The very first North Carolina Trader Joe's opened last week in Cary - known around Raleigh as "Stepford", but that's another post. The important thing is, the new store is a ten-minute drive from my Raleigh house.
In California, we all take TJ's for granted. With the rock bottom prices on staples like milk, nuts and of course, wine; and the vast variety of specialty foods that can only be described as FUN - there's really no need to grocery shop anywhere else and the place is so COMFORTABLE. And the staff are all so happy and helpful (real salaries, profit participation and medical benefits will do that, funny, isn't it?).
I swear half the time I jump on the plane to go back to LA it's because I miss Trader Joe's. And I haven't bought cheese, which normally I live on, even once in Raleigh because after TJ's, the prices are just criminal.
So of course I went to TJ's on Saturday. It looked like the place had been hit by looters. The shelves were practically empty - but the register lines stretched to the back of the store. It was a 45-minute wait to check out, and you could barely move through the rivers of people in the aisles, but no one was complaining - the general mood was giddiness, if not sheer ecstasy.
Some of us have been waiting a long time for this. And others are catching on.
I talked to people in line who have been driving to DC (up to now the closest TJ's) to get their fix. Once people heard I'm from California, I became the expert from afar and had people coming up to me from all over the store asking for recommendations. I myself, absolutely NOT a foodie, bought almost $300 worth and half my favorite things were already out of stock. But the best thing was seeing all these people who had never been inside a Trader Joe's, wandering wide-eyed around the aisles like children on Christmas morning. Converts if I've ever seen it.
Yes, it was a good week in Raleigh. The times, they are a changin'.