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Trader Joe's Coming to Manhattan!


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I quite agree, new york is like a small quaint village full of people you know and who know you if you go at it the right way. Thats one of the things that makes it great.

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New York City is lousy with people who like to get in my way, gripe loudly and shit all over everything as if this is somehow impressive.  I go to Trader Joe's for a vacation from this sort of thing.  Trader Joe's is one of the places I can go for a guaranteed dose of nice.

New York can be a crazy place, but I also think it's filled with some amazing people. It's definitely exhausting, and with that many over-tired people crammed into a small space, things are bound to get tense from time to time.

But I have to join my fellow New Yorkers in leaping to our defense - at heart, and if you give in anticipation of getting, New York is a wonderful place to be. When people step in front of me on the sidewalk, I just remind myself that I probably just stepped in front of someone else.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I am rather shocked at some of the tirades against TJs. Granted, some of their offering may be mediocre but if you actually tried them and found them of poor quality, then you should inform the store manager. If you didn't try them, then don't comment.

People like what is familiar to them. A friend who visited Manhattan for the first time last week and tiring of hotel/restaurant food after 5 days, was very happy to find a TJs where she could purchase some ready-to-eat items she could store in the room fridge and consume when she was ready to eat and not have to rely on finding something in an unfamiliar city after a meeting ended after 11 p.m.

It is certainly fine for residents and fequent visitors to trumpet the worth of local shops and favorite merchants, but put yourself in the place of someone who is not a resident, not familiar with the neighborhood but IS familiar with TJs. It is like a friendly port in a storm, welcoming and reasonably priced.

I believe most people in the city are friendly, however I have personally been treated rudely by merchants, shop clerks and people on the street during my few visits to New York. I was grossly short-changed at a neighborhood deli and would have been out more than $50.00, had not another customer come to my aid. The clerk, caught in what I considered outright theft, threw the rest of my change and the bag with my order on the floor. I wouldn't pick it up but asked for the manager who came around to the front, picked up the money and the bag and returned my $100.00 bill and asked me to leave, as if it was my fault.

Thanks, but I will take TJs any day, over this kind of "service."

Incidentally, three other customers who had been in line also left when I did.

I had to walk a couple more blocks, but found another deli that had great service and probably better food. They also threw in some extras with the sandwiches, plus some meat scraps for the dogs, when I told them I was there for the Westminster show. They made a very good impression.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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People like what is familiar to them.  A friend who visited Manhattan for the first time last week and tiring of hotel/restaurant food after 5 days, was very happy to find a TJs where she could purchase some ready-to-eat items she could store in the room fridge and consume when she was ready to eat and not have to rely on finding something in an unfamiliar city after a meeting ended after 11 p.m. 

It is certainly fine for residents and fequent visitors to trumpet the worth of local shops and favorite merchants, but put yourself in the place of someone who is not a resident, not familiar with the neighborhood but IS familiar with TJs.  It is like a friendly port in a storm, welcoming and reasonably priced.

This is the justification for McDonald's in Paris.

Feh.

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It's true!  Union Square inches even further toward suburbia with the addition of a Trader Joe's on 14th Street ...

Quote above from the post that started it all.

Andiesenji, I’m sorry you had those bad experiences in New York, but I’m glad to hear you had another experience that somewhat mitigated it. Unfortunately, there are people who can be found in every major city on this planet who will prey upon others. New York is hardly alone in this – Paris, London and Rome all have the same issues.

I think what the non New York City residents who are reading this thread are picking up on, and truly do not understand, is the subtext within. Yes, this is a thread about Trader Joes coming to Manhattan. Those of you who aren’t urbanites are bringing your own perceptions of and experiences with this particular chain to the table, and it’s welcome, refreshing and right that you should do so. No problem there. Trader Joes is a chain store that many people like very much, and anyone who lives in a suburb or in the far reaches of the countryside would be bound to find them great. They offer imported items at great value, and some things that the other chain stores don’t. What’s not to like about them, right?

So why on earth would a New Yorker not see eye to eye with a non-urbanite on this? It’s the chain store phenomenon, and what it is doing to our town. As I’d said somewhere above, no one objected when Staples first opened its flagship store – personally, I was thrilled. Great selection, cheap prices – what’s not to like? Well, Staples is all over town now, and all the little stationery shops where I used buy my greeting cards and wrapping paper are now gone. There used to be four in my neighborhood alone - now I have to go to the local Barnes & Noble (another ubiquitous chain). Gone. And with them, everything that was unique.

We like our little shops. We like our greenmarkets. We want them to survive. But the real estate market here in New York is such that the little merchants are being priced out of their leases, and the chains are moving inexorably in. Every time a chain store opens, many little vendors fail. Maybe that doesn’t mean much to out-of-towners, but it means a lot to us. You want to talk about familiar? We like what’s familiar to us, too.

This isn’t any different than the debate over the Olive Garden opening up in Manhattan. Yeah, the tourists might eat there – they probably will. But why in god’s world anyone would come to a city with the greatest Italian cuisine outside of Italy and fill their faces with crap is beyond me. They could eat far better at any little restaurant on just about any corner. They just don’t know any better, poor saps.

