Although I've never understood the impulse to try something when it makes its debut -- it's not like things like The Avengers disappear immediately after their release, and it's often a better, more comfortable experience to check something out after all the fuss has died down -- my wife and I made an opening-day visit to the Fort Worth Trader Joe's this morning.
It's easy to see the appeal of this place. It has the vibe of a Whole Foods, while being smaller and much less expensive. The hundreds of customers who were in the store were making good use of it, snapping up whole cases of "Two-Buck Chuck" wine and hauling cartfuls of produce and unique/unusual merchandise to the dozen or so registers. But again, it's not like it's going away soon.
According to the Star-Telegram's Bill Hanna, who was also there tweeting about the opening, the first customers arrived around 5:30 a.m. -- two and a half hours before the official 8 a.m. ribbon (or lei) cutting. (DFW.com contributor Teresa Gubbins talked to the same early bird in her Pegasus News report on the opening).
My wife and I got there around 9, and were lucky to find a parking space right across the street -- some other people had to park more than a block away. Traffic police helped relieve a lot of gridlock, at least when we were there. But there was still plenty of gridlock inside the store.
We've been to Trader Joe's in other cities, so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect (I really couldn't do a better job of describing it than DFW.com contributor Bailey Shiffler does here). The Fort Worth one is shooting for a Texas ambience (even though much of the food is not local), with murals of downtown Fort Worth and the Log Cabin Village high on the walls, and a floral section with signs recommending that you give your cowboy/cowgirl a "bigger bunch" of flowers. (Now if I only knew a cowgirl or cowboy ...). Decidedly non-Texan-cliche was the '80s music blasting through the store, although the fact that both the English Beat and The Romantics played gives me another chance to plug the DFW.com-presented Solar-Powered Music Festival, at which both bands are playing on Saturday.
Between the crowd and the store layout, it could be hard to tell who was shopping and who was standing in a checkout line that stretched more than halfway (and, in some cases, all the way) down one of the store's aisles. All the registers were open and the lines were moving smoothly, all things considered. My wife, a vegetarian, said that the store is perfect for the largely bread-and-pasta free, vegetable-heavy way she's eating now. Among the items we bought was a pre-packaged kale and edamame salad that was big enough to split.
So it's a store we'll definitely return to for the produce, for the wide and more-affordable-than-usual selection of nuts and dried fruits, and even for some of the ethnic frozen dinners. I'm not as bothered by the fuss over it as I was by the fuss over last year's opening of the Fort Worth In-N-Out -- a fast-food joint within shouting distance of nearly a half-dozen better, home-grown burger joints. But I look forward to a time when walking through Trader Joe's won't mean saying "excuse me" to a dozen or so people just because I'm trying to get from one aisle to the next.