There was plenty of parking, but the line for the opening of the new Woodlands Trader Joe’s clearly began forming long before my 7:20 a.m. arrival. It already wound around the side of the store at that point.
By 8 a.m., the line had doubled back on itself. Shopping carts ran out at entry one-third of the way through the queue. Shoppers were meet as they entered the store by employees handing out Hawaiian leis.
The 13,500-square-foot store was impeccable, with colorful artwork depicting recognizable local vignettes on the wall, and creative signage everywhere above and among the products. Free reusable bags were given to shoppers as they crowded in.
“Every time we go back, we bring back Trader Joe’s. We served the Two Buck Chuck at our wedding!”
Cambria and Scott Merry, having visited the nearby Starbucks, held a spot toward the front of the line. They moved to The Woodlands three years ago from Austin, but are originally from California: “Every time we go back, we bring back Trader Joe’s. We served the Two Buck Chuck at our wedding!”
They also like the cat cookies, as well as the store’s selection of organic goods, salads, vitamins and supplements.
Mark and Amara Bacon, farther back in line, had only been to Trader Joe’s once before Friday morning, but they saw "some unique things” in that California vacation visit. They came to try the roasted seaweed snack and the Two Buck Chuck.
Woodlands resident Deborah Santesson remembers the Trader Joe’s in Portland, Oregon fondly, saying, “The house brands were so unique; the variety — and the organic items will give me a wider selection than just having H-E-B. And, Trader Joe’s has better prices than Whole Foods!”
What brought her to opening day? “I’m excited. I want to look at all the products — and I want to go shopping! I’m not much of a cook, and they have a lot of pre-made, pre-packaged meals I can buy.”
Sarah Sadlowski posed with “thumbs up” next to the extensive wine selection. Sadlowski is orginally from New Jersey, having moved to The Woodlands 18 years ago.
“My sister’s been sending me care packages all this time from New Jersey, and whenever we go back we pack a suitcase full of Trader Joe’s to being back here," she said. "I kept emailing the company, saying, ‘You’ve got to come to The Woodlands!’ I’ve been waiting 18 years for this!”
Corinna Cervantez, overhearing, added, “I thought five years was a long time to wait!” She and her husband moved to Tomball five years ago from Southern California. They’ve missed having Trader Joe’s.
"We’ve been riding them to come,” Certvantezes said.
Now they’re here, and the Cervantezes — and many Woodlands-area residents — are all smiles.
Wondering what the Trader Joe's fuss is about? There are resources for that.
Two years’ worth of Trader Joe’s product information rated by a husband-wife team can be found on the “What’s Good at Trader Joe’s?” blog. Who knew grocery shopping could be so absorbing?
On another popular blog, My Trader Joe’s List, visitors rate all the store's products. If that’s too much, however, The Daily Meal cuts to the chase with the top five appetizers, and top five vegetarian and breakfast products at Trader Joe's. (There’s even a section called “Worst. Stuff. Ever.” — so you’ll know what NOT to get.)