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What stores/chains would you drive long distances for?

I just asked a question about the ubiquitous Trader Joes and it made me think... what stores/chains would you drive long distances (greater than 20 miles) to get to? We moved from a highly-developed urban area to a more 'small town' environment and a lot of my favourite places are now 20-30 miles away, or even further. Then I wouldn't drive more than five miles to get to the store... now I'm seriously thinking about the trek.

The closest Whole Foods is in West Palm... they just opened a new Trader Joes in Wellington... if we really want Krispy Kreme we have a choice between going up to Melbourne or all the way down to Fort Lauderdale (I wouldn't drive that far 'just' to get donuts but when DH was working in Melbourne he brought home two dozen...) and one of the few remaining World Market stores is up in Melbourne. And of course, then there's Penzeys Spices which opened a store in Orlando which is their ONLY store south of Jacksonville.

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  1. It not just miles it's time. 30 miles in the city, even highway, can be a couple hours. And there are likely similar stores closer by. In the country 30 miles to anything can be usual. You do plan and group trips, though.

    1. We once drove almost an hour to eat at a Sonic.

      In the past we would drive about 60 minutes one way every few months to the closest Trader Joes for our preferred coffee and a few other things we could buy lots of that would keep for the time until our next trip. Since then they've opened one nearer to us.

      1. I'll drive about once a month to a Trader Joe's that's about 15 miles away, maybe 2-3 times a year to a Wegmans that's over 30 miles away. Between the gas costs, the time, and the higher prices, it's just not worth it on a regular basis. I have hopes that in the next two years, Wegmans will be constructing a new location less than ten miles away. That would be fantastic.

        Contrast those distances with how little I need to drive to my usual markets: A&P - just under 2 miles, Stop & Shop - less than 7 miles; and if I want slightly upscale, there's a King's just over 5 miles away.

        You couldn't pay me to drive to a Whole Foods, but I'd drive 20 miles for a half-dozen hot Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. :)

        I echo some of what divadmas said - it's not just the distance, it's also how insane the traffic is, or the convenience of negotiating the area. There are some stores east of me by about 10 miles, but I rarely travel that road as it's just far too congested, and "amateur hour" drivers prevail. I'll drive a slightly longer distance in the opposite direction to many of the same stores, but in an easier-to-travel area.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mcsheridan

          I have to drive 15 miles just to reach any grocery store.

          1. re: Becca Porter

            We drive about 35-40 to reach civilization. It's inconvenient at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a trade off.

            1. re: Becca Porter

              One of my sisters does likewise, as she's in the northeast part of NY State. I once did a 45-min one way with her for a Wegmans/BJs run, but then, she really stocks up.

              But here in NJ, the most densely populated state in the country, and with some of the craziest drivers you ever *did* see, a 15 mile trip can be more than annoying.

          2. None.

            TIME is the most precious commodity of all.

            1. If I had no access to Asian ingredients such as rice noodles, rice paper, fish sauce, and hoisin, then I would make the 20 miles trek and stock up.

              1 Reply
              1. re: seamunky

                This is me. I currently will drive about 25 miles to get to the nearest Asian supermarket a few times a year to stock up on Asian grocery supplies; not the basics but some of the more unusual items (plus, I just enjoy browsing the aisles looking for interesting things to try cooking with.) I used to live in a big city with a good Chinatown, but no longer.

                There is also a Wegman's near the Asian markets I will sometimes check out if I'm making the trip, mostly for their meat department. I don't find the rest of their selection all that much to get excited about.

              2. I live in central RI. 30 miles in any direction gets me into another state or into the ocean. Guess if I wanted really, really fresh seafood, 30 miles south could be an option.

                Trader Joe's (about 7 miles / 12 minutes) is my maximum for groceries. The mall is about eight miles. There are way too many great restaurants to travel outside that eight miles.

                OK - Eight miles (about 12 minutes) - max.

