I remember back when there weren’t any supermarkets in my old neighborhood. Instead we went to the farmer’s market down in Soulard for our produce and meat and to George’s, a small mom-and-pop grocery store a couple of blocks away from our house. It served the purpose of the modern day convenience store. It was a handy place to pick up bread and milk on the weekdays.
Then came the first supermarket, an A&P. There were also Kroger’s, Nationals, Schnucks, and Dierbergs. Now there are Shop and Saves and Aldi’s as well. Apart from slight differences in prices they are all pretty much the same.
Shop and Save seems to carry more imported foods for the immigrant population here in St. Louis than the other supermarkets while Aldi’s, (a German chain), offers off brands at the lowest price. They also have specials on non-grocery items like radios and coolers.
A few years ago a new boy came to town: Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is owned by the same company that owns Aldi’s. But its draw is that it offers higher ticket items like Whole Foods but at a lower price. And the concept seems to be working all over the country. Whenever a new Trader Joe’s opens, long lines form early in the morning filled with loyal customers.
According to CNN: “Trader Joe’s is no ordinary grocery chain. It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience. It stocks its shelves with of low-cost, yuppie-friendly staples (cage-free eggs and organic blue agave sweetener) and exotic, affordable luxuries — Belgian butter waffle cookies or Thai lime-and-chili cashews.”
The store clerks all wear Hawaiian shirts and this gives the store an exotic feel. Shopping there is really an adventure because very few of the brands that they carry are recognizable. And the food is sometimes arranged in strange combinations. But it is mostly organic and always fresh.
Trader Joe’s has grown at a rapid pace over the past few years and now has over 300 stores in 25 states. The store also sends out a newsletter that explains where they get all of their delicious food and why it’s so good. It’s filled with offbeat facts. The only other company to do this in St. Louis was the old National Food Stores with their President’s Choice line. But it didn’t work perhaps because people thought that it was just another offbeat no-name label.