Jul 28, 2014

Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious

The Brookfield store opened Monday with free leis, face-painting and the specialty products and wines have made the quirky grocery chain a big hit with fans.

Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious Trader Joe's Brookfield Opening Draws Fans and the Curious

Kris Woods laughed as she described the Brookfield Trader Joe's opening in a word: "Dangerous!"

Dangerous because now that a second Milwaukee-area TJ's has opened in her Elm Grove backyard, she almost certainly will shop more often at her favorite grocer.

"I just love the products," Woods said. "And I'm so happy that I don't have to make that drive."

She typically would drive about once every two months to the store at Bayshore Mall in Glendale, filling her cart with Trader Joe's private brand specialty products such as Joe-Joe's (the store's version of Oreos) and the peppermint Joe-Joes that surface around the holidays.

Other shoppers interviewed who showed up for the Brookfield store opening — residents from Wauwatosa, Brookfield and Elm Grove — agreed having a closer option would be a big draw.

"I live across the street and I've been waiting a long time," one woman said as she grabbed a cart and rushed inside. The store is located at 12665 W. Bluemound Rd., part of the new Underwood Crossing retail center anchored by a new Target store with grocery, developed by Ryan Companies of Minnesota. A PNC Bank is opening soon, and a are also eyed.

Trader Joe's will be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Brookfield residents Joanne and her husband Joe, who asked that their last name not be used, said they "have waited for this store for 10 years."

"We'll save gas (driving to Glendale) and spend our savings here," she said, adding they typically fill their carts at Bayshore spending more than $200 a trip.

Enthusiastically pointing out some of the store's products, Joanne said, "I've got a dinner party tonight and it's planned all around this store." On the menu: vegetable and meat lasagne.

"They offer coffee every day all day," she added.

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Other shoppers said Trader Joe's offers quality organic options at reasonable prices. One woman compared it to Whole Foods "but without the attitude."

Another man, however, exited with just a loaf of bread and said the Brookfield Trader Joe's store — and TJs stores nationwide — have limited stock and prices that are nothing to write home about. Some exited without any product, perhaps drawn by mere curiosity at the popular new store. One man said he was "scoping it out" for his wife.

Some said the new Brookfield store might cause some pain to existing upscale grocers such as Grasch Foods, Sendik's and The Fresh Market.

Mayor, store captain open with lei-cutting

But on Monday, it was all about celebrating the new and the store's fun, festive culture.

The store, whose employees wear Hawaiian shirts and dub themselves Captains and Crew members, opened after Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto and (store manager) Captain Jeff Clark cut a ceremonial lei.

"We are truly delighted to have Trader Joe's here in the city," Ponto said. "We wish you great success."

Clark wore a necklace of wine corks that he said he and his children had made for the opening.

"All right, Brookfield," Clark said. "It's been a long time coming, we really appreciate your patience. We want to welcome you to your neighborhood store. Let the adventure begin."

Shoppers were invited to sign a Trader Joe's shirt for the store's posterity. Children (or adults) could get their faces painted, and the store gave out free leis and raffle bags.

Shelves feature wines, private labels

Ponto's wife, Mary, was one of the first to enter and would have been there with or without her husband's cutting duty. She and her daughters drive to Bayshore frequently, and inside the store, she spoke with authority about the story behind Trader Joe's best-known wine selection, the Charles Shaw line, more affectionately known as the "Two Buck Chucks."

They used to be $1.99 bottles, now they sell for $2.99.

The company has a tradition of decorating its 12,500-square-foot buildings with images of local icons. Inside, the Brookfield store's walls feature artwork of Brookfield and Milwaukee venues: the Brookfield train junction, the Dousman Stagecoach Inn Museum, Miller Park, State Fair Park, Milwaukee County Zoo, Mitchell Park Domes, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the downtown Milwaukee skyline.

The images are tweaked with Trader Joe's red and white flower emblems – added to the Dousman Inn's columns and balcony. An old-fashioned horse and buggy added to the Dousman's Inn's artwork is emblazoned with a sign "Trader Joe's or bust."

A Trader Joe's hawaiian shirt adorns a wall with jerseys of the Brewers, Bucks and Admirals, all hung over the store's eggs area that includes TJ's cage-free eggs and fresh hand-cooked peeled eggs.

The grocer touts its healthy ingredients without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, MSG and added transfat. It has gluten, vegan, kosher and vegetarian products. Customers can sign up for a product newsletter dubbed the Fearless Flyer.

In the cereal aisle there are boxes of Kashi next to Trader Joe's private brands of Cheerios — Triple Berry O's, Fruity O's and Honey Nut O's.

Trader Joe's "Apple Strawberry Fruit Flakes" — aka fruit snacks — were in the bag of Kris Woods when she later exited with a bag full of groceries. Also in her bag were juice, pasta, and her sought-after Joe-Joes cookies.

"No peppermint Joe-Joe's" yet, she said.

Founded in 1958, Trader Joe's operates more than 370 stores in 31 states, including about six in the Chicago area. It's owned by the same German family that owns the Aldi discount grocery chain.

Trader Joe's opened two Wisconsin stores — at Bayshore Town Center in Glendale and in Madison — in fall 2006.

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