Trader Joe's is finally bringing its first store to southeast Florida. Joe's plans to open a location in the tony Pinecrest neighborhood in 2013 and Miami is all abuzz over the prospect of shopping for trail mix, nectarines, and cheap wine.
The grocer has something of a cult following in the cities it serves. Since opening its first store in 1967 in Pasadena, California the shop, which features an adventurer's club theme complete with cedar walls and Hawaiian shirt-clad employees, has been a favorite among consumers, ranking second in supermarket chains by Consumer Reports.
In case you haven't been to a Trader Joe's, Short Order has come up with a list of five things you didn't know about the store. Consider it a little primer on all things Joe -- and something to chew on before the first Miami location opens in Pinecrest some time in 2013.
5. Do I hear bells?
Walk into a Trader Joe's and you may hear a ringing in your ears. Don't worry -- that's not tinnitus. That's the internal messaging system. Trader Joe's has no PA system in its stores, but instead relies on a nautical bell to communicate information to its employees.
One bell means it's time to open another register. Two bells? Someone has a questions that need to be answered at the checkout and three bells is a request for a manager.
4. Trader Joe's sells more than food.
The biggest misconception about Trader Joe's is that it's a great place to buy brie and wine, but you've got to make another trip to buy the staples. "Not so", says Alison Mochizuki, director of national publicity for the market chain. "We don't only sell exotic food. We carry pet food, flowers, greeting cards, and canned goods. In fact, we started canning our own corn in 1982, and the yellow label is unchanged."
3. Trader Joe's sells the unusual.
Though the company tries to source local goods when possible, it also has a taste for the exotic and unusual. That means you'll be able to pepper your weekly egg-and-milk shopping with items like cheesy cheddar dogs, seaweed snacks, and flat bananas. Packing fruit in a suitcase (or lunchbox) just got easier.
2. Two Buck Chuck is real.
It's not a myth. For ten past ten years, Trader Joe's has been selling Charles Shaw wines at an insanely low price. Over 600 million bottles been sold in various varietals like Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and white Zinfandel. The wine, which actually sells for $1.99, is not actually named "Two Buck Chuck", by the way (though the catchy nickname stuck).
1. Try before you buy. And return anything.
Most markets have little tables set up where you can sample a bit of cheese, a sip of juice, a bite of salami. But if you ever wondered what that pumpkin granola tastes like or whether that persimmon jam would really work on your homemade country bread, you have to buy it and give it a shot. Not at Trader Joe's.
Joe's employees are authorized to open up any item for you to try before you buy. We played a game with publicity director Alison Mochizuki where we named scenarios in which we wanted to try something. Those flat bananas? Yup, try them out. How about an imported salami? Absolutely. What if there's a lobster (we were clearly grasping for straws here)? The answer was always yes.
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If you want to sample something, just ask one of the Hawaiian-clad team members (don't take it upon yourself to chow down as you peruse the aisles). They will open any item in the store for you to try. How about the wine, we asked Mochizuki one last time? "That's the only thing that depends on certain state and city laws and regulations," she told us.
And if you still don't like those flat bananas when you get home? "Just return them. Return anything. You'll get a refund."