Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not Your Average Joe's

The following items in my pantry have traveled hundreds of miles (I’m talking specifically since I’ve purchased them) to be perched on my shelf, awaiting the moment when I get a craving: Oreos, wheat thin crackers, dark chocolate, and olive oil (which I normally don’t crave, but do use in other yummy dishes). Why such a long journey you may ask? Because they come from Trader Joe’s, and not a-one of those stores can be found in the Capital Region. This absence needs to be fixed. I know I may sound like I drank the Trader Joe’s kool-aid (or rather, their fruit juice NOT from concentrate) but I honestly am a big proponent of the chain.

The basic reason TJ’s needs to join us here in Troy (or Albany, I’m flexible) is because the store is FOR EVERYONE.

If you consider yourself more earthy-crunchy than the average consumer who indulges in Pop Tarts and microwave pizza at a whim, you can find a plethora of organic options at your finger tips which will satisfy both your conscience and your cravings. And, if I may insert my humble opinion, you can no longer claim that the ‘healthy food’ version doesn’t taste as good as the ‘junk food’ version in regular stores. I can personally testify that TJ’s Oreo cookies, which do not have trans fats (or partially hydrogenated oils) in them, taste just as good if not BETTER than those from Nabisco.

If you consider yourself to be on a strict college student budget – insert sad violin music here- or perhaps you’re on a fixed income as an elderly person, or even if you’re just a regular Joe (pun intended) who simply don’t feel like paying SKY HIGH prices for better quality food (no offense, Whole Foods), then Trader Joe’s is right up your alley. Those Oreos I told you about: $2.49/box at TJ’s, $3.29/package at Price Chopper.

If you want to ENJOY your grocery shopping experience, walk into a Trader Joes, you’ll find that those employees with the tragically unfortunate Hawaiian shirts are some of the nicest, most personable and helpful grocery store people you’ll meet. It’s similar to shopping at a farmer’s market, where complete strangers take the time to talk with you as you shop or check-out. (Note: Trader Joes is not a farmer’s market, and their products should never be advertised as such. I am merely noting the social similarities of the venues, and the pleasant atmosphere they both have.)

If you want to be a part of the IN-CROWD, then go shopping at Trader Joe’s. It’s no doubt, the chain is a fad, but THAT my friends is one of the strengths of the brand. Trader Joe’s image makes it COOL to buy brown rice, or parmesan cheese by the wedge, organic olive oil, or those AMAZING Oreos! This trend which propels consumers to buy- to desire- better food is what we NEED. Because sooner or later, corporations will start paying attention to the purchasing decisions we consumers make, and my guess is they’ll want a bite of the profit. (From what I understand, the profit is pretty sizeable: see the following article for more information about Trader Joe’s business.)

In conclusion, I hope you’ll consider bringing your reusable*ahem* shopping bags to a Trader Joe’s next time you’re near one. And if you happen to hear rumors about TJ’s opening up near RPI, please PLEASE let me know.

-Leslie Vorce


  1. Hi Leslie,

    You're not alone in your craving for a Trader Joe's! We have a whole campaign goin on here! We're on facebook and we have a website ( we also have an online petition goin on! PLEASE everyone at RPI, we need you to sign and let Trader Joe's know we want it here!


    Bruce Roter, President
    We Want Trader Joe's in the Capital District

  2. I thought this paragraph from the article was interesting:

    "...Trader Joe's business tactics are often very much at odds with its image as the funky shop around the corner that sources its wares from local farms and food artisans. Sometimes it does, but big, well-known companies also make many of Trader Joe's products. Those Trader Joe's pita chips? Made by Stacy's, a division of PepsiCo's (PEP, Fortune 500) Frito-Lay. On the East Coast much of its yogurt is supplied by Danone's Stonyfield Farm. And finicky foodies probably don't like to think about how Trader Joe's scale enables the chain to sell a pound of organic lemons for $2."

    I've never been to a Trader Joe's, but I always got the feeling that the stores attracted people who might otherwise buy produce from local farmers, co-ops, or health-food stores. So I am a little suspicious that Trader Joe's might actually threaten local producers and markets. What do others think about this?

  3. You bring up a very good point, about which I have several thoughts. I agree, Trader Joe’s definitely has the potential to bring business away from local farmers and health food stores, however I do believe that there exists a group of people that will faithfully shop at those venues despite the higher costs or increased inconvenience (sometimes those venues are not easily accessible and require traveling increased distances). It seems as though, with a ‘green’ or ‘organic’ or ‘all natural’ food movement as we are seeing in our society today, there will be consumers who continue to shop at these places. Therefore, co-ops and farmers markets may see a financial strain, but not a complete desertification of customers.
    On the flip side, however, it seems equally as possible that TJ’s can increase the number of consumers who seek out co-ops and locally farmed produce. I believe that TJ’s has the ability to appeal GREATLY to the average consumer: low prices, relatively large diversity of products, etc. I use the phrase ‘average consumer’ to describe someone who regularly shops at a typical grocery store like Price Chopper or Hannaford. Drawing consumers in from these stores and getting them to shop at Trader Joes will increase the number of people who come in contact with organic and natural food options-which in turn increases awareness of these types of products. Shopping at TJ’s allows consumers to try these more ‘green’ friendly options at pretty affordable prices, and these consumers will then start looking for ‘organic’ or ‘all-natural’ options in general when they’re in need of groceries. This provides a catalyst for shoppers to seek out other places to purchase foods, such as: co-ops, farmers markets, and health food stores.
    Overall, the idea that American society as a whole-not just pockets of ‘food conscious consumers’ who can be seen as a small minority- can begin to convert to less processed, more organic foods would be fantastic. TNC’s would then start looking at the ‘green’ movement as a true REVOLUTION of food in American society. This can help turn the tide of food production in a better, more sustainable, direction.
    Perhaps I am too optimistic about the reaching effect that TJ’s can have, but I do believe that the store can truly help to change the way we think about food in America.

  4. Your post and the article were both really interesting. I've been to a Trader Joes in the city before and I know a lot of people who shop there and the type of people that shop there and I agree with Abby. I think this store would take away from those who would shop at coops and health food stores more than it would contribute to those stores. From that fortune article it seems like Trader Joes is trying to give people the sense that its the same as a health foods store or a coop but with cheaper prices while it is still practicing a lot of business practices that you wouldn't expect those places to practice which is a little deceiving. I'm sure the people who work there are similarly minded to the shoppers but maybe its taking away votes from better venues.