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Trader Joe’s in a Wegmans World

Trader Joe’s is coming to that huge shopping center in Amherst on Niagara Falls Boulevard where everything new to WNY always goes. Best Buy, Christmas Tree Shops, Carrabba’s, Panera Bread, and Chipotle all help to make that place impossible to navigate.  It will be located near Barnes & Noble and Famous Footwear. 

Trader Joe’s started in California as a convenience store competitor to 7-11. To differentiate its stores from the national chain’s, it adopted a South Seas motif and started selling specialty items. 

Two brothers, Theo and Karl Albrecht, created the discount supermarket chain “Aldi” in West Germany after WW2, and were instrumental in its European – and later worldwide – expansion.  Theo and Karl had a disagreement in the 1960s over selling cigarettes, so they split Aldi geographically in Germany, with Theo running Aldi Nord.  In 1979, a family trust of which Theo was a member bought – and still owns – Trader Joe’s.  And if you think about it, Trader Joe’s is Aldi with better frozen foods, higher quality groceries, and a cute concept.

I saw lots of commentary yesterday about how we don’t need Trader Joe’s because we’re so blessed to have Wegmans, the best grocery store in the universe. Not taking away from Wegmans at all, but Trader Joe’s is different, just like Aldi is different. I don’t see Aldi struggling to make do in a Wegmans-heavy market; neither will TJ’s. 

Although Trader Joe’s won’t be able to sell wine in its New York stores, thanks to our idiotic, protectionist liquor laws, it sells a nice variety of craft beers, has a great coffee section, one of the best frozen sections you’ll ever see, fantastic chocolates, and plenty of healthy and organic items that are different or cheaper than what you’re used to.  It’s fun to browse around and check out the many good-quality, cheap private-label items they carry. 

I used to go to TJ’s all the time when I lived in Massachusetts and recently stopped in to the new location outside Rochester, which is coincidentally located in the shopping center immediately adjacent to the Wegmans mothership in Henrietta. I didn’t leave empty-handed. 

Welcome Trader Joe’s. We like good food and we like bargains. It would seem to me that you’re a perfect fit for WNY. My only question is – what took so long? 


  • http://twitter.com/LC_Sun Lawrence Congdon

    It will be interesting to see if Wegmans makes any shifts – I would assume any to be tiny – in response to Trader Joe’s.

    Wegmans is an (increasingly rare) large business that doesn’t work toward improvements  in quality & customer service improvement because that’s a function of competitiveness, but because that is just what it DOES. 

    • Dan_Blather

       I don’t think so.  The two aren’t direct competitors.  Wegmans also went into Northeastern Corridor markets that were already dense with TJ’s, Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, and the like.  Supposedly DC-area Weggies are a little bit more upmarket than those in upstate New York, and they sell wine in states where it’s allowed.

  • MaxPlanck

    I like TJ’s – patronized them while I was in AZ & CA on biz. They’ve got a wide range of reasonably priced offerings; the seafood – frozen – was an excellent value and their coffee beans were outstanding. I don’t think Wegman’s has anything to worry about as long as they stick to their model of doing what they’re good at has been providing excellent customer service.

  • mmac

    I agree, I don’t think Wegs has anything to worry about. I love TJs, they have great products and a lot of small stuff you can’t get at Wegmans, but they’re not totally changing the game. 

    I think stores like Tops should be more nervous. TJs has great prices on a lot of things and it might be a middle ground for Tops shoppers who don’t like Wegmans for some insane reason. 

    • Dan_Blather

      Somewhat unrelated to TJ’s: I’m at a bit of a loss as to why some people prefer Tops over Wegmans.  I know one Tops/P&C shopper here in Hippie Valley who won’t step foot in Wegmans because of an anxiety disorder; Weggies is too big and too crowded.  A lot of seniors seem to like Tops; when I’m back home I see far more likely AARP members at Tops (and “The Budwey’s”) than at Wegmans.  Maybe some in the blue collar crowd who might feel out of place in a Wegmans that they see as “too fancy” also help keep Tops in business.

      If Tops has anyone to fear, it’s Walmart, if their Neighborhood Market concept ever makes it to WNY.

