Trader Joe’s debacle — Salem’s the punchline

I remember the first time I walked into my first Trader Joe’s in Tyson’s Corner, VA. It was 2003, the signs were hand-written, the shirts were Hawaiian, the wine was cheap, and the brands were unrecognizable. Seven years later and Trader Joe’s is almost as ubiquitous as Bed Bath & Beyond and Joe might as well be my uncle.

Well, almost.

Kelly Williams Brown has a funny fake musical script over at the Statesman Journal this morning lampooning the silly sign snafu that happened last week, when a signmaker “accidentally” put up a sign for some businesses that aren’t to be found in the Keizer Station concrete shopping district, including Trader Joe’s.  The error was a slap in the face to many Salemites who have been dreaming of access to cheap specialty foods and trips to TJ’s that don’t take minutes to get there.

I’ve been one of those people campaigning for a Trader Joe’s here in Salem. I too go over the moon for mini toasts, gaga for whoe grain , somewhat batty for baby beets. But as I was driving past the one off of I-5 last night on my way home from Seattle, I couldn’t help but be struck by how easy it is to get some of the many Trader Joe-like products here in Salem already.

And so, some consolation:

  • Life Source and Fred Meyer both carry the brand of stone ground oats I buy — stuff so good you can eat it for dinner.
  • If you want boiled beets you can do them yourself. And I do.
  • Olive oil is available in every sexy virgin non-virgin category under the sun these days.
  • E.Z. Orchards carry’s a 20-year balsamic that is younger and wiser than I.
  • If you really like wine, you probably can’t stand Two Buck Chuck.
  • Israeli coucous is seasonal at TJ. You can get it every day in the bulk bins at Fred Meyer.
  • Speaking of bulk. Why buy dried blueberries in a package when you can customize the amount at the bulk bins?
  • TJ hummus, as most packaged hummuses, tastes as if it were churned by feet.
  • Jarred marinara is jarred marinara is jarred marinara.

I would like to end by saying that I love paying for brie that costs $2.65 for a wedge, but I know that it comes at another price. But cheese is the one area where I will maintain that Trader Joe’s has everyone beat in terms of price and variety.

I cringe to pay $4.99 for a chevre log at Safeway when I can pay the same and get a log three times as long at TJ’s. But I really shouldn’t be driving 35 miles each way for cheese. And I really shouldn’t be eating a whole log of chevre now, should I?

I can only speak for my own consuming habits. What’s the real draw for people other than cheap specialty foods?

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6 Responses to “Trader Joe’s debacle — Salem’s the punchline”

  1. Gary J Says:

    all great points, and if we want the tropical shirt feel, we could all just wear our Hawaiian prints while shopping/participating at/with these TJ-alternatives!

  2. Rebekah Says:

    And has anyone checked out Grocery Outlet for both cheese and wine? Plus they always have a bunch of other crazy/cool stuff!

  3. Emily Grosvenor Says:

    I have not, Rebekah, but perhaps I should?

  4. Rachel Says:

    I second grocery outlet. It’s hit or miss, but there are diamonds in the rough. I have a soft spot for TJ’s having lived half a block from one in PDX in the mid-90s…I like Dynamo and they have decent coffee at a good price, but I don’t drink coffee any more so that’s mute. For cheap cheese check out the Fred Meyer half-price cheese section…a gold mine, I tell ya.

  5. Angela Says:

    Another cheer for Grocery Outlet !!

    I visit the store near downtown and Commercial often. It’s like a treasure hunt as they never have the same thing twice. It’s an adventure in grocery shopping.

    In detail: I can always count on finding at least one of the following items (which make the trip worth it) — yummy cheese, Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream at a steal of a price, organic cereals, the nicest store clerks in town.

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