                1. We drive about an hour and half to Providence RI for Casertas Pizza but its always part of a bigger trip-usually for rugby gear. While we are there I hit the Italian markets but wouldn't drive specifically for that. Even with the pizza we buy a bunch to freeze so it's usually one 2-3 times a year at the most.

                  Honestly there is no place I would drive really far for on regular basis nor any food that would justify doing it for on a regular basis. I can't justify the time and expense. Plus with the internet there really is nothing I can't get my hands on.

                  All that said we will go off course for good grub. Whenever we head to MD we take a detour for our favorite BBQ place. When road tripping to ESVA we went an our out of our way for crab house we had hear about.

                  1. I drive 20 miles each way to an egg ranch but I buy several flats so I only go once every 4-5 weeks. I also pick up flats for several neighbors and they usually toss in a couple of bucks extra to help cover gas.

                    I won't, however, drive to Whole Foods or Penzeys which aren't much further, because it would get me into LA traffic and it would cost too much time and gas.

                    Other than the egg ranch I can't think of anywhere I would drive that far to unless I was going that far anyhow.

                    1. I live in manhattan and don't drive or own a car.
                      But i will on occassion make an "outing" of going to obscure grocery stores that take me 30-45min to get to, like Sahadi's middle eastern grocery or the great Patel brothers indian market. I go with a friend and we have lunch in the area (also obscure ethnic) and enjoy shopping the market and finding new things to try.

                      1. I thought I'd miss Costco but I don't miss it enough to re up plus the drive is 50 plus. Same with Whole Foods, no fee but it is so pricey. Trader Joe's still gets our mileage. I elaborated in the thread about driving to TJ's. Penzey's is a no brainer for me- 30 bucks gets you free shipping.

                        1. About 2 or 3 times a year we go up to Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, OH. It's worth it just for that -a 6-acre grocery with the biggest wine/beer section I've ever seen, plus the international departments. Not just "Asian" but sections for China, Korea, Phillipines, etc. and sections for Norway, Spain, Argentina... It goes on and on. The seafood department has aquariums full of live fish. Produce I've never even heard of. We make a day of it and have lunch, shop, etc. Used to tack on a trip to TJ's before we got our own.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                            sounds like a great way to spend a day!

                          2. Having driven 3.5 hours for dinner at a casual Italian restaurant and 4 hours back, I'd say that no chain is worth a trek (from home).
                            Having driven 2.5 hours for a visit to somewhere and the closest option is a Dunkin' Donuts, we drove 45+ minutes to the nearest Cracker Barrel. It was also because in the "highly developed urban area" we live, there is no Cracker Barrel.
                            Sonic and Denny's just recently showed up within the past two years somewhat near to our home. I've tried the Denny's for the first Denny's breakfast of my life, still haven't tried the Sonic, although I did have Sonic once about ten years ago somewhere down south.
                            TJ's, BJ's, Costco and some of the worst supermarkets around are within a short distance or our home.

                            Around here we drive long distances for artisanal and organic. Chains, not so much.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Gastronomos

                              We drive 3 hours to the "nearest" Cracker Barrel, and we make the trip twice a year. I load up on packages of country ham and other products to dole out between trips.

                            2. I don't really have to drive long distance to any store that I frequent weekly, all within 20-30 miles. However, if they were not as close, I would drive long distance to Wegmans and Trader Joe's.

                              I currently drive long distance to Penzey's but that's only an occasional trip.

                              1. I have business in Lancaster Co., PA every month or so & I always make a point to go to Yoders' Market. I buy bulk baking ingredients & meat there. The prices are better and they have a lot of things that are hard to find here in NJ. That's about 140 miles each way.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JoeBabbitt

                                  I'm curious -- what do you get at Yoder's that you can't find in NJ?

                                2. Schlotzsky's...back when they made a great sandwich...I still look them up when we're on the road

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: 3MTA3

                                    I remember when there were only two, Austin and San Marcos, Tx. That was a great sandwich.

                                  2. It wasn't necessarily a long distance, but when I was in San Jose, California a year and a half ago, I took a cab that cost almost $20 each way to go to In N Out Burger for the first time.

