The Little Rock location of Trader Joe’s, the California-based grocery store chain, will open at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22 in the former Toys-R-Us location in west Little Rock.
The ribbon-cutting for store No. 756 will be at 8:55 a.m. and expect a crowd as Trader Joe’s has a large and enthusiastic following. For example, a Bring Trader Joe’s to Little Rock page on Facebook has more than 7,000 likes and while this is the first location to open in Arkansas, there’s one in Memphis, so many people in the state are already familiar with the brand and the selection.
For those unfamiliar, here’s a primer on what to expect and some of the best things to buy and try.
SPACE: Trader Joe’s do not have a large footprint in terms of space. A typical store averages about 15,000 square feet while a Kroger is ten times that at more than 160,000 square feet. If you shopped at the former Toys-R-Us, Trader Joe’s is taking up about half of that space.
STAFF: Trader Joe’s has a pirate theme, with workers wearing tropical print shirts and floor staff are called “crew” while the store manager is known as the “Captain.” Employees will swap tasks during the day, so they are all trained to do everything from running the register to stocking the shelves. Another thing to note about is the store doesn’t have self check-out. You’ll get a human everytime! And those humans generally act like they’re happy to be there, mostly because they are! A Captain makes around $110,000 annually while Crew hit between $12 to $18 an hour and all employees get 10 percent of their purchases along with health insurance, retirement and perks like free gym memberships and discounted cell phone plans.
SELECTION: Outside of beer and wine, just about everything Trader Joe’s sells is house brand and while the shelves will be well-stocked, there’s not the 47 different brands of chips or cereal to choose from. A typical grocery store will have around 40,000 products and brands for sale, while Trader Joe’s will have about 4,000. But the chain does wildly well despite the selection as a Trader Joe’s averages about $1,700 in sales per square foot, while Whole Foods, for example, sells about $900 per square foot.
THE PICKS: On the occasions a Trader Joe’s has been nearby, there’s some items that make it home. Personal favorites include the Thai Lime & Chili Cashews, the Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookies and the Speculoos Cookie Butter, often described as the most popular item at the store. For good reason, it is delicious but those choices have been limited by travel time back to Arkansas.
For a more complete picture, let’s turn to Melissa Yeager, a long-time journalist and a familiar face for those who saw her in her days at KHBS/KHOG 40/29 in Fort Smith and Fayetteville, Yeager now lives and works as a reporter in Phoenix and said she’s “obsessed with Trader Joe’s.”
Rattling off a few of her favorite things, Yeager said, “Everything but Bagel Spice, longboard chips, gnocchi, chicken Italian sausage and wine.”
Yeager added, “I get a lot of my pantry basics there from olive oil and sriracha ranch to pasta and frozen foods like vegetable starters, gnocchi and Butter Chicken. Love the wine tastings and seasonal items.”
There’s one thing Yeager doesn’t buy at Trader Joe’s through, “I usually get produce elsewhere.”
Partly because of selection, but also, “my one disappointment has been the amount of plastic used on produce.”
Image courtesy of iStock