Trader Joe’s is one of those places that inspires devotion, even a cult-like following.
The California-based grocery store chain attracts people who love food. The shelves are stocked with snacks, nuts and interesting beverages. The coolers are full of cheese, vegetables and frozen food that ranges from dumplings to ahi tuna.
Trader Joe’s tends to brand its own food rather than carrying national brands. That’s how you end up with something like the addictive chocolate covered almonds with sea salt. The crew members exude fun and provide great customer service.
I started going to Trader Joe’s 20 years ago in Arizona and would import items back to Indiana in my suitcase. Now there are locations in Chicago, Ann Arbor and Indianapolis, but those aren’t close enough. We need one locally.
Here’s why it could and should happen:
We’re on the way to places. Trader Joe’s likely uses trucks to get its food to its 440 stores. Since the grocery chain specializes in its own brand, it’s likely got its own supply chain mapped. So let’s assume that trucks take the food to stores.
There are stores in Chicago, Ann Arbor and near Detroit. Interstate 80, 90 and 94 are traveled by these trucks. Oh, look, Mishawaka is right along that highway and a stop wouldn’t take long.
Mishawaka has a Costco and Whole Foods. When a McDonald’s opens, a Burger King opens across the street. Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Rachel Broderick wouldn’t say what criteria the company uses to pick locations. (Trader Joe’s spokesperson are well-trained to say, “No comment.”) But I’m guessing that the company attracts some of the same people who shop at Whole Foods and Costco. Mishawaka has both of those now.
TJ fans are already here. People in this area help other TJ fans stock up on favorites when they visit somewhere that has one. Someone will not only make a point to find a store while out of town, but also grab a one-pound chocolate bar or the triple ginger cookies for a friend.
When I posted a photo on Facebook of what I brought home (for myself. Sorry, friends.), it blew up. The store’s fans are consumer evangelists who preach the gospel with their mouths full.
We have enough people to support a store. Trader Joe’s tend to settle in urban areas. If you count the population in Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, we have 467,000 people or so. Add in those from Marshall, St. Joseph and Cass counties, and you get over 500,000.
That’s less than the 1.3 million in the Grand Rapids metro area where a store is opening soon, but there are enough here to support one store.
Notre Dame tailgaters eat a lot. On at least six Saturdays each fall, more than 80,000 people gather at Notre Dame Stadium to watch young men run and throw a leather football. Those six Saturdays provide millions in economic activity, including hotels, restaurants and grocery stores.
The tailgating happens for hours prior to the home football games and Trader Joe’s could get a big enough piece to make it worthwhile.
Competition in the grocery game is good. Walmart is selling an increasing amount of the groceries we consume. Trader Joe’s offers a lovely alternative.
I love Martin’s Super Markets and Meijer. I love small markets like Maple City Market and Bamber’s Supperette. Trader Joe’s would make them all a little better, a little sharper, as they compete.
Our food scene is worthy. The opening of Artisan, Sense, 41 Degrees North and a growing number of brewpubs shows there’s interest in food and drink. People are spending money on good food. Trader Joe’s would tap into that.
Mishawaka is the best bet locally. Sorry Goshen, you’re getting more hip. Elkhart, congratulations on Shoppes on Six and the improvements downtown. But neither of you is ready for a Trader Joe’s yet.
This could go to South Bend, but it makes sense to put it in one of the wide, vast commercial corridors of Mishawaka. There are people in all these fine cities who yearn for one and want it as local as possible, but the only one that’s ready is Mishawaka.
Real estate is cheap. By comparison to Lincoln Park in Chicago, a storefront in Mishwaka wouldn’t cost much. Lower rent = higher profit.
Cookie butter. Every TJ customer probably has a favorite Trader Joe’s item. It’s often something unique.
Years ago, mine was the peanut butter filled pretzels before other stores carried them. Now it’s those almonds. Or the cookie butter, a spread made with crushed cookies that taste like the Biscoff brand. Or the horseradish hummus.
You get the idea, but the unique items are reason enough that we should have one nearby.
So how do we get one? We tell Trader Joe’s. The company has an online form. Broderick says the company pays attention to the form and feedback from customers.
What if so many people in the 574 area code sent feedback we crashed the server? Or at least made them pay attention in Monrovia, Calif. Ready, set, go. Here’s the link: