Saturday, December 04, 2004

Trader Joe's -- A Southern California Institution

Ahh, 'tis the weekend and the thoughts of cooks turn to ingredient acquisition. Since its early days at locations throughout southern California, Trader Joe's is the market that comes to mind. And now, this is true in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States. Trader Joe's ( has grown and its expansion verifies the attractiveness of its offerings.

Many know the pre-expansion stories. Once acquainted with the food products offered, loyal TJ's customers returned again and again and again. Those who moved away to areas that were not an easy commute to a TJ's store also returned -- with empty suitcases suitable for stashing away a few favorites for a trip to new-home locales. Southern Californians received desperate messages from friends, asking for just ONE more shipment of a care package of TJ's items.

The TJ's institution maintains loyalty beyond belief. So, what do they offer, that promotes such enthusiasm? Simply lovely ingredients and products, at the attractive price points achievable by volume purchasing, from around the world. Whew! A lot to offer -- even more to deliver, consistently. And that's what impresses we customers so much.

Today, many of the products offered bear the Trader Joe's registered brand, including a slight variation to the Trader Giotto's, Trader Jacques's, etc. (you get the idea) branding on imported items. Staples such as oils, vinegars, pastas, rices ... refrigerated items such as dairy products, meats, fish, produce ... wines, liquors, liqueurs, mineral waters .... organic household products, soaps, lotions ... the list is endless and wonderful. Certain new items are promoted, periodically, in a printed mini-magazine (the current issue is usually viewable at that is distributed by mail and in-store.

People meet strangers in the aisles and sing the praises of something new that they have just sampled and enjoyed. Recipe ideas are exchanged and cooking triumphs described. Just yesterday, at another grocery store, as I waited in the checkout line, the man in front of me turned around to ask, "Do you know where the nearest Trader Joe's is?" Clearly, he was in need of an ingredient that could better be purchased at TJ's! I pointed him in the right direction, he thanked me gratefully and off he went, happily on the track of his cooking plan for the weekend.

Sadly, Trader Joe's does not offer online shopping at this time. But, the recent expansion into many major metropolitan areas offers the chance to check into a location near your home, or as you travel. And, of course, there's always the care-package approach from your TJ's-adjacent friends throughout the country .......

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