Trader Joe's in a Wegmans World

8 Jan

Trader Joe’s is coming to that huge shopping center in Amherst on Niagara Falls Boulevard where everything new to WNY always goes. Best Buy, Christmas Tree Shops, Carrabba’s, Panera Bread, and Chipotle all help to make that place impossible to navigate.  It will be located near Barnes & Noble and Famous Footwear. 

Trader Joe’s started in California as a convenience store competitor to 7-11. To differentiate its stores from the national chain’s, it adopted a South Seas motif and started selling specialty items. 

Two brothers, Theo and Karl Albrecht, created the discount supermarket chain “Aldi” in West Germany after WW2, and was instrumental in its European – and later worldwide – expansion.  Theo and Karl had a disagreement in the 1960s over selling cigarettes, so they split Aldi geographically in Germany, with Theo running Aldi Nord.  In 1979, a family trust of which Theo was a member bought – and still owns – Trader Joe’s.  And if you think about it, Trader Joe’s is Aldi with better frozen foods, higher quality groceries, and a cute concept.

I saw lots of commentary yesterday about how we don’t need Trader Joe’s because we’re so blessed to have Wegmans, the best grocery store in the universe. Not taking away from Wegmans at all, but Trader Joe’s is different, just like Aldi is different. I don’t see Aldi struggling to make do in a Wegmans-heavy market; neither will TJ’s. 

Although Trader Joe’s won’t be able to sell wine in its New York stores, thanks to our idiotic, protectionist liquor laws, it sells a nice variety of craft beers, has a great coffee section, one of the best frozen sections you’ll ever see, fantastic chocolates, and plenty of healthy and organic items that are different or cheaper than what you’re used to.  It’s fun to browse around and check out the many good-quality, cheap private-label items they carry. 

I used to go to TJ’s all the time when I lived in Massachusetts and recently stopped in to the new location outside Rochester, which is coincidentally located in the shopping center immediately adjacent to the Wegmans mothership in Henrietta. I didn’t leave empty-handed. 

Welcome Trader Joe’s. We like good food and we like bargains. It would seem to me that you’re a perfect fit for WNY. My only question is – what took so long? 

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