Trader Joe’s Grand Opening

Trader Joe’s first location in Maine, and one of their largest in the nation in terms of retail floor space, opened this morning to great fanfare on Marginal Way. In front of a crowd of people that circled the packed-to-capacity parking lot, Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones and Portland “Store Captain” Tracy Acciola performed a ceremonial lei cutting, before the first lucky patrons were let in the door, to cheers from the Hawaiian shirt-bedecked staff. Excited customers had taken the day off from work; one woman I spoke to pulled her daughter out of school for the day. Whole Foods, you’re in big trouble. Let’s leave aside the questions of whether Trader Joe’s fits in with Portland’s “Buy Local” ethic, and the sticky business of “One Centavo More,” for just a few seconds, to allow ourselves to revel in the joys of frozen taquitos and two dollar wine, shall we?

More photos of the store’s interior and more of the festivities, after the jump.

Malcolm Bedell

My first memories of cooking start in Maine at six years old, when I wore a yellow rainslicker to avoid getting spattered by the bacon I was frying in a skillet. You can see more of my writing and photography in regular contributions to LA Weekly, Bon Appetit, Serious Eats, and the Huffington Post, and you can eat my food at 'Wich, Please, located in Rockland, Maine.

  1. Great shots – wish I’d see you guys there so I could’ve said hi!

    It was a hell of an experience. I can’t wait to try out some of that Trader Joe’s branded beer and see what you get for a 2.99 six-pack.

    1. Thanks…sorry we missed you! We ended up abandoning our basket, after waiting for an hour in line this afternoon. Now how am I gonna eat the Chimay cheese I had picked out?

  2. Sigh. So sad. I went this morning to get these snaps, and then thought I would return later in the day with Jillian, “when it calmed down.” There were ten times the people at noon, and after waiting in line for an hour, we had to bail for a lunch date. Until next time, cranberry apple butter.

  3. I did a complete blitzkrieg on TJ’s this afternoon. I wavered on going, knowing how busy it would be, but the craving for their Pure Kona Coffee was too much. I bought three coffees, some dark chocolate caramels, body wash and their version of Pirate’s Booty. I blindly grabbed at things and panicked when I saw the line getting into the aisles. I spent about 15 minutes in line, but they almost reached the back of the store by the time I was out the door. I think I’m going to go again on Sunday morning and actually spend some time shopping.

    1. I had a box of taquitos, some pork buns, and some cranberry butter, as well as some Chimay cheese and some crackers. It broke my heart to leave them, but like you, will be back for some “normal” shopping later in the week.

  4. I can’t tell you how proud I was when I went to this site and saw my son in the photos loooking so darn happy! you guys rock! ALL YOUR HARD WORK HAS PAID OFF!!!! THE STORE LOOKS FANTASTIC! GOOD LUCK TO THE WHOLE CREW! LOVE MOM AND DAD,, FROM MANHATTAN BEACH CALIF! WE LOVE TRADER JOE’S! SAVE ME SOME OF THAT 2 BUCK CHUCK!

  5. The lines were really long, so I won’t shop for real until next week. I enjoyed checking the place out though. Gosh I do hope the people who abandoned shopping carts with groceries in them, at least let a clerk know so they could put the food back (especially refrigerated and frozen items)

    1. We definitely did, and most other cart-abandoners did, also. I think a whole arm of their staff was being used only to re-stock abandoned baskets, and they were being pretty cheerful about it. Thanks for reading, Eileen!

  6. Not quite sure what the “BIG” deal is… Trader Joe’s doesn’t really seem to support anything except making their pockets full. I was very unimpressed with the large amounts of proccessed foods and other products of “unknown” origin ! Cheap food = hidden costs and the fact that they are not supporting any local producers enrages me beyond belief ! Plus did you realize that no one that works there seems to be from Maine… I mean 2 out of the three employees that I spoke with, had been asked to drive up from MA in order to “help” out… just more Mainer’s money heading out of state… keep up the good work Trader Joes !

