits (guess what I got for my birthday this year? Yay!). TJ's is not about the produce section -- I used to go to a local Asian grocery for my fruits and veggies -- but it has unbeatable prices on both gourmet goodies and good-for-you basic staple foods.

              Things on my permanent, whenever-I-get-a-chance TJ's shopping list:

              unbleached #4 coffee filters (huge box for about a quarter of the price of Melitta ones)
              the Bay Blend coffee (dead ringer for Starbucks house roast)
              dripless Danish candles - 8 tapers for about $2.70
              Canadian pure maple syrup - big bottle, small price
              the pineapple curry marinade/dipping sauce is to die for!
              giant boxes of Altoids, big chocolate bars
              chocolate-covered fruits, nuts, and coffee beans
              biscotti (they used to have a gingerbread/white chocolate one that was dreamy)
              organic soup base (corn, butternut squash, veggie broth) - half the price I'd pay in my local store, same *exact* item.


      2. re: Erika

        The frozen foods section was definitely the standout area - no question. What disappointed was the pre-packaged vegetables . . . what if I only want one or two tomatoes, not three, or just one avacado? My once-through-the-store-quickly feeling is that unless I get into the habit of buying some product in particular at Joe's, there's little justification for an extra stop when most, if not all, of the items on my food grocery list can be found at Bread & Circus. That said, I will give their frozen fish section a try.

        1. re: Erika

          And there is always 2 BUCK CHUCK !

          1. re: BBK

            2 Buck Chuck - Great. Fred Franzia's way of screwing up the wine industry...Notice the name FRANZIA. Ring a bell? He also makes Crane Lake, Forest Glen, Forestville and the like...for a couple of bucks more, why not look at Chile, Argentina, Spain, Australia, heck, France or Italy. You spend more for better food, why not spend a couple of bucks to have a better wine...live a little!
            Examples: $4.99 Protocolo Red, White, Rose: $4.99 Castanio Monestrell: etc...talk to your local wine merchant...there are some great finds out there!!

        2. s
          Science Chick

          Been shopping their for several years (Boston). When I first walked through, I didn't get a true sense of what they had that was good. On subsequent visits, it starts to sink in. I routinely by all my olive oils and spreads, cheeses, jams, peanut butter, maple syrup, natural cereals, dried fruits, nuts, frozen items, snacks, crackers, COFFEE and, if you are lucky, some decent wines. Yes, you can get alot of this stuff elsewhere, but I challenge you to get the quality for the price. No, I don't do all my shopping there, maybe once a month for staple items. Definitely not for produce.

          Try again and try a few things!

          1. Trader Joe's has the best giant chocolate bars - over a pound each - the semisweet chocolate with almonds is heavenly and the price can't be beat. Just tried their frozen organic pizzas. Excellent, especially when you add toppings, and again the price is right. Hard-to-find Kenya AA coffee beans, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, cereal, frozen chocolate mousse cake, frozen cheese cake and pork pot stickers are a few of the items we stock up on twice a year when we visit family in Larchmont. We come out with at least 8 packed shopping bags and savings of $100 or more. At least the new stores are heading in the right direction (north) with the opening of the latest one in Hadley. Take a closer look, if you're a true foodie you'll be delighted.

            1. I, for one, am ecstatic that it has finally opened and spent the afternoon blissfully browsing the aisles -- came home with two bags full of ridiculous, but delicious treats -- chocolate covered dried cheries, decaf chai latte mix, peanut butter stuffed pretzels, barbecued shredded chicken-ready to heat and eat, some frozen shrimp, a couple of interesting looking wraps - tandoori chicken and something else....

              Is this "staples" shopping? Absolutely not, but I hate going to the regular store and buying the same things every week, only to spend way too much time thinking about how to make interesting meals out of dull ingredients. And it kills me to pay Bread and Circus prices to put up with their snotty attitude.

              To me TJ's offers an opportunity to have a pantry full of yummy and interesting things and for someone who works at home, this is a godsend.

              So if you want to give it another try after adjusting your expectations, find me for advice on what to toss in your cart -- I'll be the one loaded down with wasabi peanuts, low-fat dogbuscuits, way too many things in puff pastry, and about fourteen bags of coconut covered cashews. It ain't practical, but then neither am I!

              1. All the previous posters are telling why TJ's is successful. There are two TJ's within 10 miles of my house in northern New Jersey, and each is equally good. It's NOT a supermarket. The produce is often prepackaged, ridiculously expensive, and even lousy. However, nearly everything else is very good to unbeatable at extremely reasonable prices. I don't know about the Hadley store, but here the stores carry excellent breads in addition to what everyone else mentioned. Also, the cheese selection is huge, and the prices are unusually low.

