Trader Joe's Comes to Dallas Ft. Worth
By Teresa McUsic
Trader Joe’s, the little, quirky grocery that packs a powerful organic and preservative-free punch with its low-cost products, has made it to the North Texas marketplace.
Last Friday, around 150 people waited—some as early as 5 a.m.—in Fort Worth for the 8 a.m. grand opening of one of four stores planned for the area. The Hawaiian-themed store opened by cutting a lei in front of a cheering crowd.
The new store, at 2701 S. Hulen St in Fort Worth, joined another grand opening the same day by the California chain in The Woodlands, near Houston. A store in Plano is scheduled to open Sept. 7 and a store in Dallas at 2001 Greenville Ave. is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2013. A fourth North Texas store is planned for Dallas’ Preston Hollow neighborhood in 2014.
Known on both coasts for its unique product mix and low prices, Trader Joe’s is privately owned by the Albrecht family, owners of the international Aldi discount grocery chain.
About a quarter the size of a traditional supermarket, Trader Joe’s carries just 4,000 items, 80 percent of which are house brands with prices cheaper than national brands. Most groceries carry around 50,000 items. Trader Joe’s product mix comes from local farms and food artisans, as well as big companies such as Frito Lay and Danone.
While it has most of the typical categories of groceries--from produce, frozen foods, meats and cheese, dairy, bakery and dry goods to wine and pet food--Trader Joe’s doesn’t have some products, including baby food, and often does not carry multiple brands for a single item. The store also has a limited supply of personal care products.
Trader Joe’s is not a health food chain, but it does offer a large group of organic products. In addition, the grocer has pushed to eliminate trans fats, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and genetically modified organisms (GMO) ingredients from its house brands. The grocery provides symbols on its packaging for customers to identify product choices to fit their lifestyles.
Unlike most grocery chains, Trader Joe’s does not have sales, clubs or loyalty cards, but rather focuses on buying direct from suppliers in volume to get low prices. The chain also does not charge a suppliers’ fee for putting an item on the shelf, a practice most groceries use that Trader Joe’s says results in higher prices.
While the company doesn’t release sales figures, an article in Fortune Magazine in 2010 said the company’s sales were roughly $8 billion, the same size as sales from Austin-based Whole Foods.
Joe Coulombe, 82, opened the first Trader Joe's 43 years ago in Pasadena. He named the store Trader Joe's to evoke images of the South Sea. In 1979, he sold the chain to Germany's Albrecht family.
The chain now has more than 370 stores in 33 states and Washington D.C. New stores in Texas are planned to open later this year in San Antonio and Houston. A store in Austin is scheduled to open in 2014.
Analysts say the grocer could easily triple its size in the future.
Teresa McUsic is an Arlington-based writer focused on consumer, environmental and health issues for a number of local and national publications. Her column, The Savvy Consumer, appears in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached atTMcUsic@aol.com