Trader Joe’s, a national grocery store chain, made its debut in Gainesville at 8 a.m. to a crowd that braved the rain to line up outside the Butler Plaza location.
This is the third Florida location for the California-based supermarket, following locations in Sarasota and Naples.
Amanda Harvey, who arrived at 6 a.m., was the first person in line and was asked to cut the ceremonial lei to officially open the store. She said she is looking forward to the increased variety of grocery store options that Trader Joe’s brings.
The chain is known for quirky decor and Hawaiian-shirted staff. On its website, Trader Joe’s says the attire is because the chain’s employees are “traders on the culinary seas, searching the world over for cool items to bring home to our customers.”
Culinary explorers or not, some fans of the chain travel some distance for their shopping experience. When the Sarasota store opened earlier this year, the Orlando Business Journal reported that some Orlando residents drove two hours to shop at the store.
The Gainesville Sun reported nearly 600 people had visited the store in its first hour.
Sarah Gravesen of Jonesville said she has been waiting years for a local Trader Joe’s. She needs to restock the kitchen in her home, and said she made the drive to Butler Plaza for what she described as the store’s healthy food and affordable prices.
“As much as I love Fresh Market, I love that Trader Joe’s offers similar stuff for cheaper prices,” Gravesen said. “That’s going to be the biggest pull for me.”
Store Manager Jodi McCullough said Trader Joe’s will become the place for Gainesville shoppers, offering a variety of options from gourmet and organic foods to grocery list staples.
“We have products from all over the world, but we also have our basics,” McCullough said. She said 80 percent of Trader Joe’s stock carries the company’s private label.
McCullough said Trader Joe’s strives to be a “neighborhood grocery store,” and that the store’s wall decor represents Gainesville’s history and culture. The Gainesville location has murals of the Bat House at UF, cows grazing on Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium over the dairy case and Ichetucknee Springs.
McCullough says the store’s management team was brought in from different states, but 80 percent of the Trader Joe’s employees are local residents. Applications are always accepted for both full- and part-time positions.