Trader Joe's - Tampa!
Thanks for posting -- I hadn't heard.
I've only been a few times to their stores, and I think I need to re-align my expectations. I think I go there expecting a dean and deluca-type store, but then end up seeing all the packaged food and wonder what the fuss is all about.
I'm sure there are some winners in there at good prices, I just need to be steered toward them as Robert R has done.
Do all the stores carry just about all the same stuff? E.g., if I read about someone in Cali raving about some crazy TJ bread, should I expect it in Tampa? Thanks.
Yes, the products seem to be pretty universally distributed to their stores. Most of their items are listed online, and you can print a shopping list right from their website before you go. Before TJ's came to Florida, I would make "wish lists" and out-of-towners would personally shop for me and ship or deliver on a trip down here. Personally I think their items are good-quality and healthier (no GMOS, trans-fats, preservatives, artificial this or that), and very reasonably priced. Surely the store is not for everyone, but certainly for many. It is not just packaged or prepared foods, but also single items like dried fruits and nuts - not loosely sold, but sold as a single item type. It is also not as complete as a typical grocery store, but has limited selections of each item and doesn't carry all the miscellaneous non-food items we are used to seeing in a regular store. It is not a Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca or Williams-Sonoma, but what it is works for me!
Thanks for your response. I have read/heard way too many glowing reviews to dismiss TJ out of hand. Especially here on CH, when I read the critical mass universally lauding anything, I am more apt to think *I* am the one who is blind, even if I previously held a different view!
I look forward to having one close, and I will spend some time in there combing it over to discover some deliciousness for myself. Thanks.
My first visit to a TJ's had me wondering what the hype was about. Then as I started trying things I got it.
What it's not: a place where you can do all your shopping. You can generally do better on most produce and meats elsewhere. It's not a place with a huge variety. Their biz model is to have one of each product type available that they really believe is the best quality at the best price. They constantly eliminate the bottom selling 10% and bring in new items.
Areas where TJ's shines: cheese, their Greek yogurt is as good as Fage and much cheaper, dried fruits and nut mixes, flowers, private label wine and beer. National labels aren't always a bargain, but the private label wines can be really good. They have a good amount of organic at nice prices.
Their breads and grab n go items seem to vary by region - I believe they have regional commissaries.
I find their canned beans and many condiments quite good. Their frozen vegetables are excellent - I love the fire roasted corn kernels especially.
I'm on a modest budget and I find TJ's lets me get a few "luxury" items which are out of my budget elsewhere.
As an added bonus, my Whole Foods dropped their prices on a number of items which were identical to TJ's products once TJ's opened in my home area. I noticed this initially in the bottled juice category and then noticed a similar trend with some dairy options too. Local mileage may vary...
On the chain board there are TJ threads which I found helpful when I began shopping at the place. Now I really wouldn't want to be without one!
Edit: I was at the Sarasota location last week. It has a much larger wine selection than any TJ's I've seen before (NY, MI, NC, GA). I drove by the Tampa location yesterday and it looks like it would support a similar footprint!
Can't wait. I go to their Sarasota store every other month or so. Love their Trellis Chardonnay, great value at $5.99, dehydrated blueberries, salt free pistachios, frozen wonton soup, various Indian frozen and shelf stable items, jalapeno & cilantro hummus and Mediterranean Greek yogurt dip ( a great sandwich topper).