Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trucker Joe's

The history page of Trader Joe's website doesn't reveal much except that the company's been around since 1958 (when they were called Pronto Markets). I've always thought they began in southern California. In recent years Trader Joe's has expanded to the east coast, the Chicago area and--well here, look at the map. Trader Joe's is no longer California's own grocery chain.

The manager at my TJ's asked me not to take photos inside. He didn't mention it, but I know grocery stores are extremely competitive and he may have thought I was a spy for another chain. It's too bad, because every Trader Joe's store has the most wonderful, whimsical chalk signs listing specials, recipes and nutrition information. I wish I could show them to you!

Update: Ben Wideman alerted me to Wikipedia's entry about Trader Joe's, which says that the first store with the Trader Joe's name was the Pasadena store on Arroyo Parkway.

35 comments:

Islipian said...

Funny you should mention that, as I'm always wanting to take pictures inside supermarkets, and there IS always a sign inside the front entrance forbidding it - without permission. I wonder what would happen if I just asked, "could I take a picture in the produce aisle today?"

Tanya said...

I miss Trader Joes! They always have the neatest things inside and I could spend hours wandering around. It is actually the most fun I have had grocery shopping ;)
Unfortunately I haven't been in one since we left Ca.

Strangetastes said...

Good picture, lots of power, but not consonant with TJ's cute, folksy image. We have TJ in St. Louis. I've been a few times but it doesn't draw me back. Some people love to browse the changing inventory. Others, like me, go to a store with a list and want in and out. We've tried their prepared lunches and dinners but find them mostly high cal, high sodium and not great quality. Good wine values, though. Each to their own taste.

ben wideman said...

Okay, so this may be just a rumor, but I've heard that the very first Trader Joe's store is the one in Pasadena over on Arroyo. I've been meaning to get a picture.

This blurb from Wikipedia seems to confirm that...

"The first store named "Trader Joe's" opened in Pasadena, California in 1966. This store, on Arroyo Parkway, is still in operation."

Therese said...

We moved a couple of times and I would never have moved without checking first if there was a Trader Joe's around...lol

Anonymous said...

ginab: well, aren't you?

Marylène said...

It is one of my favorite food store in the US, not the cheapest.....but certainly the best.
When going to Trader Joe's in Mc Lean (Virginia) I was amazed (and a little jealous) of the range of French wines thay had !
And I am very proud to use their shopping bag here in France, makes me feel special !!!

Tanya said...

Hopefully sometime I'll have a picture that will trigger a memory for you of Roanoke! :)

Pascal Jim said...

My first encounter with TJ was the store located on Avenue 64 @ Meridian just below the Pasadena City line... This in the 50's...

For those not familiar, Avenue 64 is the shortcut to Pasadena, hence this TJ store...

Best packaged Popcorn in the world, well, maybe..

Pascal Jim said...

P.S. This writer does not comment on Zen Monday.....its UnZen...

Petrea said...

You can always ask, Islipian. Maybe they'd allow it if they supervised you and made sure you didn't photograph prices.

I get what you mean, Tanya. I get a cup of coffee and browse. If grocery shopping could be fun, TJ's would be.

Nice to see you Strangetastes. And yeah, I get that. Though some of the inventory doesn't change, I do get irritated when I become attached to an item and it disappears.

Ben! I should have added that link. Good info. In fact, I'll update the post and credit you with the idea if you don't mind. Thanks.

Somehow I don't believe you, Therese.

Ginab: I meant I wish I could show you the colorful chalk signs. They're beautiful.

Marylène, it's interesting to get your take on Trader Joe's because I think of the French as sophisticated about food. As for the prices, they're as reasonable as Ralph's and moreso than Gelson's or Whole Foods. So it's a good place to shop in soCal.

Tanya, if Marylène found Trader Joe's in McLean can Roanoke be far behind?

Petrea said...

Better than Jiffy Pop, Pascal Jim?

Sharon said...

I love Trader Joes's. I get great things there and you are right, those signs are unique.

Laurie said...

This is a really cool shot! I love the big shapes.

I don't know what I'd do without Trader Joes. (Or as my little girl who has trouble pronouncing J's calls it, "Trader Yos.")

I had always heard that the first one was in South Pas, but I guess not! I like it that they pay their employees well and offer a retirement plan. (OH, that and their awesome cheese popcorn...)

