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Pinole: Trader Joe's and fresh produce at 99 Cents Only Store

Trader Joe's will be opening in the shopping center near Red Onion. It is still under construction and not yet noted on the website.

The 99 Cents Only Store opened in the Del Monte Plaza and I was intrigued by the sign that advertised fresh fruit and veggies.

There are good produce days and bad produce days here. There are good values and bad values. On the first visit, everything was in stellar condition. On another visit a lot was rotting.

For a while they had perfect baskets of grape tomatoes for 99 cents. There were packages of three yellow bell peppers. Quarts of milk were 99 cents and yoplait yogurt was 39 cents ... not everything is 99 cents... it just tops off at that price.

There are some organic items like canned pumpkin 2 for 99 or Swanson's boxed organic chicken broth.

They have dairy items, cold cuts, meats, frozen items, bread, canned goods, etc. No alcohol.

Sometimes it is those little tiny sizes which allows them to meet the price limit. There's a mix of name brands and generic stuff. REALLY watch for expiration dates.

Also, some items are the same cost as at a regular market ... and sometimes more. People get caught up in the 99 cent frenzy and seem to fail to notice.

The store just isn't for me. It has that cluttered bargain store ambiance and for me there's not enough interesting stuff to warrant a stop. It is wildly popular with the locals and usually very crowded which also is a shopping turn-off to me. It's no Grocery Outlet.

99 Cents Only Store
620 San Pablo Ave, Pinole, Ca

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  1. I didn't even look at the produce the one time I went in, I guess I simply assumed it wouldn't be up to much. I too won't be back, I walked around once and then straight out the door - I did see a few good deals, but nothing to make me cope with the bargain basement style layout and products.

    A few things that I saw that was at least enough to make me stop and almost consider spending some money

    Cross And Blackwell Worchester Sauce
    Sea Salt

    Now the Trader Joe's, that's another matter. that should be a good addition around these parts

    4 Replies
    1. re: rob133

      saw a sign for a new 99 Cents only store opening soon in Berkeley on the east side of San Pablo Ave. about 50 yards north of University Ave. May have been near or replacing the Smart and Final at that location.

      their produce is not very good but they often have soy milk and a few other deli items for about 1/2 or 1/3rd less than Grocery Outlet. it's just another small addition to the area in the vicinity of the corner of University and San Pablo Avenues which includes Vik's, Kabana, Indus Village, De Afghanan Kabob House, & Grocery Outlet. The International Festival street fair held in that location last summer was one of the best street fairs that I've been to which included free music at Freight and Salvage.

      1. re: zippo

        Ah ... rats ... their site said a store was opening in El Cerrito on April 10th. The first 9 customers could buy an ipod for 99 cents. Don't know where the El Cerrito store is though.

        1. re: rworange

          this should be interesting. a video on the 99cent only cookbook:


          could that new store listng be for El Centro?

          1. re: zippo

            Could be ... thanks for not having me wander aimlessly around El Cerrito looking for it.

            I saw that segment live and have been trying to track down a web reference. Thanks.

    2. While it certainly different then the traditional "American" grocery stores, I find the majority of these stores absolutely amazing. I say majority of these stores because not all 99 Cents Only Stores are the same. Luckily, I've lived next to ones with a regular supply of local farm grown veggies and large freezer sections for ice cream, dairy, deli meats, etc. Some stores get stocked more often then others and if you know the stocking dates (or get lucky like I do a few times) you can get some amazing deals. Last week, I got a gallon jug of non-concentrate Tropicana OJ, 4 ripe mangos, a dozen eggs, loaf of Oroweat bread, and a jar of Ragu sauce! For a single guy in his 20s out of college, you cannot beat these deals! I probably wouldn't even be eating half the fruits and veggies I am now if I had to buy them at the normal prices! Speaking of which, I cooked my first broccoflower ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broccofl...) last month and I hate to tell my mom, but I think i'm a fan!

      For those interested, the best Bay Area store I've been to was (about 2 years ago at least) the one in Hayward. The best one IMO in LA is the one in Westchester by LAX. They are growing pretty fast and with the prices of things nowadays, always worth a second look: http://www.99only.com

      1 Reply
      1. re: chiefnaidu

        Congrats on your broccoflower. I'lll have to check out the Hayward store when I'm in that area.

        It is true that each store is different. It is always worthwhile to check out a new store to see what's worthwhile.

      2. Trader Joe's stores are definitely my spot to go when I cook at home. Their selection of different foods just amazes me sometimes. In fact, I just went there yesterday to pick up some items to cook dinner for my girlfriend. Mushroom puff pastries, alfredo, chicken sausage, and raspberry creme brulée for all under $16. For those who have one near you, go check them out! I'll post up pictures of my dinner so you can see what you guys can do too with a little bit of cash.


        1. My family will be glad to hear about the TJs in Pinole. They've been going to the one in El Cerrito for awhile now but they live in Hercules. I'm sure this TJs will get plenty of business once it opens up.

          1. where is the red onion? Which shopping center? Which exit off 80? Which side of the freeway? Sorry to be so dense but I only know how to get to Pt Pinole and would really like to know how to find a closer TJ so de they don' t seem likely to open in Vallejo.

            Thanks, zenki

            1 Reply
            1. re: zenki

              If you are coming from Vallejo it is the Pinole Valley Road Exit - you hang a left onto to Pinole Valley Road. The new TJ will be on your right, if you pass the TJ shopping center, you will come across a small strip mall and that's where the Red Onion is.

