There is rarely a time when it is common to see a group of people congregated outside of a grocery store at the brink of dawn…that is unless a Trader Joe’s is opening in your neighborhood. Actually, it doesn’t necessarily even have to be in your neighborhood, as residents from Duncanville, Denison, Ellis, and Allen will attest while they stand in line at the opening of the new store in Plano.
There is an energy brewing amongst the excited patrons that feels celebratory and relieved at the same time. The store is decorated outside with balloons and employees can be seen inside setting up for the opening, dressed in their classic Hawaiin print shirts. Carts are lined up to perfection and ready, the grand opening banner is being put up, and it’s just a matter of hours before opening.
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Mike Kupka, a Denison resident, is the first in line, having camped out since midnight. A self-proclaimed “foodie,” Kupka and friend Suzanne Welch have a hobby of finding unique and delicious food around the country. They even took a road trip one year to visit restaurants on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network.
They’re favorite thing from Trader Joe’s? Welch widens her eyes, lowers her voice and very seriously says, “The Cookie Butter is to die for.” Kupka emphatically agrees.
People in line are in a jovial mood, laughing and joking with each other, barely able to contain their excitement. Despite the Texas heat – go figure, at 7 a.m. it’s still 80 humid degrees outside – the morale hasn’t faltered.
Finally, it’s 8 a.m. and doors are seconds from opening. After a few welcoming speeches from the regional manager and store manager, Mayor Phil Dyer took a moment to show his support and thank everyone, ending with, “Ya’ll got this on the news instead of the democratic national convention!”
The ribbon cutting marks a shift in the crowd as people grab their carts, their faces focused. The carefree nature from a few minutes ago is replaced by a slight competitive edge, some people even calling others out for cutting in line.
As customers slowly filter in, they are greeted by employees on either side with applause, cheers, high-fives, and leis. Some people skip the fanfare and make a bee-line for their items, while others stop and take pictures as they try rejoice in the moment – a celebration, a small victory for the neighborhood.
The store is picturesque and fresh. It has an air of locality while still maintaining a chic and trendy edge. Murals of Texas themes are painted across the walls and favorited items are on display in large quantities near the cash wrap for easy access.
The aisles are packed, to say the least, as excited patrons fill up their carts with items that they compiled on their grocery list for weeks. Items, that inevitably, they can only find at Trader Joe’s. Some products have such a cult following, in fact, that strangers are recommending products to each other with such ferocity that it seems neglectful not to try them.
“It’s hard not to spend $100,” Duncanville resident, Nelda Hunt, warns. She couldn’t be more right, as grocery carts all over the store fill up fast.
So what’s the verdict on the most popular items? From what customers in line raved about, Cookie Butter was the clear winner, followed by Triple Ginger Snap Cookies, Cat Cookies, and Wasabi Mayonnaise. But as every Trader Joe’s lover will tell you – to each his own, and there are plenty of unique options to choose from, many of which may soon become your new obsession.
Fantastic D Magazine intern Iris Zubair graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2011 with a BA in Magazine Journalism. She has written for Austin Monthly Magazine and UT’s student newspaper, The Daily Texan.