Discount grocery lovers, take heart. The wait for a local Trader Joe’s is finally over.
Just over a year after announcing plans to open a site in Rego Park, the wildly popular peddler of organic coffees, tofu dumplings and gourmet guacamole is finally making good on its promise to come to Queens.
By early Friday, Hawaiian shirt-wearing workers were to have cut a ceremonial lei (apparently, the California-based retailer has no use for traditional ribbons) for the grand opening of its much-anticipated Queens store, at 90-30 Metropolitan Ave.
Now, at long last, local shoppers can get all their favorite ethnic and vegetarian cuisine on the cheap without having to make painstaking pilgrimages into Manhattan, home to Trader Joe’s first Big Apple site.
Queens oenophiles be warned, however. You’ll still have to make the trek to Union Square or Long Island to get discount wine. Because of the city’s Blue Laws, only one franchisee in the five boroughs — the Manhattan store — can qualify for a liquor license to hawk such alcoholic favorites as the famous Two-Buck Chuck. Sadly, all other New York City locations, including one that is slated to open in Brooklyn sometime next year, will remain dry.
Even without these beloved beverages, the Queens store still has plenty to offer local customers. In fact, based on the Queens Chronicle’s pre-opening tour last week, the Rego Park site is just about as “local” as a West Coast grocery giant with 285 locations nationwide can make it.
Walk inside, and you’ll be greeted by murals of the Whitestone Bridge and the Tudor-style towers of Station Square. Cruise the meat and dairy aisles, and you’ll encounter shelf-top tableaus depicting the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. Above the checkout lanes, you’ll even see numbered paintings of some of the two-story homes from the blocks surrounding the store.
All of the painting were created by artists employed by New York City’s Trader Joe’s, explains Queens store “Captain” Jason Schwartz. (The organization does not use traditional job titles, like “manager.”) He insists that the decision to mingle Queens-specific artwork with the retailer’s characteristic surfer style decor was not part of some corporate marketing strategy.
“We don’t do cookie-cutter here,” said Schwartz, a Floral Park native. “The employees at each location have the freedom to decide the look of the store on their own. At our particular store, we thought it would be important to reflect the community, so we gave people something we thought they would be able to identify with.
“I’ve loved being able to not only work at these stores,” the 12-year employee continued, “but buy my groceries there — and now, I want my friends, family and community to be able to have the same experience.”
Founded in 1958 in the Los Angeles area, the top-rated Trader Joe’s chain has expanded to more than 285 stores in 23 states.