Sunday, May 07, 2006

The latest on Trader Joe's

[This started out as a quick post about the latest news on Trader Joe's coming to the Triangle. Then it mushroomed into a mini research project, which may or may not be of interest to you. I find it fascinating though.]

Here are the latest developments, from no confirmation about the store's location or arrival date, but it's looking mighty promising! I also loved reading people's comments on this News & Observer page. It makes me feel more justified in my excitement to know that others are just as devoted.

A side note, however: TJ's is owned by German billionaires? Crap. Did a little research. Yep, it's true. It was started by Joe Coulombe as a Los Angeles convenience store chain in 1958, then bought in 1979 by Germans Karl and Theo Albrecht, who also own the ALDI food chain. All right, well, who owns my other options?
  • Lowe's Foods is owned by Alex Lee, a Hickory, NC company.
  • Harris Teeter is headquartered in Matthews, NC. (Some history here.) It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Charlotte-based Ruddick Corporation.
  • Food Lion, although headquartered out of Salisbury, NC, is owned by a Belgian company. It is a subsidiary of Delhaize America, the U.S. division of Brussels-based Delhaize Group.
  • Kroger is owned by Kroger Co. (which also owns Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and Smiths Food & Drug). Kroger is a Cincinnati-based company.
  • Whole Foods is owned by Whole Foods Market, Inc., based in Austin, TX.
What about the stores I used to shop at in California?
  • Stater Brothers is headquarted in Colton, CA.
  • Albertsons (headquartered in Boise, ID) used to own Sav-On, Osco, Jewell, Acme, and Lucky, but the whole lot was recently acquired by a consortium of investors. (Details here.) SuperValu (headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota) got 1100 stores, making it the second largest grocer behind Kroger. Cerberus (a hedge fund group!) got 600. (Read about Cerberus here and here. Something I can't quite put my finger on sounds kind of ominous.)
  • Vons and Pavillions (and Safeway) are owned by Safeway, Inc., based in Pleasanton, CA.
  • Ralphs is owned by Kroger (as mentioned above).
So it looks like even though EVERYTHING is a GIANT corporation (except for Stater Bros.--still a corporation, but operates in only six counties of CA), they're all Amerian-owned except for Trader Joe's and Food Lion. Hmph. Tsk tsk. Grr.

Okay, so TJ's is owned by Germans. Does that mean it's un-American to shop there? This makes me feel a little better:
I myself am an employee at a Trader Joes here in the DC area. And I can honestly say that out of the countless jobs I've had, TJ's has been the most pleasant to work for. They seem to really take a genuine interest in the well being of their employees. It's the little things that they pay attention to that really have an effect on us. For example, if there is a special occasion, the mgt. makes sure to celebrate it and include the whole staff. They also go out of their way to let you know that you're doing a good job as well...I've been taken out to lunch at a restaurant for an hour and it was paid for by TJ's. They've got great benefits [even for part-time employees], and I actually just got my first raise and it was substantial! I make more money now than I EVER have and ive only worked there for 5 months.
But then again, someone pointed out that TJ's produce is overpackaged...e.g., when you buy apples they come in a plastic tray with plastic wrap over it (neither of which is recyclable here in Apex). Whereas in a regular supermarket, you put the apples in a reusable plastic bag. Hmm.

Nothing's ever black and white.

If you're interested in reading more about TJ's, I found this loooong article, which talks about how it became successful. Apparently there's a whole book about it!


  1. I love that you are passionate about things Melissa. It was very interesting to find out that the same company that owns T.J.'s also owns Aldi. I love Aldi! They have it in Michigan (and other places I am sure) and it is AWESOME! Great prices, good food, and excellent selection.

    I hope that you get your Trader Joes in the Triangle Melissa. You should be the one to cut the ribbon at the grand opening celebration....

  2. When we were in Ohio briefly we shopped at Kroger and that's when I discovered it was owned by the same company as Fred Meyer (known as "Freddy's" to the locals) where we shopped when we were in Oregon briefly. Loved Freddy's. I think Kohl's is similar to Mervyn's, too, based on their merchandise. Don't really have any favorite stores here in Florida - it's not really about shopping - unless you want to buy touristy things. :)

  3. Melissa you crack me up. That's exactly the kind of research I could see myself doing . . . but not publishing on my blog. ;)

  4. It took me a while to find it all, so I figured why not save someone else some time? Plus, I'll forget it if I don't write it down. :)