The Dallas Morning News roused a lot of food-lovers across the state with some happy news this morning: Trader Joe's, the specialty grocery chain based in California, is coming to Texas. Hot on the heels of another California import, In-N-Out Burger, Trader Joe's first Texas store will be in Dallas, which has led to speculation from Dallasites as to its possible location.
The store also plans to open in Austin and Houston, and we've already scoped out the perfect location in the hollow shell of what's left at the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer where Blockbuster once stood. Yes, it would cause increased traffic at the intersection -- especially when Uchi and a slew of other bars and restaurants move in shortly -- but perhaps that would finally encourage the City of Houston to fix the dismal streets in that area once and for all.
Trader Joe's is known for stocking a very small inventory of products: 4,000 as opposed to the 50,000 goods found in a regular-size grocery store, most of those items produced in-house and bearing the store's own label. The company claims that any item bearing a Trader Joe's label contains "no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives; no genetically modified ingredients; no MSG; and no added Trans Fats." It's also known for keeping costs on its items down, despite selling an interesting variety of ethnic food, health food, beer and wine.
While we're excited about a possible future involving trips to Trader Joe's for Two Buck Chuck, the reaction from the Houston food community has been mixed.
"Why all the excitement about Trader Joe's? I know it's quirky, but they don't carry stuff we can't already get mostly here in Houston," said Twitter user @drricky. "I can understand celebrating a local place like @RevivalMarket. Chain expansion is meh."
Twitter user @solarfish30 elaborated: "We have [Central Market]. Don't need Trader Joes. Most of it is processed crap IMO."
Which leads us to ask: Exactly how profitable would a Trader Joe's be in a city like Houston, where grocery stores like Central Market, Whole Foods, Phoenicia, Fiesta and -- to a lesser but still important extent, Revival Market -- have already successfully captured the Trader Joe's demographic?
One Twitter user offered this reasoning: "I love Whole Foods but the beauty of Trader Joe's is how reasonably priced everything is," said @wheresmuffy. And the Chron's food critic, Alison Cook, weighed in with her own suggestion: "I'm not a huge Trader Joe's fan but I do like the reasonably priced bulk nuts. You have to shop very selectively there."
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Will Houston welcome another grocery store into its already crowded scene, much less one that might only interest those who are shopping selectively? That remains to be seen, as Trader Joe's still hasn't announced the location for a Dallas store, let alone its Houston offshoot.
We're holding out hope for Montrose, though.