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Shhhsh P Jim from someone who lives off Ave 64. It's now called the Hi Ho market.

Charlotte Coulombe was my close friend back in 7th grade. I asked her once what her dad did and she told me "he owns a couple of markets"

USelaine said...

When we were in Temple City, we went to the Alpha Beta a couple of blocks west of us on Woodruff, or to the Mayfair market on Las Tunas.

There's a Trader Joe's down in Santa Rosa that a lot of people go to. It's in the same development as Costco, which is my first choice if I'm going that way. Even though it's a big chain, the owner/founder is exceptionally progressive in his salary and benefit policies. The wine section at that Costco is famously good as well.

Knoxville Girl said...

No TJ in Knoxvegas, so I have no reference points here. But it sounds sort of like Wegman's, which we don't have here either, but there's one near my mom's house in PA.
Yesterday,I posted a photo I took in a grocery store. The produce police did not swoop down and beat me senseless as I took it. This time.

altadenahiker said...

I dated a polish guy who loved to shop at "Tray-deer's Joe". Could never get him to switch that S. And PA is right, you can still see the ghost of the old TJ sign at HiHo market (where I'm sure they do not currently sell fine nuts and cheese.)

Rose said...

Ah something new for me as I never heard about Trader Joe...
Nice photograph as well.

Trish said...

TJ's started out as Pronto Market. The Arroyo store was the first, to my knowledge. They had one in SoPas as well, on Fair Oaks, south of where the Pavilions market is (THAT property used to have a bike shop on it)---across the street from HiLife Burgers---THAT is where the SoPas Pronto was. They moved over to their current site when it became available because their offices used to be across/kitty corner to it at Mission and Grand. They have since moved out to Monrovia for their base, which irritates the HECK out of a SoPas native.

TJ's usually carries many of the same basics, but the more esoteric stuff, comes an goes depending on the Store Mgr. IF YOU DO NOT FIND WHAT YOU WANT *****ASK******!!!! They are into service and will try to get you what you want. You can also email to comment, compliment, complain etc. I've gotten EXCELLENT responses from "corporate".

Then again, I currently live within easy driving distance from about 5 stores and each one carries different stuff, which can be irritating if I am near one that does not carry what I need.

The only knock I have about TJ's is not being a union shop, ergo, their folks don't get paid to work as hard as they do.

And, I suspect, if you took a picture with a camera phone, I doubt they could do anything, nor would they really notice. If you have a camera that allows you to take a shot without a flash, that would also make it easier...not that I'm advocating it...but it could happennnnnn! ;-)

Christie said...

I've never been to a Trader Joe's, but I do love a great grocery store, especially a great produce section. So fun to shop then!

Coltrane_lives said...

Usually when I see lines like these, Petrea,they are in my rearview mirror and I'm hustling to move over. Interesting about Trucker Joe's policy on photos...it's almost as bad as getting a shot of the Mona Lisa, eh?

Keith said...

Getting Trader Joes to move their headquarters to Monrovia was a real coup for the city - sorry Trish! I'm still amazed at the loyalty of their customers.

I used to stop at the Pronto Market all the time when riding my bike home from school way back when...

Dina said...

Hi Petrea. Nice truck! My son always takes me to a Trader Joe's to marvel at the selection and presentation when I'm in LA.

Funny, your fish heads comment; but I never heard of Dr. Demento. Yet another lacuna in my America education.

Miss Havisham said...

Even when I didn't have enough money to eat I'd buy a bunch of blue irises at the TJ's on Arroyo Pkwy.

elizabeth said...

The Arroyo Parkway TJ's is indeed the original one. If you go inside, they have a timeline of their history painted up above where the cash registers are.

From de Cafe said...

I believe the TJ's in Pasadena is the original TJ. At least it looks like it should b. Or, maybe the one in Tijuana!?

At least, we can say it is definitely another product of de San Gabriel Valley. I think their corporate HQ is still in Monrovia.

I like shopping there. But, i've been a long-time going customer of de small whole foods in pasadena (not the giant flagship on Arroyo).
And b4 WF, I traded between TJ's & de 1st Mrs. Gooch's in Glendale.

I think the best thing at TJ's is their dog food.

Kim said...

