How to survive your first trip to Trader Joe’s in Louisville

The line at Trader Joe's just before 9 a.m. Friday.

Friday sure did seem like a new holiday in Louisville.

Trader Joe’s, a cheeky little grocery store with lots of organic food at low prices, opened at 8 a.m. in Shelbyville Road Plaza.

Our town subsequently lost its mind with glee.

Usually, I’m one who prefers to wait until the hype settles before visiting a new store/club/restaurant. But I decided to not only go to Trader Joe’s on opening day, but to also Tweet during my excursion (check out the Tweets on my timeline or search under the hashtag #traderjoeslou).

I was in and out of the store with two large, reuseable bags filled with $40 worth of groceries in about an hour. I also left with some knowledge about how to survive a grocery store grand opening of this caliber.

  • Brace yourself. Things are going to be crazy for awhile. There were two different groups of people in Trader Joe’s — the fans who had previously driven all the way to Cincinnati to visit the nearest store, and the gawkers who wanted to see what all the hype was about. I expect that both of these crowds will pack the store for a few months, especially as people head out to Shelbyville Road to do some holiday shopping. If I were a betting woman, I’d say things won’t quiet down in Trader Joe’s until after the first of the year.
  • Shop solo. Elect one representative from your household to make the trip. At this point, the store is too crowded to enjoy leisurely couple browsing. And don’t bring a buddy — there’s no time for talkin’ in Trader Joe’s. Just shoppin’.
  • Leave your jacket in the car. Lots of people = lots of bodies = HOT HOT HOT. By the time I made it to the cash register, I wanted to strip off my Western Kentucky University sweatshirt and use it to wipe the sweat from my forehead.
  • Park far away from the store. Are you an optimistic parker like me? Do you drive in circles convinced that someone will soon leave their spot and give you a prime space? Dump that positive attitude and face the facts — you’re not going to get a good spot for a long time.
  • Never been to a Trader Joe’s? Wait a month or two before your first visit. I was a Trader Joe’s customer when I lived in Washington, D.C., and I’ve visited the Cincy store several times, so I had a good idea of the items I wanted to buy. There were just too many shoppers stuffing the fairly narrow aisles to familiarize yourself with the products for the first time. If you wait, you have a better chance of being able to stroll and shop without being poked repeatedly in the ribs with a cart (yep, that definitely happened to me).
  • Use a hand basket, but don’t overfill it. By the time I arrived at Trader Joe’s at 8:15 a.m., the store was already out of shopping carts, leaving customers like me with only hand baskets. This actually ended up working with in my favor. The large crowds can make maneuvering carts difficult. I was able to move a little more freely then the customers who made it there earlier. But I had a deep red crease on my forearm by the end of my trip because I weighed my basket down with too many goodies.
  • Have at least a vague idea of what you would like to buy. I got trapped in the frozen food aisle when I stopped to mull over the selection of frozen pizzas. The optimal Trader Joe’s shopper (for right now, at least) can just reach, grab and go without thinking too much and holding up too much traffic in the aisles.
  • Don’t do all your grocery shopping there right away. Once again, I must reference the large crowds. The throng of customers could turn your weekly grocery shopping into a nightmare (if it isn’t already). This is the time to just buy a few of your favorite things and get the heck out in one piece.
I’ve made it sound like my trip to Trader Joe’s was terrible, but I actually had a blast. The employees had pretty positive attitudes, especially since some of them had been working since 4 a.m. Customers treated each other with courtesy, even when the lines got long and the aisles got crowded. I got everything I needed plus a few extras, and I only had to wait in line for about 12 minutes.
Still don’t get all the hubbub? Check out articles from Business First Louisville and the Courier-Journal, who did an excellent job explaining the appeal of this grocery chain.

6 thoughts on “How to survive your first trip to Trader Joe’s in Louisville

  1. I loved reading your live tweets this morning! I’m excited to check it out, but I’ll probably wait a few weeks and wait for a random weeknight (definitely not a Saturday). Good tip about the hand cart – much easier to maneuver, that’s for sure.

  2. I was there around 6pm, and it was definitely crowded, but pleasantly so. I think everyone who was there knew exactly what they were getting into by going on opening day. On the whole, people were lovely and polite!

    I went to school in Boston, so I’ve been a devoted fan since college. I had some ideas of items I wanted to buy, but I came away with a pretty random assortment of items today. Eggs! Pomegranate juice! Enchiladas! Fruit leather!

    I confess, when I walked in the door, I actually got a little teary-eyed. Trader Joe’s takes me back to college and eating their snacks while studying. It’s amazing that a grocery store inspires so much emotion!

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