TRAVEL HERE: WELCOME TO THE DALLAS GROCERY WARS TRADER’S JOE’S
When you live in Dallas, no matter what it is you want to buy, you’ve got choices – especially groceries. Dallasites newest grocery choice is Trader Joe’s. Six years of California living made me a big fan of Trader Joe’s, so I’m glad one opened up last weekend. It’s just up the road from me at Preston and Park in West Plano, but it’s got some tough competition, right at the same intersection. You might say Trader Joe’s moved into Grocery Store Central.
Meeting Trader Joe
On the Central Coast of California, Trader Joe’s was the place to go for good cheap wine and while you were there, you could pick up a variety of interesting things. As a part of the Aldi chain (which we’ve also got in Dallas), Trader Joe’s was known for having brands you’ve never heard of which would probably be better than the brands you had. At Aldi, this means they’ll be cheaper. At Trader Joe’s it might be cheaper, but it was also greener, healthier and always funkier.
Of course, on the Central Coast, there wasn’t much in the way of competition. Ralph’s, part of a big chain, was your usual major supermarket. No surprises, but not much in the way of excitement either. The only other choice was Scolari’s, a smaller, more local chain. It was a little more off-beat, but not quite unique. Trader Joe’s offered a refreshing change from name brands and familiar packaging. I hope it does well here in Dallas. I know I’ll be shopping there frequently. They really do a great job in the wine and beer department. They also have outstanding frozen entrees.
Grocery Store Wars
But I’m still worried. How does a new kid like Trader Joe’s face down the big guns? Right there, on the other side of Preston, is the mother of all funky grocery stores, Whole Foods Market. Until recently, my husband’s primary criteria for groceries was price, so he would have had a conniption fit if he saw me unloading bags of pricey groceries from Whole Foods Market. That was until he started having high blood pressure. Now he’s Whole Foods newest fan and I’m having to learn to shop in a whole new way. Still, we only go there for very specific items, that we can’t get anyplace else.
I’m not exactly a health nut and I’m not the greenest of consumers, but I’m a big fan of service. That’s why you’re most likely to find me grocery shopping at Market Street. It’s on the same intersection, catty corner to Trader Joe’s. Market Street has more pizzazz than your basic supermarket chain, but still has all those supermarket things you want to pick up while you’re out getting food – at a price which doesn’t feel like you’re being punished for abandoning Walmart. It gives Whole Foods a hard run on the healthy and green stuff, too. But it’s the service that keeps me coming back week after week after week. I’ve never been to a grocery store that was friendlier or more helpful. I don’t feel like I’m just going to grocery shop. I feel like I’m going to visit some friends and they’re just dying for me to get there because they live to serve and I’m their favorite person in the world. (Just so you know, I realize I’m not their favorite person in the world, but they sure know how to make me feel like it.)
Also on the same intersection is Tom Thumb. For years and years Tom Thumb was my grocery store, but then one of the big chains bought it and now it’s just another supermarket. (yawn) The merger happened while I was out in California, so I felt like I’d come home to discover a good friend died while I was away. I used to buy bakery goods and other prepared foods there for potlucks and spreads. When asked for a recipe, I’d say my Uncle Thomas made it for me, because I didn’t have time. You have no idea how many times I actually got away with it. Though it’s no longer my grocery store, they still get some of my business by proximity. Even though the intersection of Park and Central is only a couple of miles down the road from me, there’s actually another Tom Thumb even closer, so I run there for emergency supplies.
You can’t talk Grocery Store Wars in Dallas without mentioning Central Market and there’s one three and a half miles away from Grocery Store Central. Shopping at Central Market is an event. Their produce section is almost larger than the entire new Trader Joe’s. There’s a long aisle behind produce where gourmet meats stare down gourmet seafood. The wine and beer choices are prodigious (but I bet the Trader Joe choices are more interesting and more likely cheaper). The bakery is a wonder of gorgeous, delicious things to eat. More cheese choices than you can shake a stick at. A huge prepared food area with marvelous things to take home and enjoy or just take to the nearby seating area. I love Central Market, but I wouldn’t go there to get a loaf of bread and a carton of milk. It would just be too much of a hassle.
Of course, we have Kroger, Target, Sam’s, Costco, Aldi and Walmart – all very close to my house – as well as lesser known chains like Sprouts or Fiesta. I go to another Kroger’s with Mom every week, but it’s about the pharmacy, not the groceries. I have the Target Red Card, so I get 5% off everything I buy there. When all I’m looking for is non-food name brand stuff, like cosmetics and cleaning supplies, I’ll go to Target, but their food buyers haven’t pegged me yet. With only two of us in the household, buying in bulk from Sam’s or Costco doesn’t make sense. There’s an Aldi on the way home from my parents’ place with an easy in and out, so I’ve been known to drop by and pick up something there, but I don’t get the whole bagless and rent-your-cart thing. Then I hate Walmart, but that’s another story for another day.
So which grocery store is your grocery store and why? Do you make pilgrimages to certain stores to pick up hard-to-find or one-of-a-kind items? Are green, biodegradable and healthy important in your decision making or is cost the primary factor? What about brand manes? What’s your role in the Grocery Wars?