FORT WORTH -- Charles Lasseter was one of those Trader Joe diehards who had occasionally sent an e-mail to corporate officials urging them to open a store in Texas.
Lasseter, who lives in east Fort Worth near the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area, had hoped they would open a store in the Mid Cities but was thrilled to see one of the first two Texas stores open in Fort Worth this morning. The other opened simultaneously in The Woodlands.
"To tell you the truth, I would have driven to Dallas if that's where their first store opened but I'm happy it was in Fort Worth instead," Lasseter said jokingly. "I even talked to store officials when I was in California in August and they told me they would be here within a year and here they are."
His only quibble was that his favorite coffee, Trader Joe's Dark Sumatra, wasn't in stock.
"That's what I came for but that's OK. They told me they'll be getting it soon," said Lasseter, wearing a Los Angeles Fire Department t-shirt. "My wife got her frozen green beans so we're all good."
Like many of the other first-day visitors to Trader Joe's, Lasseter is a former California transplant who said the main thing they missed about the West Coast was Trader Joe's.
"The closest stores were in Santa Fe and St. Louis but I couldn't understand why they weren't here," said Ricki Klos, a former Bay Area resident who lives just down the street from the Hulen Street store.
"But I never thought the first Texas store would be in Fort Worth," said Klos, who is also a former Austin resident. "I always thought it would be Austin. You know it's sort of like the Berkeley of Texas with its hippie vibe so I couldn't believe it when I found it would open just down the street from me."
Klos thought briefly about camping out but eventually decided to show up with her 6-year-old daughter, Tilly, at 5:30 a.m.
Wearing a Hawaiian shirt just like the Trader Joe's employees, Klos was second in line but raced through the store and bought cans of smoked trout and was the first to check out. The store made a copy of her receipt and said they would frame it.
The lure of Trader Joe's was lost on Klos when she first moved to the Bay Area but that quickly changed as she became a regular.
Trader Joe's is different than Whole Foods or Central Market, Klos said, though they carry plenty of organics and specialty items.
"You have to shop here to get it," Klos said. "It isn't elitist. You don't have to be wealthy and you also don't have to read the fine print on ingredients. They aren't filled with preservatives or corn syrup. You can trust them and the price is right. Pretty much everything is affordable."
Klos also said Trader Joe's enthusiasts are a different crowd than other California ex-pats who rejoiced when In-N-Out Burger opened in the area.
"That's a burger," Klos said. "I don't really eat burgers. I try to eat healthy and I can do that here."
That was the same sentiment shared by sisters Demesia Razo and Heidi Schmidt of North Richland Hills.
They had survived on Trader Joe's care packages from friends and relatives ever since Razo moved to Texas from California.
"It was really sad when she moved here -- I mean it was great to have her here -- but we missed all of her favorites," Schmidt said as her sister nodded in agreement.
Their grocery cart was packed with favorites such as Mochi ice cream and frozen Mahi-Mahi burger patties that they swore by.
"You gotta try them -- they're great," Schmidt said.
Added Razo: "They've just got great ethnic cuisines whether it's Indian or Italian. And if by some chance it's not, they'll take it back or give you store credit."
One of the few customers in the store who hadn't sampled Trader Joe's previously was Patrick Zamarripa of Fort Worth.
He wasn't even aware of Trader's Joe's until he heard about it on the news. So before he went to work Friday, Zamarripa dropped by and purchased a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, better known as "Two Buck Chuck," though it now sells for $2.99
"I'll try it tonight after I get off work at midnight," Zamarripa said. "But I'll definitely be back to try more things. I've liked some of what I've seen."
Even with the large crowds, Fort Worth store captainn Doug Campbell, said events had gone smoothly. Campbell said the customers appeared to be a good mix of Trader Joe's veterans and newcomers.
"It's a mixed crowd. Some have come in asking for their favorite things, while others have been asking where to find things," Campbell said. "But it's been a patient crowd. We haven't had many complaints about the wait to check out."
Trader Joe's, a privately held company, doesn't disclose sales figures and wouldn't say what is expected in first-day sales at the Fort Worth and Woodlands stores.
The company has announced it will open five other stores in Texas this year, including one in Plano in September. A Dallas store is scheduled to open on Lower Greenville in the first quarter of 2013 but no other Tarrant County stores have been announced.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698