            2. The Berkeley 99 Cents Only store is scheduled to open on June 19th. It's located in the former Smart and Final Store on San Pablo near University which years ago was a Grocery Outlet store and a movie theatre before that.

              99 Cents Only, Berkeley Store
              1941 San Pablo Ave . @ University Ave.
              Berkeley, CA 94702

              Today at the Oakland 99 Cents Only (all items were 99 cents):

              - seedless watermelon, maybe 5 or 6 lbs.;
              - 5 lbs. red potatoes, Papa Gems IdaFresh No. 2 from Idaho;
              - dried El Pique California Chilipods, 3 oz. cello bag;
              - Louisiana Gem Habanero Pepper Sauce, 17 fl. oz. plastic bottle, packed by Peppers Unlimited of St. Martinville, LA;
              - Westsoy Plain Low Fat Soymilk Drink, 32 oz. carton, with orgainic soy from Hain (Grocery Outlet hasn't had much soymilk lately) and
              - Zulka Pure Cane Sugar from unrefined cane juice, 2 lb. plastic bag, from Mexico.

              Also picked up some household utensils and cleaners as well as the 1 cent/minute phone cards. Most of the produce was prepackaged and consisted of squash, peppers and tomatoes. Clearly, 99 Cents doesn't have the variety of Grocery Outlet but with their the new 99 Cents store in Berkeley only a few blocks from the GO, I'll probably spend a few afternoons having lunch at either Kabana, Indus Village or De Afghanan Kabob House and then walking to 99 Cents & GO to shop, feeling pretty proud of myself for all the money I'd saved in these tight times.

              4 Replies
              1. re: zippo

                If you can figure out the usual stocking days, then sometimes you will hit the jackpot with the produce. On other days it's a total bust.

                I'm in Southern California, so don't know if the product differs, but they regularly carry Earthbound Organic. Last week I snagged a 1-pound (!) carton of Spring Mix. I've been having luck with the cherry & grape tomatoes, huge Driscoll/Watsonville raspberries, as well as Mexican blackberries in a 12-oz package.

                Also keep an eye out for Horizon Brands in the dairy section. Recently they've had some big shipments of Lean Cuisine (the microwave Paninis are good for lunches).

                1. re: zippo

                  I went into the new Berkeley store today and bought some cat food and a few cans of Earth Pure organic diced tomatoes, just because I was there. It was depressing; mostly candy and soda.

                  1. re: Glencora

                    If you don't want to get depressed, just head straight for the refrigerated & produce section. Although if you hit them on the wrong day, it can still be depressing, just like a mainline supermarket,

                    During summer when the supermarkets are running specials on produce, they're less compelling. One thing I'll give 99 cent store props for, is that they will locate in neighborhoods that chains like Trader Joe's won't touch.

                    Which means I can actually walk to the store and get milk and produce.

                    1. re: mlgb

                      I agree that the produce and dairy can be a great deal if you catch them at the right moment and awful if it is an off-day. Haven't been to the Berkeley store yet.

                2. Sign on the door says that Trader Joe's Pinole will open Friday, July 11th at 8:30 am

                  1. I keep meaning to post in defend of the 99 cents store. I think it is getting a bad rap because people expect something that it is not. You will find at most a handful of amazing deals. However those deals are so amazing, that to me if you are nearby it's worth the trip in. My best deals so far (all 99 cents)

                    Organic bagged fresh spinach
                    1lb box of mini bell peppers (they seem to always have regular sized peppers, all colors, 2 to a package)
                    Organic cherry tomatoes (the small container)
                    Organic heavy cream and half and half (pint of half and half and the small container of cream)
                    Breyers Ice Cream, regular size!
                    Organic granola bars (saw these same exact ones for double the price at Grocery Outlet)
                    Organic canned pumpkin (they sell for $1.69 at trader joes)
                    Pita bread, 10 to a package
                    They always have tons of frozen meals that I don't buy but seem like a great deal

                    Well that's what I can think of off hand, sorry for no brand names but I think with the exception of the pumpkin it was all brand names you would be familiar with. Like I said I think my best day there I walked out with 5 items, so I don't know that I would drive out of my way more then a few minutes. With grocery bills skyrocketing it's worth it for me to even get a few deals.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: elliora

                      Great finds. It is like that at restaurants too. Someone will dismiss a place and someone else will chime in with the good stuff that can be found there. .

                      1. re: elliora

                        Hmmm ... I swear someone wrote about the new Berkeley store on San Pablo but I'm not finding it.

                        Anyway, seems a good produce week for the 99 cent only stores, especially peppers. As of today the produce is in stellar condition. There are red, green, yellow and orange peppers, 3 to a pack (about 1lb) for ... well, 99 cents ... actually they raised prices ... 99.99 cents ... they round up.I've bought the peppers in the past and they are always good

                        All of this at 99.99 cents

                        Lots of containers of Mexican peppers.

                        Containers of nice-looking Earthbound Farms organic spring mix 5 oz
                        8 full size tomatoes - I'm guessing about what you would buy at Safeway, quality-wise
                        two medium eggplant
                        half dozen kiwis
                        bags of oranges and apples
                        Land o Lakes cheese slices
                        dozen eggs
                        Oscar Meyer ham
                        lots of frozen 4 oz fillets of fish such as salmon, tuna, rockfish, wahoo, and a 5 oz package of white fish fillets stuffed with shrimp
                        Yoplait yogurt is 39 cents

                        Anyway, to whoever mentioned the Berkeley store, it is better than Pinole with a better product selection and not as messy as Pinole with more room. to shop

                        Two pounds of red Bartlet pear

                        99 Cents Only
                        1941 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA