Ever since we first moved to Boston, I had heard about Trader Joe’s, that it was the best place to get foodstuffs of all kinds—the best cheese, the best crackers, the best nuts and snacks, 19-cent bananas, the best bread, the best this, the best that, and the list goes on and on. Oh, and the famous $2.99 Charles Shaw wine commonly referred to as Two Buck Chuck. I never made the trek to Trader Joe’s outside Boston, so when the word was out that the store was coming to Naples and would be the only Florida location, I decided that this was my chance to check the place out.
I have learned in my many experiences of attending grand openings of stores—especially food stores—DON’T DO IT. Or, in my case, as your humble blogger/reporter, if you must go for a story, make sure you do not need to buy any food. Two cases in point: one was the opening of Whole Foods Market and the second was the opening of the new and improved Publix on Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41. In both cases, drivers were stuck everywhere, there was no parking anywhere, and inside the stores it was survival of the fittest. I have the perfect plan when I go to these openings—I get in, survey what I need to and escape virtually unscathed. But the opening of Trader Joe’s last Friday was an entirely different ball game. I had a sense about this one.
I told my editor that I was not prepared to risk my car—or me, for that matter—on opening day. However, I would do a drive-by and then make my official visit the following Monday. So last Friday, February 10, I hopped in my car and headed north on 41. I only made it to the entrance to Pelican Marsh when I knew I had made the correct decision. Traffic in the right lane was stopped as far as I could see and there were a lot of flashing lights. Aww, too bad; someone had had an accident while trying to get to Trader Joe’s. Nope—that wasn’t it. State troopers and Collier County Sheriff’s deputies were directing traffic in and out of Trader Joe’s. I have never seen anything like it. I scooted up the middle lane, made an illegal right turn onto Immokalee Road (I could not help it—nowhere else to go) to check out how many cars were actually there. There was not one parking space anywhere—all the way over to Marshall’s—and throngs of people everywhere. Unbelievable. Surely, Monday would be much more manageable.
Well, Monday was not. My field trip to Trader Joe’s started with me parking close to the Walgreens on Immokalee; there was no place closer to park. When I finally got to the store, throngs (yes, I know I used that word before—but there were STILL throngs) of people streaming in and out. Inside, the checkout lines were spilling out past the entrance—each line was 25 to 30 folks deep and every one of them had full carts. I managed to go up and down a couple of the aisles where there was room and saw the cheese, the crackers, the nuts, the 19-cent bananas, the bread—but the Two Buck Chuck was sold out, completely. And there was gridlock at the back of the store as well—Trader Joe’s was giving away free pieces of chocolate cake and even more people were in line for that. My theory was sound in not visiting Trader Joe’s to do any shopping, although I found a couple of things that looked pretty inviting. If I had given in to that temptation, I am certain I would still be in line to check out. What an attraction! I look forward to checking Trader Joe’s out again … maybe in June.