  • Michael Wesolowski

    I miss shopping Wegmans now I no longer live near one. Unrelated: I think the word “blessed” was used up in 2012.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XFG7H7QC2JK3AEKUTEBGQL6OGM Gregory G

    Alan, you sound like a commercial for over-prices Wegmans.  You shopped at Trader Joe’s in Mass where you also couldn’t buy wine.  Locally owned Wine and Liquor stores are the last family owned small businesses left in Western New York.  Just what Wegmans needs more money.

    • mmac

      That’s not exactly true. You can buy wine at some of the Trader Joes in MA. One of the staples for TJs is “two buck chuck,” the two dollar bottle of wine. You can also buy beer and liquor there. 

      Wegmans takes this to heart here too – the new store in western Mass has a warehouse of booze where the store would typically end. 

  • Dan_Blather

    The “we don’t need Trader Joe’s” comments seem to arise from a misunderstanding about what Trader Joe’s actually is.  A lot of people in Buffalo who have never stepped foot in a Trader Joe’s believe it’s just an upscale Aldi, or a smaller version of Wegmans.  TJ’s really can’t be compared with either, because it focuses more on specialty items, many of which have no equivalent at Wegmans, than staples.   The one thing TJ’s shares with Wegmans is the phenomenon of impulse buying and unexpected three-digit grocery bills, because you picked up a bunch of “I gotta’ try that out” items that weren’t on your shopping list.  Speaking from experience, shopping lists are useless at TJ’s; you just pick up a lot of inexpensive yet cool products as you wander through the aisles, and hope you have enough in your checking account when you wheel up an overloaded cart to the Hawaiian-shirted cashier.

    More competition, variety and choice is a good thing.  I wonder if the crowd spurning TJ’s reacts with the same “we don’t need [X], because we have [Y]” argument when yet another corner pizzeria, sub shop, Greek diner, red sauce restaurant, or fly-by-night store with a name like “Discount Carpet Factory Warehouse Clearance Liquidation Outlet” opens.

  • http://twitter.com/Pauldub Pauldub

    I think a different location would have been a better choice. That place is impossible to enter and exit as it is. But there is that human saturation to take into consideration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.heimbacknielsen Mark Heimback-Nielsen

    Unfortunately, it’s going into one of the heaviest traffic zones in Erie County and the property has the most treacherous parking lot I’ve ever been in. But coming from Southern California where I started shopping at Trader Joe’s in 1980, it’s going to be great to be able to get their vitamin supplements again as well as their excellent assortment of prepared meals.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/E3R3G7TOVMN5VIKNNBP5SSP3SI gayle

    now how about locating in the soon to be former BJ’s on Young Street in tonawanda

  • macnak

    re location, they also have to TEAR down an existent new building . Although it is a big box , it is going to be landfill. And , as the town supervisor of Amherst (  Barry Weinstein) boasts , if the traffic gets bad, the STATE will have to foot the bill to make highway adjustments .

    • Dan_Blather

      There’s over two million square feet of retail space in the Boulevard area.  Niagara Falls Boulevard between Sheridan Drive and Ridge Road has an AADT (Annual Average Daily Traffic count) of about 34,500 (Source. NYS DOT).  Why do so many think a new 15,000 square foot store is going to be the harbinger of vehicular doom, bringing traffic in the area to a standstill?

      It’s the Princess and the Prius phenomenon; the idea that a tiny, mathematically insignificant increase in traffic from a small project will be as noticeable to the average driver as the pea under 20 mattresses that kept a princess awake in a childhood fairy tale.

  • sconnors13

    “This is bullshit! The Southtowns always get screwed and it’s getting old. At least throw us a Dash’s for Christ sake… Fuck you Northtowns and your bullshit traffic!” – everyone between the First Ward and East Aurora

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1621853487 Doris Jones

    YES! Welcome Trader Joe’s. My children who live in Washington state, Chicago  and NYC have been telling me about Joe’s for years. FINALLY they are coming here. Organic at a better price than Wholefoods.
    AND for your information I do not like Wegmans and know many others who feel the same way. I only wish Joe’s would have come to the Elmwood strip!  Let’s hope they will in the future.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DSULYKCMGWZTJVI2GGCUZMIKKU mj

    So can Trader Joe’s survive in a Wegman’s world? I think yes. I recently visited the TJ’s in Pittsford (Rochester) which is on the same parcel of land as the largest and most complete Wegman’s in the Rochester area. The store was packed and people were buying lots of goods and seemed happy with what TJ’s had to offer. I think Trader Joe’s will be a nice complement to the Buffalo landscape.