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Jan 18, 2011 08:39 AM

Trader Joe's. What is it??

Hey Hounds

So Mrs. Sippi was telling me yesterday that they may be opening a TJ's in Huntsville, Al. I have two questions.

First of all as she asked me, I'll ask you. What is Trader Joe's?? Is it like a Costco (which is what I thought it was) or is it like Wholefoods?? If B then is it actually like WF or does it lean more towards Earth Fare (Same idea but you don't need OAC for purchase there)??

The second question is, should I be happy or indifferent. I like EF but don't shop there all that much. I do not like WF and seldom go. I'll only go if I'm looking for something specific. I really won't pay more for something simply because it's organic.

Preachers need not apply.


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  1. Trader Joe's has a lot of items in pretty packaging, but I have yet to find any items other than their ice cream, nuts or candies that I would make a special return trip for. Their breads are often stale, their produce is not the best and I find their dairy products seem to spoil quicker. The later seems to be due to the way they accept their deliveries. The times I am in the store, I often see the daily deliveries sitting on the floor and not put away in any refrigeration.

    I am not a fan.

    1. Hi DT,

      Trader Joe's a specialty grocery store (like Whole Foods) that carries a lot of "speciality" products, many/most of which carry their own "Traders ___" brand name (although my understanding is that they do not produce or manufacture their own prodcuts). Unlike a regular grocery store though, they do not have many products...most stores that I have been to have been fairly small in size.

      I have never been to Earth Fare so I cannot comment, but I will say that most prices at Trader Joe's are very fair. It is not really like Costco in the sense that it is not a wholesaler, and it does not make you buy large quantities.

      I think opinions are somewhat mixed as to whether TJ's is super or not. However, personally, I like TJ's a lot and always make a point to visit when I'm in a city with a TJ's and stock up on snacks to bring back to Toronto.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Be happy.

        Trader Joe's is neither like Costco nor Whole Foods. It's much, much smaller than a warehouse store with packaging in conventional sizes. It's also much smaller with less selection per item than Whole Foods.

        But that's what it isn't. What it is is a market with friendly people, a great selection of wines, liquors, cheeses, nuts & dried fruit and packaged baked goods. If you're a baker you won't get a better price for top quality chocolate anywhere else. They carry a good inventory of general items and prepared foods at really good prices. It's a market with conveniently packaged produce like a bag with small packets of peeled garlic cloves or a package of the variety of fresh items you want for guacamole: an avocado or two, a jalapeño, a small tomato or two, a shallot and a lime (also great for gazpacho BTW). It's an interesting cross between the inventory and prices of a supermarket with some of the ambiance of a small neighborhood market.

        They also get great seasonal items at Christmas.

        There are lots of Trader Joe's threads. Most of them will sound like "preachers" but that's because it's a great concept for a market and done very well. The only downsides I would identify for Trader Joe's is that when they sell spiced foods like their prepared Indian dishes or add spices to their nuts they tend to overdo it, when you fall in love with something it could disappear if they don't get the price they want or everyone else didn't love it as much as you did and the parking lots are almost universally too small because everyone shops there.

        Be sure to try it. I bet you'll like it too.

        PS: I don't know Earth Faire so I can't make a comparison to that. In case Earth Faire is a health food store, Trader Joe's doesn't make that claim tho the emphasis is on food with a minimum of artificial ingredients and moving things through quickly rather than relying on a lot of preservatives.

        1. Wow, another TJ thread :^/. I buy egg and dairy products, maple syrup, nuts, frozen fish, and a few other odds and ends at TJ's. Nothing that needs to be especially fresh. They specialize in items that don't fit in the typical supermarket commodity business model, so, they are able to charge less.

          1. Trader Joe's is a discount store that sells restaurant quality items. Many people use foodstamps there. It is like a costco, in that they do not advertise, and they run their business tightly (more than 50% of a product's cost actually spent on the product).

            It is also nice for good staples, like Marcona Almonds, steel cut quick oats, etc. But you'll love it for the frozen section.

            If you shop at a Costco regularly, you'll see a lot of similar stuff, but in smaller quantities. And TJ leans more towards prepared foods. I never buy their produce.

            If you like german imports, TJ's can't be beat. best in the country.