Good ol TJ's. I've taken many a photo in a couple of them here in Seattle with no comment from staff (probabably because I'm quick).
We have friends, both great cooks, who were in graduate school at Cal in the 70s & 80s they used to make a TJ's run from Berkeley to Santa Ana (over 400 miles to the store near family they visited--this was before TJ's expansion, and there were only 2 or 3 locations, all in SoCal) at least twice a year. They'd buy cases of wine and foods to stock the pantry, and they did it for the same reason everyone I know still shops there THE PRICES.
With our crazy busy schedule now, one of my fave items is the frozen organic brown rice or jasmin rice. . .a quick base for a healthy meal. And we live on the white corn chips and tomatillo salsa, and if you need to pick up a quick dessert for a pot luck, the hand made apple pie is lovely and yummy. Can you tell tomorrow is my shopping day. I'll shut up now. :-)
-Kim
Seattle Daily Photo

Oh, Petrea, would you believe there is no Two Buck Chuck up here?! It's THREE BUCKS! :-)

lynn said...

Looks interesting, Petrea. You've taken some great shots.

Petrea said...

The best of 'em all is Stater Bros. (Full disclosure: I do their TV and radio voice-overs so I might have a bias!) They combine Whole Foods quality with Food4Less prices AND they're a union shop. Their employees love 'em and stay on for years, handing jobs down within families. I wish we had them in the LA basin and SG Valley. (For the non-locals, Stater Bros. is in Orange County, the Inland Empire and Santa Clarita Valley.) I learned a lot during the grocery strike, when their employees did NOT strike.

Dina, next time you're in LA I'd sure love to see you!

Kim, you're making me hungry.

Miss H., I, too, have been that poor. Let's make a pact: if that ever happens again we call a friend and let them buy the irises.

Dina said...

May you always have food and irises, bread and circuses.

Case said...

You're always shooting pics of Places that take me back to the day Petrea ! I worked at the Arroyo Pkwy. Store for the first 2-3 years when it opened, and still have one of the Hawaiian Shirts they gave me !

Interesting story... Y'know those Cargo Hatches they have ( Had ? ) at the checkout, that are coated with epoxy ? The day they poured the clear goop on to fill in all the various holes and wood splits, before it hardened, a Fly got itself caught and sank up to it's head ! Not wanting to mess up all the work of the pour, we left it in. When it was dry, there was still a little part of the Eyeballs sticking out, so we just sliced it off with a razor blade. Not many people were aware they were setting their Fruit & Sundries on top of a decapitated Fly Gutz...^_^

Todd said...

Indeed the T.J. on Arroyo was the first. The one on Rosemead was opened not long after. In the 1980s -- according to my childhood memory -- it was a place of nothing but bottles of wine and humongous wheels of cheese. In the late 1980s, they began buying subpar/reject products from other distributors - relying on a TJ purchaser friend's memory - and in the 1990s expanded with produce. By the turn of the century, TJ tried to become more 'grocery store' to compete with the likes of early Whole Foods, and went from being a vegetarian's paradise to stocking much more meat, fish etc. I've seen few veg products added compared to those stripped away over the years. (Anyone remember their shroom burgers of the mid-1990s?) All that aside, I still do 80 percent of my shopping there (Lake&Del Mar) but buy produce at the asian/latin markets. Or even Food for Less on North Lake.

Petrea said...

Bless you, Dina, thank you.

Case: Eeuw! Now I have to go all the way down there and check out several times (once for each register) and look for the demi-fly.

Todd: How could it be I missed your blog before? That error has been amended, you're now in my blogroll. Thanks for commenting and alerting me. I remember the shroom burgers--they weren't very good, were they?

Case said...

Just make sure you leave your camera in the car, shutterbug... That's something I'm SURE they don't want publicized on the 6 O'Clock News ! To save you a purchase and some time, not to mention strange looks from the Clerks, it's on the Southern Cargo Hatch, in one of the Iron hook reciever wells. (Can't remember which one tho, and there are 4, I think.)
I guess not many people still arround remember, but T.J's started out as an Ordinary Grocery store, with everything your typical Safeway has. It only changed format in the late 70's to early 80's. I stopped going there when they switched from stocking Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, to Aunt Matilda's Dark Forest Pettite Confectionary, at twice the price, no less.