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union sq whole foods and trader joe's -- best and worst times

Just moved to the Union Square area (from Boston) and spent more of my Saturday night than initially anticipated waiting in line at my local Whole Foods. I only found myself at WF because I couldn't stomach the line down the street at Trader Joe's.

As I understand it, these stores are always busy. But, are there times that are better (manageable) or worse (avoid at all costs)?

Trader Joe's
142 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

Whole Foods
40 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

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  1. Trader Joes 14th St- when is it not a madhouse?

    Basically around 9am or 9pm seems to be the consensus, and mid-week is best, apparently. I avoid TJs on the weekends and after 3ish at all costs. You're competing with a LOT of college students for cheap stuff then.

    Least crowded Whole Foods in Manhattan?

    Don't go to Whole Foods during meal time, ever! When did you go on Saturday night? I like to go to the Bowery one at like 10pm, where there's rarely a line, but that's one of the less busy WF stores overall. Union Square Whole Foods always has some short line but seems OK on weekday mornings, though.

    1. the best day to go to Trader Joe's + Whole Foods is the day after all the NYU kids leave at the end of the semester. The lines are always long and slow, aisles crowded. I hate both those stores.

      Travel to the WF on Houston/Bowery, then take the 3rd Ave. bus (right on the corner) back. Huge store.

      1. I went there around 9:30am Friday and waited 2 minutes.

        If you're uptown, get a car pool going with a couple of folks via zipcar or mint and go to the one in Scarsdale. Way less crowded, buy as much as you want without carrying in the subway.

        1. I was at Trader Joe's yesterday (Saturday) at 10AM and there was no line.

          1. The Whole Foods in Tribeca is at least three times larger than the one in Union Square, and is rarely crowded. I think that's partly due to the way it is laid out. Shopping there is truly a pleasure, any time of day or week.

            Trader Joe's is always a madhouse. I have never been there REALLY early or late, as I don't live nearby, but perhaps those times would work better. I'm ready to abandon the TJ's in Manhattan at all, and use a Zipcar to get to Paramus.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ChefJune

              Brooklyn TJ's very convenient to the IRT #2 or #3 lines. I would just as soon go to the Atlantic Avenue location than fight the crowds at Union Square. Hopefully, this is only a temporary measure until the UWS location opens ...


            2. Union Sq. First thing in the morning on a weekday.

              Although I went to the Chelsea one last Wednesday at 11:30am and went through the express line with no wait at all.

              1. Avoid TJ's on Mondays. One would think this is going to be an easy day to breeze on in after the weekend, but it's not.

                1. Garden of Eden is a decent place for many items, and the market in Union Square
                  has so many things--why do you need either WF or TJ? For commodity groceries,
                  there's the Food Emporium across the street.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: penthouse pup

                    I agree with Pup! I do most of my shopping at Garden of Eden, make occasional forays to TJ for a few special things (baked blue chips, dishwashing detergent, a few frozen things) but never, never into the WF madhouse. And the cashiers at both GoE and TJ are great.

                  2. That Whole Foods is really poorly laid out. I sometimes get fed up and walk 10 seconds to the Greenmarket (for much better food I might add!).

                    The Chelsea Whole Foods on 7th Ave is usually less crowded.

                    1. I think I'm in the minority here when I say that my biggest annoyance with shopping at TJ or WF when they're busy isn't the lines (I say they go pretty fast AND the customer service of the cashiers at both places, especially TJ's is so much more pleasant than any of the traditional grocery stores where they don't even look at you or acknowledge your existence) but rather the crowded aisles and jostling to get to the products on the store shelves. TJ is such a shopping 'frenzy' that the staff can't even keep the shelves stocked in many of the items, although they certainly seem to try very hard.

                      Back to your original question about best times to shop - the only thing I would say is to avoid them at the very end of the night, when they start to close some registers and are 'gearing' up to close, especially TJ's.

                      1. I've noticed that Sunday afternoon/evening and Mondays and Tuesdays after work are insanely crowded for TJ's. Thursday and Friday should be pretty open. Friday/Sat nights, the store is practically empty since who shops then?

                        1. As many mention here, later at night TJ's is less crowded. The trade-off, however, is that they are often out of many things I went there for in the first place. By the end of the day the refrigerator section across the back of the store can be virtually empty.

                          1. Whenever it's raining or even overcast, TJ's is EMPTY. It's great.

                            1. Thank you, fellow hounds, for such thorough replies. I think I'll try TJ's early in the morning and scope out the Bowery WFM.