Why would anyone pass by a greenmarket or a butcher shop or a fish shop or a cheese shop and buy their dinner fixings at TJs? They don’t know any better, either. We do.

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You can't compare TJs to Staples because they have never tried to destroy local markets, unlike the book giants, beginning with Crown, who moved into neighborhoods and undercut prices so much that local book stores couldn't compete.

TJs carries stuff that other stores don't carry, from small producers who can't get shelf space in major markets. They have saved several small wineries from bankruptcy and also supported and backed a small producer of pasta who now has a respectable business.

I happen to know these people and know how much they put into their business which would never have made it without TJs.

You should talk to some of these small food producers before you knock TJs as simply being a "chain" because without them, a lot of people would be out of business and out of work.

They are a world away from Whole Foods. I don't shop at Whole Foods because I do not like their predatory business plan.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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New addiction: TJ's Divine Duets belgian chocolate with praline cream. Comes in dark and milk. Oh, boy.

The human mouth is called a pie hole. The human being is called a couch potato... They drive the food, they wear the food... That keeps the food hot, that keeps the food cold. That is the altar where they worship the food, that's what they eat when they've eaten too much food, that gets rid of the guilt triggered by eating more food. Food, food, food... Over the Hedge
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You can't compare TJs to Staples because they have never tried to destroy local markets, unlike the book giants, beginning with Crown, who moved into neighborhoods and undercut prices so much that local book stores couldn't compete.
You should talk to some of these small food producers before you knock TJs as simply being a "chain" because without them, a lot of people would be out of business and out of work.

Oh, but I can compare them. And I do call them a "chain." A quote from Trader Joes' corporate website, entitled "the future of Trader Joes:"

"Our future plans call for on-going development of new, one-of-a-kind food items at value prices, and continued expansion of our chain across the country."

They have, at present, 254 stores in 20 states (Minnesota in progress). CHAIN.

Regardless of what you perceive to be a corporate conscience (and I have doubts that such a thing exists), it is a fact of the marketplace that larger chain stores drive out smaller competitors. They have marketing clout, big distribution arms, and they can undercut their competition as necessary. If you don't think that Trader Joes plays the business game like any other corporate entity does, just compare the prices at their Manhattan store with the prices at one of their stores in neighboring New Jersey. They can fleece New Yorkers with the best of them.

I'm sure they do keep some small producers in business. Who I believe to be at risk from the presence of yet another chain store in New York City are our small vendors. We don't produce any food here that I'm aware of, other than in the children's plot in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and that's not going to feed a city of 8 million. Chains don't provide any benefits to producers within these city limits, but they do provide a risk to other grocers.

Believe it or not, I'm not one of the Trader Joes = the antichrist people on this thread. I would, if they offered them at low prices, buy King Arthur flours, Valrhona chocolate, wild mushrooms and other dry goods from them. Dry goods are expensive in New York, and the only competition out there is from other chain stores. Let them slug it out with each other.

But if TJs were to expand its stores here, or to open one up in my neighborhood and go up against all those small merchants and green marketeers who are near and dear to me, then there'll be hell to pay.

Most of us choose to live here because we do not wish to feel like every place else. Bringing a mall culture into the city violates that entirely.

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just compare the prices at their Manhattan store with the prices at one of their stores in neighboring New Jersey.  They can fleece New Yorkers with the best of them.

I'm sure the rent they pay in Manhattan is considerably more.

Edited by johnsmith45678 (log)
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How are TJ's Pasta sauces?

I really like the canned pomodoro and the low fat marinara. I tried one or two of the jars (vodka and I think bolognese) and wasn't impressed. I think the pomodoro and the marinara make great "bases" that you can quickly build on when you don't have a simmering day in front of you :biggrin:

Xander: How exactly do you make cereal?

Buffy: Ah. You put the box near the milk. I saw it on the Food Channel.

-BtVS

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I was born in Mt. Sinai hospital, as was my mother, as was my son. I've lived in Manhattan my entire life. As a New Yorker, I'm overqualified.

Don't worry, fellow New Yorkers. There will always be plenty of small, filthy, poorly stocked, overpriced stores with rude service for those who don't care about money and prefer to live a certain fantasy. There will always be plenty of great small stores too -- many of the best ones have and will survive the competition just fine. And the chains will continue to do their part to bring New York up to the basic standard the rest of the nation takes for granted, so we can get toilet paper at non-Soviet prices and flour at less than a dollar a pound.

And don't worry, New York is in no danger of losing its uniqueness. New York isn't special because of what stores it has; it's special because of its people and what they do. It's the nation's capital of the arts, publishing, law, finance, fashion and of course cuisine. Spend ten minutes outside New York and you'll stop worrying that New York is becoming like anyplace else, no less everyplace else.

