DENVER - Trader Joe's opened three of its five Colorado locations Friday.
The California-based chain opened a store at East Eighth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Denver, a location at 5901 S. University Blvd. in Greenwood Village and a Boulder store at the Twenty-Ninth Street Mall.
Lines were long at the Denver location Friday morning - the only store in the state that will be licensed to sell "Two-Buck-Chuck" and other spirits, including beer.
Two additional stores are in the works, one in Fort Collins and one at East Seventh Avenue and Logan Street.
The store sells some 4,000 other grocery and fresh food items. The company has more than 400 outlets in 40 states and an estimated $8 billion in sales.
Dennis Huspeni, of the Denver Business Journal, says this may be just the beginning of an even larger expansion into the Front Range grocery market.
"They will look at a market, and they will study it," Huspeni said. "Then, they will open a couple of stores like they are doing now. They will look at the all the zip codes from the shoppers that are coming there to make sure that they're not getting people from too far away. If they start seeing that, they may look at other stores to open."
Dozens of workers were racing to make the Friday opening at the Greenwood Village store. Outside, they were still building an entryway and working on unfinished concrete. Inside, the aisles are jammed with new hires stocking shelves.
Among the first thing you will notice is all the employees wear Hawaiian shirts. They answer to a ship's bell at the front desk that calls them as needed with a series of coded rings.
There are no intercoms or public address systems. It all has something of a nautical feel. The store's manager, Dan Guajardo, is referred to as the "store captain."
"A strong part of our Trader Joe's culture is that we're traders on the culinary seas," Guajardo said. "It's part of our business model. We're constantly striving to make sure that every customer has a fun experience, but also a knowledgeable crew that can help them make informed buying choices."
Guajardo is hoping that you'll sail in and discover, among other things, their tasting station. This goes on all day, with samples changing from a breakfast theme in the morning to lunch and dinner concepts as the shopping day goes on.
Eighty percent of the products at Trader Joe's are products that carry the store's brand name, including the chicken, the beef and the sausage and cheeses.
Guajardo says self branding makes their products very affordable.
"By branding under out private label, we're essentially dealing directly with manufacturers in most cases. We're able to cut out that middle man," Guajardo said.
"That's where a lot of their success has come, offering products similar to what Whole Foods and Sprouts offers, but at a discount," Huspeni said.
You will find unusual frozen foods and organic and vegetarian selections, all right next to the staples such as dairy, bread and coffee.
A wide array, but a selection dwarfed by the traditional grocery which carries some 54,000 products.
"If you're going grocery shopping you may not be able to find 100 percent of what you need at a Trader Joe's," Huspeni said. "I think part of their business model in offering so few products is that they've taken a lot of the brain-drain out of it."
"You know what you like at Trader Joe's. You get used to your favorite products. You know they're going to be there and you go and get them," he added.
No matter what your shopping habits, Trader Joes is betting you'll be able to find just enough at such low prices that you'll keep coming back.
Trader Joe's Comes to Colorado! from Clarkson Creative on Vimeo.
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