I discovered Trader Joes when I was living in Los Angeles in the ’90s. They were as ubiquitous as drive-by shootings; there seemed to be one on every corner.
I had never heard of them before, but my cousin, who co-owned a frozen yogurt company with me, was determined to get our product into those stores. It was an epic fail.
Trader Joe’s thought the yogurt was fine. They objected to the Styrofoam cups it came packaged in. And before you give them credit for being environmentally savvy before it was chic, it wasn’t the planet they were worried about. They just didn’t think the Styrofoam containers were classy enough for their stores. Looking back, they were probably right.
When I moved back to New York in 2008, I was excited to discover an actual Trader Joe’s had come to neighboring Danbury while I was away. I paid a visit and was thrilled to learn it was just like the ones in SoCal, sans the pretentious hipsters. It’s not a place where I could afford to do my regular weekly grocery shopping, but it’s great for picking up those odd specialty items. My brother used to love the almonds covered in shredded coconut.
Sadly, this region is unlike Los Angeles. Most of the time, that’s a good thing. But if you’re a Trader Joe’s enthusiast, it’s not. Trader Joe’s is very picky about where they put their stores. They prefer areas with high (very high) traffic volumes—thus explaining their omnipresent status in the City of Angels where the car is king and roads overflow, making a 10-mile trip a 45-minute ride.
A few years ago, Trade Joe’s considered putting a store in Yorktown. They kicked the tires a bit, looked around and found it wanting.
So, I’ve some bad new for you. If Yorktown didn’t meet Joe’s requirements, Mahopac certainly won’t. Trader Joe’s has become our unicorn. We can search and search but we ain’t gonna find one.
We have an ongoing joke here in the office. Whenever we write a story in any of our newspapers—Mahopac, Yorktown, Somers, North Salem and Katonah/Lewisboro—about a new business coming to town, we are tempted to start a pool for how long it will take people to comment on Facebook about the new business by saying, “No! What we need is a Trader Joe’s!”
It could be a story about a new dermatologist moving into the community. Doesn’t matter. Someone will still post, “We don’t need a new dermatologist, we need a Trader Joe’s.”
They will often criticize the town government for not bringing (or allowing) a Trader Joe’s to Mahopac. I’m not sure where the notion came from that the Town Board gets to cherry pick what businesses will be brought to town, but, um, that’s not how it works. The business owner actually gets to decide where he/she wants to set up. If they meet all the codes and zoning requirements and acquire the requisite permits, it doesn’t matter if you don’t think a Scotch tape store should be coming to town. It ain’t your concern.
When Kmart went out of business and we wrote that story, there was plenty of speculation on Facebook about what would take its place. Of course, there were those who told the town to choose wisely, even though the town doesn’t get to decide. And there were plenty of those who waved their “Trader Joe’s” banners, demanding that one be put in the space formerly occupied by the department store. There’re a couple of problems with that. First, were you ever inside that Kmart? You could fit like eight Trader Joe’s in there! Second, the Stop & Shop at the other end of the plaza would never allow a second grocery store to show up right next to them after they’ve spent all that money to come here.
A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote the story about a Taco Bell coming to Carmel and into the old Friendly’s building, I told a co-worker as I was getting ready to leave the office, “I am going to post this on Facebook now. Wait and see—within a matter of minutes, someone will comment, ‘We need a Trader Joe’s!’”
Now, Taco Bell is a restaurant and Trader Joe’s is a supermarket. Completely different types of businesses. Nonetheless, I got home (a 12-minute ride) and checked my phone. Ta-da. There it was—the plea for a Trader Joe’s! Thank you, Scott D. and Debra Elyssa F.!
But it wasn’t just that. People began listing all the things they wanted instead of a Taco Bell. They said, we need a Dairy Queen, Sonic, Chick-fil-A, Panera, Boston Market, Target (another department store with no intention of coming here), and a Christmas Tree Store. Yup. A Christmas Tree Store.
But the biggest winner in the I Have No Idea How Commerce Works competition was Scott M., who declared that the old Friendly’s building should not house a Taco Bell, but, instead, a motorcycle dealership. Yeah. I was at a loss for words, too.
Now, if they could find a way to create a motorcycle dealership that sells tacos… well, hell, that’d almost be better than a Trader Joe’s.