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Secrets of the new Trader Joe's: Exclusive tour shows how Alabama Theater's movie magic is honored

Secrets of the new Trader Joe's: Exclusive tour shows how Alabama Theater's movie magic is honored

With the clock ticking toward its official debut on Friday morning, the new Trader Joe's on Shepherd was teeming with activity during CultureMap's preview tour.

Employees arranged displays, stocked shelves and programmed cash registers in preparation for a grand opening expected to be as busy as Nov. 2, 1939 — the day the vintage Alabama Theater that now houses the grocery store first turned on its projectors to show Jack Benny's Man About Town.

"You'll never go into any Trader Joe's and say 'Oh yeah, I've been in this one before,'" Paquet laughs, looking up at a Planet of the Grapesad painted on the wall.

"We made great strides to keep that art deco movie theater look," Trader Joe's regional vice president Greg Paquet says, pointing to the large turquoise medallions adorning the ceiling and the fluted plaster walls. "We even found a way to preserve the original second-floor balcony."

He said the store even hired a team of local artists to create movie posters spoofing some of Hollywood's greatest moments. ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a jam.")

"You'll never go into any Trader Joe's and say 'Oh yeah, I've been in this one before,' " Paquet laughs, looking up at a Planet of the Grapes ad painted on the wall. "We try to really reflect the neighborhoods and communities where we open our stores."

Grabbing a box of cookies straight from an end aisle display, Paquet kicked off the food portion of our tour. He handed me a vanilla Joe Joe — an Oreo-like product with blonde cookies and an all-natural vanilla filling. It was amazing and I snuck two more when the regional vice president wasn't looking.

Next, we darted off to a shelf of Cookie Butter . . . That's right, it 's a jar of mashed-up cookies.

After tasting a surprisingly delicious piece of "salt and pepper" chocolate, we darted off to a shelf of Cookie Butter . . . That's right, it's a jar of mashed-up cookies you can spread on just about anything, according to the label. Don't knock it 'til you try it. 

The tour ended over a bag of Trader Joe's Movie Theater Popcorn, which, for the record, tastes exactly like the overpriced concession stand variety we all love.

"Like all our products, this popcorn's 100 percent all-natural," Paquet says as we part ways. "No artificial ingredients."

Starting Friday, the Montrose Trader Joe's will be open everyday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Trader Joe's, Alabama Theater, opening
After years of waiting, inner-loop Houstonians are finally getting their Trader Joe's on Friday. Photo by Tyler Rudick
Trader Joe's, Alabama Theater, movie poster
Trader Joe's hired local artists to adorn its walls with movie-themed artwork. Photo by Joel Luks
Trader Joe's, Alabama Theater, cookie butter
"All you have to do is taste it to understand," reads the label of Trader Joe's original Cookie Butter . . . a true statement. Photo by Joel Luks
Trader Joe's, Alabama Theater, opening
Trader Joe's, Alabama Theater, movie poster
Trader Joe's, Alabama Theater, cookie butter
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