Thursday, July 16, 2009

Union Square Trader Joe's

Just about everyone who has ever been to a Trader Joe’s knows how great they are. The food is fresh and delicious, the values are amazing, the help is efficient and friendly. But do you know what it’s like to visit a Trader Joe’s in Manhattan? I mean specifically the Trader Joe’s just off Union Square? Frankly, I don’t think you can quite imagine it. You see, everyday this Trader Joe’s violates all the fire safety rules about room capacity. They consistently squeeze in to this relatively small space more people than should be allowed, in fact, more than is humanly possible, at least that’s how it feels. No matter when you go, it is impossible to move a cart through the aisles, which means you must never go alone. You need one person to gather up the food by hand and the other person to position the cart in the queue, which is already snaking its way throughout the store and, in some shocking cases, right back out the front door. It does move fairly quickly, though. But you have to learn to steer your cart artfully, just enough to let the customers retrieve their groceries off the shelves you’re standing in the way of, but not so much that you lose your place in line, condemning you to spend a good part of the rest of your morning trapped in the produce section, leaning listlessly on your cart, and trying without success to fight back the tears.

When you finally do make it to the cashier, you can’t help but feel triumphant, like the guys who first scaled Mt. Everest or the other ones who figured out how to make authentic looking counterfeit money. With both hands carrying reusable bags filled with lots of cheap food (and wine), you descend into the subway knowing that you can handle any challenge or overcome any difficulty. It’s a great New York feeling.


  1. What I love about TJ's is the chocolate selection. But can even that be worth the Herculean struggle and Produce department tears? Grocerie shopping in Manhattan is a study in the use of inadequate space, where 'supermarkets' are the size of another city's Pawn Shops. Unless, of course, you go a bit further downtown to the corner of W. Houston and Chrystie and enter the spacious, almost fantasy of Whole Foods...It would help to bring along a couple of those guys who figured out how to make authentic lookiing counterfeit money.

  2. Yes, I adore that Whole Foods, and the one in Tribeca, on Greenwich, is also gorgeous. On the other hand, the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle is a madhouse and only made somewhat more manageable than T J's by its large size.