Retail • Festive opening marks Utah debut of popular chain.
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More than 300 shoppers lined up on a blustery Friday morning for the opening of the Trader Joe's grocery store in Salt Lake City, its first outlet in Utah.
As shoppers rushed to pick up bargains, the Drum Labs Steel Band from Pleasant Grove played calypso music, adding to the festivities amid the Southern California grocery chain's high-seas décor.
Store employees, dubbed crew members, gave out several hundred of leis to shoppers.
The store, featuring organic, one-of-a-kind specialty foods, is at 634 E. 400 South (inside The Family Center at East Downtown).
Marilyn Sorensen of West Jordan lined up at 6:30 a.m. to become one of the first shoppers to walk through a happy gauntlet of cheering employees. For the past year, Sorensen has been among 3,500 Utahns posting invitations on a Facebook page in an effort to convince Trader Joe's to come to Utah. The state's first Trader Joe's comes 54 years after its founding in Los Angeles.
"Trader Joe's is everything a good company should be," Sorenson said. "They have great products, great customer service and they treat their employees well."
It was Joe-Joe's cocoa cookies, filled with peppermint and crushed candy canes, that drew John Poelman of Salt Lake City to the opening.
"The cookies only come out once a year," said Poelman. "I shopped at Trader Joe's in Washington, D.C., so when I came to Utah, I missed the store a lot."
Inside the store, shoppers found Trader Joe's signature interior designs, mixing cedar-covered walls, Hawaiian-inspired elements and some local flair, including hand-painted murals paying homage to the area. Images featured the University of Utah stadium, downtown Salt Lake City and Arches National Park.
About 80 percent of store employees are from the Salt Lake Valley. And the store manager, known as captain, is Rory Violette who moved from Arizona but counts himself as a true Aggie.
Violette fondly recalls attending Utah State University, where he embraced the nearly century-old tradition of kissing a girl under a full moon at midnight while sitting atop the school's carved A block.
"It's great to be in Utah," said Violette, as shoppers rushed past. "There are a lot of foodies here."
The store stocks an array of domestic and imported foods, beverages (including beer, but no wine), fresh-baked artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees, international frozen entrees, fresh-crop nuts, deli items, vitamins, supplements and basics such as milk and eggs.
The chain, with more than 380 stores in 35 states, purchases from manufacturers, taking out preservatives and artificial colors. It then puts products under the Trader Joe's label.
The store introduces a dozen new items every week. Many shoppers will also get a copy of Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer" in their mailboxes, with irreverent descriptions of selected products, including comfort foods and items that are organic or have other special attributes.
Located • 634 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City
Hours • 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Sunday
Groceries • Domestic and imported foods, beverages and fresh-baked artisan breads