    1. I’m pretty sure the primary goal of most big businesses is to keep their pockets full; those that have you believing otherwise just have better marketing departments. And it’s not a requirement for stores to tell you the “origins” of their ingredients. It may be something you prefer, but it’s not a rule of law. If absolute certainty about the origins of foods and the working conditions surrounding their creation is a priority, the farmer’s market seems to be the only fair choice.

      I don’t have any interest in Trader Joes; in fact, I have yet to actually complete a purchase there. I went to take pictures because of the breathless, blow-by-blow coverage I was reading about the store’s opening in other media. I just think it’s a little naive to suggest that they are inherently any more “evil” than any other large multinational store.

  7. Actually, there are some products that do have to be defined under COOL–Country of Origin Labeling. Some have been doing it for years, others have only been doing it since last March. It’s not for all products, though places like Whole Foods do mark all products for origin, so TJ’s only has to abide by the guidelines put forth by the gov’t just as Shaw’s and Hannaford has to. One thing that I always find amusing with the COOL law is when you see something like ground beef that is labeled both as a product of the US and of Canada. I understand Lukaduke’s frustrations with the labeling–it’s a personal peeve of mine also–but, to be fair, they are doing only what is required of them.

    1. Sure, but COOL regulations leave processed foods exempt…and isn’t that primarily what Trader Joe’s sells? They don’t have a meat counter, do they? You see that? I don’t even know. All this reminds me: I could go for a burrito.

  8. You got me there with TJ’s and processed foods. They do not have a meat counter but they do have packaged meats, veggies and nuts–though I don’t believe they have to label where the nuts are coming from in their trail mixes. I have noticed the labeling on those products as well as their frozen seafood. I doubt though, considering how long this process has taken, that we will ever see COOL on processed foods. I guess we can be thankful for what we’ve gotten thus far.

  9. Soooo–this is a few ahem YEARS on and we have finally gotten a TJ’s in the Albany NY area. I did not attend the Grand Opening but we have been a few times.

    Things we like—they have uncured bacon–the only kind my daughter can eat. I know I am horrifying some here but too bad. They have meringues–no place ELSE around here–and I live an hour and a half ONE WAY from TJ’s!!!!–has these in any form. They have an interesting selection of beers but recently Price Chopper has copied this. They have a small dog? Coyote? Wolf? Named TJ for the kiddos to find and then they get a treat–noticed this changed from a fruit roll up to a lollipop in the past few weeks tho! And the staff is HYSTERICAL. What laughing gas ARE they huffing?????

    Things we DON’T like::: the meat section is a huge joke. The prices are INSANE. You might be able to feed one tiny not hungry person for what I have to spend on 7 people every week! Maybe. They do have “Kosher” meat but I have seen no actual people I would suspect of buying this FOR keeping kashrut (And yes I would know they are of my tribe). The prices are high for most things. The produce is pretty but spendy. The flowers were pretty and not that bad. The store is pretty but—-

    The frozen Orange Chicken was good. Things like soap and toothpaste were too precious for words–and bank-breakingly spendy. No “Two Buck Chuck” as we live in the weirdest state where you can sell BEER but NOT wine–for wine you have to go to a “regular” liquor store! Sigh. I SO wanted to see what all the Two Buck Chuck fuss was all about! LOL!

    Something some people might NOT know—The first time I went to this store (the first time we had been to ANY TJ’s) I said–Oh! This is an upscale ALDI’s!!! Well! They turn out to be owned by the SAME company! And I might be out of place here but I think some of the stuff is the SAME stuff in different packages. Correct me if I am wrong. And I LIKE Aldi’s for some things. I guess they have the best of both worlds–the people who can’t or don’t WANT to pay the TJ’s price and the brown rice and granola crowd who demand that their eggs be free range and their cheese be extra virgin. Altho I WAS surprised that NONE of the food at TJ’s was local–and we HAVE some of THE most precious food sources right here! Flying Pig; Three Corner Field Farm; Battenkill Creamery (I live where I can hear their cows!) and several other locavore havens. Nope. Not at TJ’s.

    Wonder why?????

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