Customers camped out overnight to be the first shoppers at Evanston’s new Trader Joe’s store, which held its grand opening Friday morning.
“If you are what you eat, then I am Trader Joe’s,” said Scott Ogawa, who pitched a tent around 8 p.m. the night before.
Evanston residents have been pleading for a Trader Joe’s to come to town for years. Last February, the city finally announced that developer Terraco would be opening a Trader Joe’s at 1211 Chicago Ave., at the former Blockbuster location.
For the grand opening Friday morning, a crowd gathered early outside the store, which was decorated with an arch of red and white balloons.
Before store manager Ty James cut the ceremonial lei outside the doors, developers Scott Gendell and Kevin Gazley took off their ties for an impromptu tie cutting. Then shoppers flooded into the store to the beat of a steel drum, where they were greeted by Trader Joe’s staff bearing leis for everyone.
“There isn’t anything we’ve been waiting for as long as we’ve been waiting for Trader Joe’s,” said Tisdahl, who had filled up a grocery bag with items her grandchildren like, including lemonade iced tea and organic raspberries.
“This is the happening place,” she added.
Ald. Melissa Wynne, who represents the third ward where the store is located, said her constituents were "thrilled" to start shopping.
“It’s remarkable how many people have their niche products,” she said. “Everyone has their five things.”
Wynne estimated that the store had hired approximately 100 employees, and she said at least half of them are Evanston residents. Some store employees are Evanston residents who transferred from other Trader Joe’s in the area.
Store manager Ty James, who previously worked at the company’s Oak Park store, said the Evanston opening was his first store opening.
“This is pretty awesome,” he said, looking around at the store filled with lei-bedecked customers.
Then he was interrupted by a more serious matter: one shopper was looking for the cookie butter, while another couldn’t find the vegan cream cheese.