                                    Completely worth it, by the way.

                                    I also used to drive almost 40 minutes to go to Fuddrucker's on the far side of town, which used to be my favorite burger joint. Unfortunately, the quality became really inconsistent over the years, and other places offering similar-quality burgers have popped up a lot closer.

                                    1. When the future Mr. Rilke and I get married, we plan move to Lancaster County. The nearest Trader Joe's will be about an hour / sixty miles away. I will happily make the trek once a month to stock up (big time).

                                      1. It's just under a 2 hour drive each way to the closest Market Basket Supermarket.
                                        I make the drive about every 10-12 weeks, spend about $800-$1000 and save about $700 over the cost of the same items in my local Stop and Shop, Big Y or Shop Rite.

                                        Plus I get GREAT service, everything properly bagged and brought out to my vehicle and loaded. I can call in parts of my shopping order to the butcher, deli manager, fish manager of bakery and it will all be freshly wrapped and waiting for me.

                                        1. We drive an hour plus to eat small town Texas fried chicken. I won't drive 10 minutes to the local Popeye's.

                                          1. This thread reminds me...I discovered there's an Old Spaghetti Factory about 60 miles from me. That's a childhood favorite of mine. I might have to make the trip.

                                            1. If I wasn't lucky enough to live where 4 or 5 pan-Asian supermarkets are near enough to visit while doing other errands, I'd make a special trip once in a while to stock up.

                                              I don't know what there is about them, but I can spend a good 90 minutes or so in a large Asian market just browsing and reading labels, wondering what certain things could be used for, then googling them when I get home. When I browse, I'll usually bring a pen and memo pad with me to write things down I'd like to investigate further.

                                              Not long ago a fellow customer asked me to reach a bottle of yakisoba sauce for her, and since she already had a few in her basket I asked what she used it for. Chow mein was her answer, she said it was the secret "something" in all good chow meins—can't say I've ever seen that in a recipe though, but I bought a bottle any way for the next time I whip up some just to see if she was right!

                                              1. Costco. I used to drive 45 minutes to get to the closest one, now it's about 20 minutes. I used to drive the same 45 minutes to Whole Foods but now the nearest one is about 5 hours away. So I settle for Sprouts which is a good 20-30 minutes. But I only go there maybe once a month. Costco I go to weekly.

                                                When I lived near Trader Joe's I rarely went there. Like maybe 1-2 times a year. The only way I'd drive 45 minutes to it would be if that was my only choice for shopping.

                                                1. Most regulars here know that I'm the crazy person who would drive 4 1/2 hours each way from Memphis to the closest Trader Joe's in St. Louis.

                                                  Now I live in a small town in N. Texas and I'd starve if I relied on the local supermarket. Once a week I drive about 30/40 miles into "town" to the closest Sprouts, TJ's, Costco, etc.

                                                  Even with the time spent and cost of gas it is worth it. I get off work at noon on Friday so that's when I shop, so I miss the crowds and the traffic and the stores are well stocked. I've been doing this for almost two years.

                                                  1. I've never drove more than a few miles just for a chain place, and I'd like to say I never would, but if the nearby In N Out ever closed down I might need to make a 15 mile drive now and then for a burger.

                                                    1. I use to drive from Camp Swampy Louisiana to Houston every 2 months or so to get my sushi fix and stock up on Asian groceries.

                                                      180 miles one way.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. Penzey's spices. Live in Sacramento and the Menlo Park CA Penzey's store is always included in our Bay Area day trips.

                                                        We've visited their Portland OR and Memphis TN stores on other trips.

                                                        1. I'm very lucky to live close to a lot of chains that I love but I would definitely drive 20+ miles to go to Wegman's. Not even a question.

                                                            1. Back in the day before TJ's was in Sacramento we'd include it in a trip to the Bay Area (along with a visit to Peet's Coffee).

                                                              El Pollo Loco and Popeye's. Neither are too far from my house, but traffic is always an issue.