                1. I've been able to do most of my shopping at TJ's, buy produce at our weekly farmer's market, and hit the supermarket or Costco for the other stuff (sugar,paper goods, e.g.) once or twice a month. TJ's frozen foods are mostly great. The pizzas from Italy, frozen cooked shrimp, frozen berries, tofu blintzes and ice cream sandwiches are staples in my house. The nuts and dried fruit selection is unbeatable. TJ's was the first out here (So Cal) to carry King Arthur flour, and TJ's vanilla extract is excellent for baking. Eggs and dairy products, as well as fresh juices, are also outstanding. Our TJ's carries a good selection of fresh meats and Empire kosher chicken. It's not a full service market, but for value and quality it's worth a regular visit.

                  1. r
                    Robin Goldstein

                    truffle oil.

                    1. When I first moved to the New Haven area from NY I went to Trader Joe's and also thought, "what's the fuss, this is not so great". I dont know about Hadley, but after 2 years here, Trader Joe's is looking really good next to the New Haven area competition (I still go to NY every 4-6 weeks with a giant freezer bag to full and bring back). I guess my expectations for food stores has greatly diminished.

                      1. The TJ's in Hadley, MA, is small compared to most TJ's...but better than having no TJ's at all. I lived in Los Angeles for 23 years and sure missed TJ's after moving to western MA. (Have missed MANY things since moving to western MA. I swear I'm now living in the 1960s again. lol) When I heard a TJ's was coming to nearby Hadley, MA, I was THRILLED. Thought I was back in the real world again!!!

                        Another thing...I've noticed that people in western MA aren't so quick to try new things. (Is that a New England thing???) Example: the local Stop & Shop is supposed to carry the Pearl brand hot dogs (made in MA) but don't sell them at the Stop & Shop supermarkets in western MA. I asked the head of the Stop & Shop deli in Hadley why they don't carry those hot dogs, and was told they don't carry them because "people here wouldn't buy them, and we'd lose money." Thought trying new foods, etc., was part of the enjoyment of living!!

                        Sorry for complaining, but guess I'm just sick and tired of having to travel to Boston area to find "too many" items that I need. Have heard many others who moved here say the same things. It's a beautiful area, though. Can't deny that. And it's a safe area. At least I don't have to duck bullets anymore. Thanks for listening to my foolishness. Maybe I'm just having a bad hair day. Don't get me started on THAT!!! lol

                        P.S. Love TJ's new frozen pizza (think it's new, anyway)...called Pizza Palermo...with Italian sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onions. The price is right too...about $4. Bought this pizza for Oscar night rather than ordering in, which most people do for Oscar night..unless enjoying the Ocars firsthand and the cuisine of Wolfgang Puck. Also, if anyone loves carrot cake...buy TJ's frozen Karat Cake. Served it to guests last evening and we all LOVED it. Also about $4. By the way, this Karat Cake DOES have walnuts in it.

                        1. I guess we're lucky here, in eastern MA. we have 3 TJs and our home is equidistant from each. Each store has their own particular focus, however, I have noticed an uptick in the quality of both the produce and poultry in all three. (We don't buy red meat, so can't comment on that) There is such a vast selection of dairy products, cereals and grains, condiments and other pantry/kitchen staples that it's a pleasure to shop there....and I'm not even mentioning the frozen food others have. I say give your new store a chance before you dismiss it entirely.

                          1. We shop at TJ's Shrewsbury, MA, for cheese (emmenthaler and gruyere for fondue at great prices), coffee, milk and eggs (cheaper than grocery store), frozen entrees, greek yogurt, cereal, and special treats. Great for holiday shopping to make gift baskets and for stocking stuffers. It's a fun place to browse, explore, and try a sample, but it will never replace the grocery store.

                            1. What are you missing? IMHO, nothing. I've lived in markets both with and without TJ's and I still don't get it. It's a bit of a craze and, to some extent, I believe people feel compelled to say they like it. Otherwise they might lose their credentials in the foodie community.

                              On the other hand, I almost never buy frozen prepared food of any type so that could be why I don't get TJ's usefulness.

                              1. I am a foodie on a budget. While I will spend a little more for foods that I enjoy more, I like TJ's prices. When I first moved to LA, I didn't get it either. I went into the local TJs and almost turned around and left. After going a couple of times, I realized that this place has a lot of treasures. In addition to incredible trail mix/nuts/dried fruit, they have an extensive cheese selection and good wine at very reasonable prices. And when I didn't have time to cook, freshly frozen grilled chicken strips (with no artificial 'smoke' flavor - yuck) were a godsend.

                                Now that I live on the East Coast, I miss TJs. The closest one is two hours away. The only place I can get such high-quality organic and/or non-artificial food is Whole Foods, and I cannot afford to shop there. I tried to replicate a TJS shopping trip and found I was paying literally three times as much at Whole Foods! I can't afford that.

                                1. I've been to the new one in the Twin Cities a few times. Like the poster "port" above, I like going to a bunch of specialty stores to buy their specialties. That's maybe why I'm not such a big fan of TJ's and clearly don''t get it. We're lucky in the twins - we have several wine stores that make TJ an embarassment. We have numerous Asian groceries whose frozen entrees are better than TJs. We have some great bread shops, coops, farmers markets, etc, so there's not much need for TJ's, for me anyway.

