Trader Joe’s became the newest addition to the growing family of national retailers in Brooklyn when the long-awaited supermarket on Court Street last Friday morning.
A driving rain and blustery winds did not stop about 200 eager and already-devoted customers from coiling around the block in Cobble Hill to get into the quirky grocery at 9 am.
Borough President Markowitz greeted the soggy shoppers before the official opening and told them good naturedly, “You guys are nuts,” for queuing up in such foul weather.
But the faithful laughed along with the supermarket-loving Markowitz. They were under the spell of the California-based chain, perhaps best known for reasonably priced frozen foods such as mandarin chicken and wild salmon for $5.99 a pound and other easy-to-prepare Trader Joe’s-labeled foods that dominate the shelves and coolers.
“Trader Joe’s knows what the consumer wants and they figured out the magic recipe for cheap, healthy food,” said Seth Unger, a Brooklyn Heights resident.
Another early bird said she liked the new store because, unlike standard supermarkets with their predictable products, she never knows what she’ll find on the shelves in Trader Joe’s, which is a boon to food adventurers, but not so good for people hunting for specific ingredients.
“I never come in with a shopping list,” said Theresa Antoine of Canarsie.
Trader Joe’s bestowed complimentary reusable shopping bags on the early arrivals as well as the rhythms of a Caribbean steel drum band inside the landmark former Independence Bank Building that has been lovingly converted into an emporium with paintings of iconic Brooklyn imagery, like Ebbets Field and Coney Island, on the walls.
The added competition from the new store on the block did not faze a nearby specialty store.
“Are they going to be competition? Yes, in some respects,” said Charlie Sahadi, owner of Sahadi’s, the venerable Middle Eastern market on Atlantic Avenue.
Sahadi said he was bracing for a temporary diversion of customers to Trader Joe’s, but was confident that over a couple of months, pedestrian traffic would actually increase in his store, thanks to the spillover effect from his proximity to a destination store like Trader Joe’s.
The national supermarket is another in a long line of chain stores to make inroads in what had historically been a commercial landscape of mom-and-pops. Target, Ikea, Home Depot and Lowe’s have all sprouted in Brownstone Brooklyn. More recently, the Beep has been campaigning to lure high-end clothier Nordstrom’s.
“Bringing Trader Joe’s to Brooklyn is something I’ve been trying to do for a long time,” said Markowitz, adding, “I’d like to be able to announce the next one before I leave office [at the end of 2009].”
Possible location? The Beep said he likes what he sees in Mill Basin.