Welcome to New York, Trader Joe's, and good luck.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I spend 10 minutes outside of New York and it makes me even more vehement about anything encroaching on New York that could make it any more like the rest of the country.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok... Just to follow up on my previous posts.. Went there this weekend and I must say.. TJ'S is an absolute horror of a place.. I am not speaking for all them nationwide, just the one in Manhattan.. It is so crowded, there is no room to move, the stuff has been grabbed off the shelves and looks incredibly sloppy.. The line was easily 20 minutes. It felt like some wierd flea market in there..

The food is not my style.. When I eat, I eat meals.. I am not a snacker.. The place just seems like a whole place for snacks and things I have no use for.. The meat is frozen as is the fish.. I noticed that the prices on the frozen fish were good, but still frozen..

Being in New York affords someone the luxury of shopping whenever they want.. If I had a house in the woods and was planning on being isolated for a long time, I could see its benefits, maybe..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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It felt like some wierd flea market in there.. 

The food is not my style.. When I eat, I eat meals.. I am not a snacker.. The place just seems like a whole place for snacks and things I have no use for.. The meat is frozen as is the fish.. I noticed that the prices on the frozen fish were good, but still frozen..

i think jason perlow summed it up pretty well when he referred to TJ's as a "fancy 7-11." 7-11, for those who don't know, is a convenience store, where you might get some snacks or a loaf of bread or a burrito at 3 am.

The news of the pending arrival of TJ's a few miles northwest of manhattan in NJ has generated a similar mix of enthusiasm and couldn't-care-lessness.

Edited by tommy (log)
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For those who DO enjoy TJ's, you might try:

Fat Free Smoky Black Bean Dip (Spicy!)

Picatta Simmer Sauce (Its great for weeknight meal to just simmer chicken breasts in it and serve over pasta...Yum).

Roasted red pepper and tomato soup (I know its summer, but this stuff is pretty good).

I don't recommend the Caciatorre Simmer Sauce (very thin and lacking in flavor, I think).

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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  • 3 weeks later...

Bumping this thread back up.

We were at TJ's this weekend. Because of the torrential downpours, there was no line outside, and the lines at the registers moved rather quickly.

There's a TJ's down in Philly, so we just wanted to pop in and see how the Manhattan version compared. Pretty much the same, but we were more impressed by the wine store next door. All the liquor stores in Pennsylvania are controlled by the state, so we don’t have Two Buck Chuck (or in NYC’s case, Three Buck Chuck). Now I know that there are hundreds of great stores in NYC where you can get wine, but the prices for some of the wines here were amazingly inexpensive. Since we were going to five other wine stores later on, we just bought a bottle of Three Buck Chuck just out of curiosity.

But has anyone tried the other stuff? $7 for a bottle of Nero d’Avola? $15 for a 2003 Barolo? $20 for Amarone? Is that too good to be true?

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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But has anyone tried the other stuff?  $7 for a bottle of Nero d’Avola?  $15 for a 2003 Barolo?  $20 for Amarone?  Is that too good to be true?

Hmmm...I need wine. I suppose I could endure hardship and check it out this weekend! :laugh: Good excuse to get my lazy butt down the Farmer's Market, too...

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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  • 3 months later...

So I went to the infamous Trader Joe's Manhattan last night, lured by curiosity and the promise of inexpensive goods. I did get into the store without having to wait in lines outside.

As for the inside ...

The produce was unexceptional, from what I could tell from afar - I couldn't get close enough to either handle it, or read the prices. The aisles were completely jammed with people, most of whom were carrying handbaskets, but some of whom pushed carts (New Yorkers with shopping carts are scary). It was hard to see the stock for all the people at first, but after several passes up and down one aisle, I can finally assure you that they do indeed sell frozen fruits and vegetables. And crackers, though the shelves were almost completely denuded of them.

Then I noticed a line of people which was wrapped completely around the entire circumference of the store. I asked a man holding a pole which announced that he was the information man if that was a line for the registers, and he very gently confirmed that it was. "Might I suggest that you only purchase only 8 items or less," he said kindly. "That line is far shorter."

Reader, I fled. Past the line of people with 8 items or less, which appeared to have only 40 customers or so within.

I did go next door to buy cheap wine. Far shorter line (only 22 ahead of me - I counted). Somehow it doesn't feel so bad braving the crowds and the wait if there's a drink at the end of the tunnel.

Edited by H. du Bois (log)
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TJ's is great.

the only frozen food products on the planet actually worth buying.

(those who go there for the fresh produce miss the entire point of the store -- except for price)

as for it being crowded...yeah, if you go at peak times. (remember when Whole Foods first opened?)

(they haven't had people waiting in line to go inside in six months)

I go at 9:00 on Sunday night and even though the line still looks long...they are so efficient that you never wait more than five minutes...(they'll also deliver for $5!!!)

another great thing about TJs is that it has placed tremendous price pressure on other grocery retailers.

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as for it being crowded...yeah, if you go at peak times.  (remember when Whole Foods first opened?)

(they haven't had people waiting in line to go inside in six months)

Do you suspect a connection between the opening of the Union Square TJ's (which happened roughly seven months ago) and the apparent reduced traffic levels at Whole Foods? Just curious....

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