                                  Another peeve of mine is their chosen demographic. Check out the neighborhoods they pick for their stores. Very upscale foodie, but just enough outside to keep their rent down.

                                  1. People new to Trader Joe's seem to fall into two categories as either they wander around wondering what the fuss is about or they go into paroxysms of joy. The thing is, you have to study this place---spend some time learning what they sell: this isn't the Safeway. TJ doesn't carry the brands you're used to seeing---most things are on their own label. Their prices are very reasonable so you start experimenting, picking up a few things to try. A few of your choices turn out to be losers, but along the way you find products that you just love (and can't believe the price is so low). They have a wonderful line of frozen foods, things you don't see everywhere. I recommend the huge bags of elegant little bitty frozen green beans from France; frozen artichoke-filled tortellini combined with a bag of frozen artichoke hearts to make a pasta salad (add lemon juice, olive oil, and scallions); frozen individual chocolate lava cakes; frozen individual portions of crabmeat-stuffed flounder (really good, unbelievable at $2.99); frozen pineapple (extra-sweet and extra-cheap). TJ's peanut butter is good. Great prices for frozen berries. Big jar of "Peach Sauce" (very peachy) makes an almost instant peach cobbler if you add a topping, or you can just have it on frozen waffles. Mandarin Orange Chef Sauce makes quick Chinese-style Orange Chicken if you add a couple of spoonfuls to stir-fried chicken breast pieces, plus garlic powder and red pepper. Huge selection of nuts, dried fruit, and trail mix. Famous for wine of course (try Dr Beckerman's Liebfraumilch) and the sparkling fruit juices are fun. When I didn't have a conveniently located TJ I used them mostly for goodies but now that I have a close one I find I am buying more staples there like eggs, milk, coffee cream, and more produce like acorn squash, kiwi fruit, blackberries---prices are good, quality and service are incomparable. I've heard TJ called "the gourmet store for cheapskates" and personally I think this store appeals much more to the imagination than do mainstream supermarkets. The people there are lovely. I know that in the downtown Chicago store certain products are so popular that TJ can barely keep them on the shelf---the frozen green beans, the chocolate lava cakes, the barbecued chicken pizza, and the shrimp gyoza, that I know of.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Querencia

                                      A very nice overview of the TJ experience, Querencia. Lately, I've been buying their paper products, detergent, hand soap, and hand lotion. They carry Tom's of Maine toothpaste, too. The prices are good, and the products are fine.

                                    2. I think my confusion/frustration with Trader Joe's may mirror that of the OP - I don't buy prepackaged, prepared frozen bulk foods, and the produce just frustrated me. So the occasional things that do catch my eye (chocolate, a few cheeses, one bread, fresh pizza dough) are easily replicated/found elsewhere. (btw, Whole Foods carries frozen balls of pizza dough)

                                      1. I live in San Francisco now, but I am originally from Amherst, MA so I have been to the TJ's in Hadley, MA. The Trader Joe's in SF are WAY better....one major reason is that in CA there is wine, but in Hadley there didn't use to be (and I'm assuming there still isn't, since I don't think grocery stores in Hadley can sell it).

                                        Also, produce at TJ's in California is much better, especially during the winter. This is understandable obviously. Different stores are also different sizes and offer different things....I also used to go to the TJ's in Coolidge Corner (brookline, ma) a lot and that store was more similar to the ones in San Francisco.

                                        I wasn't that impressed with Trader Joe's at first, but I find that it's excellent for snack-type food (chips, salsas, crackers, cheese, etc.) and certain types of produce (baby carrots, arugula, cherry tomatoes). I rarely buy frozen food, though I like buying their frozen berries. The dolmades (the brand from Greece in the can) are great, I buy their pasta, sauces, cinnamon apple sauce, peanut butter. When I want to cook a meal though, I definitely depend on other places for things like vegetables, meat, ingredients for a stocked kitchen, etc.

                                        Since I live in San Francisco, I can get away with shopping at Trader Joe's, the farmers markets and then the occasional small store. I hardly ever have to go to a big super market. In Hadley, MA, this isn't possible, which makes Trader Joe's a bit more frustrating. When I'm in that area, I usually just go to Stop and Shop.

                                        Dave MP

                                        1. I've always looked at TJs as a freezer and pantry store. Some of their baked goods are good quality and priced well and much of their dairy is excellent. I can't recall ever having purchased produce in a Trader Joe's...its clearly not what they do well and they don't focus on it much.

                                          The frozen seafood is a great deal and their frozen vegetables are a savior during bleak winter months. The frozen fruit is also a good deal. They do, as noted above, have excellent chocolate, great wine at good prices...I like the vitamin selection...the prices on Luna bars are excellent. There's a lot that's good there and, for the most part, the things I buy keep for ages since they're frozen or canned or boxed...so I don't go often but I stock my freezer and pantry when I do go.