Local Score? Trader Joe's Arrives In Vermont

May 19, 2014

When Trader Joe’s opened its first store in the state last week, Vermonters turned out in droves. The national chain is known for its discount specialty foods. And as customers stocked up, some looked for local, as well as low-cost.

The South Burlington Trader Joe’s opened with the kind of fanfare usually reserved for, well, something other than the arrival of a grocery store.

Customers crowded into the parking lots of both Trader Joe’s and its neighbor, the locally owned Healthy Living food market. Balloons were tied to the checkout aisles and security was stationed out front.

The California-based grocery chain is known for offering low prices on specialty goods. And that was what shoppers came to buy. Fay Luke said she’s here to stock up on items she wouldn’t buy every day.

“I have four bottles of wine, Trader Joe’s hummus, veggies and cookies,” said Luke.

She’s not the only one. Items like olive oil, nut butters and prepared foods were priced considerably lower than at other markets in the area. And shoppers are stocking up.

Not to mention…the wine.

“All of these are between $4 to $6 a bottle,” said Luke. “Which is amazing.”

Sheri Lynn is on the checkout line a few feet in front of Luke. She’s buying a bag of kale, among other things. She’s impressed with the prices on produce:

“They have a lot of the organic choices, and they’re much lower than what you get in the other stores, even when the stores have those on sale,” said Lynn. “So it was a great deal, and I saw those right away when I first walked in.”

Lynn says she typically shops at a locally owned market in Richmond.

"I try to buy locally when I can, so this is a little out of character for me." - Sheri Lynn, Trader Joe's customer

“You know, I try to buy locally when I can,” said Lynn. “So this is a little out of character for me.”

But she says it’ll be business as usual once the local produce is back in season.

“Once the fresh veggies come in-and I grow my own- I’ll definitely go to the local vendors,” said Lynn. “But right now we’re in that season where you can’t get a lot of fresh.”

And Carrie Curler is disappointed not to see more Cabot dairy products and other local cheeses:

"Here, you don’t see Cabot,” said Curler. “Items like that, that are local Vermont products.”

But Curler says she’ll still shop here for some items.

“As far as the wine, and the beer. The other random items like that,” said Curler “I definitely would come here. Things like condiments. Really great stuff as far as that price goes.”

That sentiment was echoed by several customers. Sheri Lynn sums up how she’ll be shopping here going forward:

“I’ll figure out, what do I like here? And continue to buy the local cheeses, local vegetables once they start,” said Lynn. “And combine the best of both worlds.”

A representative from Trader Joe’s declined VPR’s request for an interview about the new location.