Trader Joe’s Opens to Enormous Crowd; See it Before and After the Mad Rush

Photo by Laura Roth.

By Joy Bergmann

An enormous crowd lined up down the block in front of the Trader Joe’s on Columbus between 92nd and 93rd street on Friday morning before 8 a.m. After a short Aloha-themed ceremony, the doors opened and crowds rushed in as a mariachi band played at the entrance. Staff presented them with Hawaiian leis, to put around their necks. It’s been four years since we first hear rumors that this store would arrive.

Photo by Helen Miller.

Photo by Helen Miller.

Photo by Laura Roth.

Photo by Laura Roth.

Before the shoppers gathered we got some quiet moments on Thursday with the manager, who explained the store’s philosophy and design. And we got some early pictures.

Melanie Chesley, Store Captain for the new Trader Joe’s opening at 670 Columbus Ave (92nd – 93rd Street), was sounding confident on Thursday afternoon. “We’ll be ready to go by tomorrow morning.”

Photo by Joy Bergmann.

Things certainly looked ship-shape during our sneak peek. The shelves were full, the aisles clear and the paint almost dry on several hand-painted murals depicting Central Park in different seasons. “All of our artwork has been done by local Trader Joe’s crew members,” she says.

Photo by Joy Bergmann.

Chesley, a 10-year veteran of the company, has been on site for the past six weeks getting stocked up and staffed up. “We’ve got north of 125 employees here, some transfers from other stores and some new. We expect to continue to hire as we progress and get busier and busier.”

The blissfully empty store on Thursday…Photo by Joy Bergmann.

Chesley says the selection of goods will be the same as at 72nd Street. One invigorating difference?  Natural light streams in through large east-facing windows. The square footage of the store may be a bit smaller than 72nd Street, but everything is on one floor eliminating the elevator/escalator dance. And on first glance the aisles, at least in the snacks area, seem quite a bit wider.

Will that translate into shorter lines? “We have 21 registers here versus 33 at 72nd Street,” she says. “The line will flow differently because everything is on one level. We have a little more space for the line here.”

Photo by Joy Bergmann.

Not being immediately adjacent to the 1/2/3 subway station may also ease the crush. “I think this will be a great neighborhood store,” Chesley says. “I think that the customers shopping here will probably know each other. And we’ll get to know them really well, which isn’t always the case everywhere that you go. That will be something unique to this particular location.”

Photo by Joy Bergmann.

Chesley could hardly wait to get the doors open to eager UWS fans. “It’s been great. The customers have been so supportive,” she says. “This is such an amazing neighborhood with such lovely people.”

Unfortunately, the lines at the 72nd street location hadn’t diminished as of Friday morning.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 74 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      A line to shop.

      Another line to pay.

      I’m off to the Farmers’ Market

    2. geoff says:

      though i acknowledge the relief some people might feel at having a grocery store with low prices closer to home, i still don’t get ‘it’ the ‘it’ being the what, personification of an enterprise? as if Trader Joe it is some real person, a looming best friend? lineups to get in??? WTF?

      i guess it’s an example of the saying ‘whatever floats your boat.’

      anyway, to all who are ecstatic, mazel!

      • Tostonesfix says:

        I spent $19.93 at Trader Joe’s yesterday and got:

        1/2 Gallon Organic 1% Milk
        Quart of Organic Carrot Juice
        Large Box of tomato soup
        Package of frozen chicken/cilantro Won Tons
        Can of condensed New England Clam Chowder
        Can of Joe’s Os
        2 Lemons

        It’s not a mystery, not a fluke. This is why people like Trader Joe’s. Good prices and interesting food either for every day consumption or hosting get togethers and picnics. It’s the right grocery store for city people.

        • dannyboy says:

          I’m looking at the Shishito Peppers for the grill ($2.29), Fresh & Crisp Sugar Snap Peas ($2.99), Costa Rica Pineapple ($2.99), Turkish Apricots ($4.49), and maybe Mexican Style Corn Salad ($4.99). Will also check out (get it?) the Tunisian Kitchen Towels.

          Some other items interest me, but I’ll check out the ingredients first.

    3. davidaron60 says:

      Mostly straight aisles. Very nice. 🙂

    4. Slim says:


    5. helen flaum says:

      Yay!! I’m a delighted fan!

    6. Sue L says:

      Lines inside we’ll have to put up with, but standing on line to get into a Trader Joe’s?! Much as I like the chain and love to cook: Guys, it’s only food!

    7. Midtown theater????
      Giant hi rise ugly massive stuff…!?
      Thanks, Neal

    8. Cato says:

      They need to offer free WiFi in the new store. That will draw a lot (more?) of the twenty-somethings from the 72nd Street store.

    9. Jo Baldwin says:

      Just remember, they need you more than you need them.

      • rothmere says:

        I think particularly since untimely closing of WestSid Market, UWS needs as many convenient options as market and neighborhood aesthetic will bear. If they have upped their prices in any way comparative to 72 st that will present a problem. Maybe they are a little too close to Wholepaycheck however for the desired business they need. We’ll see.

    10. Barbara Michalak says:

      Trader Joe vs. Whole Foods: From my home, west side of 94th/Columbus, it is almost 4 blocks North downhill to Whole Foods, and then 4 blocks UPHILL with a loaded cart. Trader Joe’s big draw for me will be that it is 2 blocks South on the level, and of course on the level returning with cart. And like Whole Foods, does not require crossing Columbus Ave. I’ll wait a few days to see whether the selection is useful. But I’m sure I will still shop almost daily at our beloved Mani Market, right across the street.

      • Ellen says:

        Oy. So many First World problems.

        • Annoyance says:

          You got that right, Ellen. Lmao

        • Jane C says:

          I am a loyal Trader Joe’s shopper!!!
          Trust me, the lines to enter the store will not last. I shop at the Union and when it first opened I experienced lines to enter the store.
          It didn’t last.

      • Presh Flus says:

        Or, Grandma….there’s delivery!

    11. Debbie says:

      Was there around 10AM and am thrilled! Bright, clean, wide aisles, better organized than 72nd Street and no crazy, double lines with people shopping as they push their carts to the registers. This one’s a winner – so civilized 🙂

      • L'Enfer..... says:

        Yeah, for the crazy double lines with people shopping from the checkout line, you had to be there around 3PM.

    12. allie says:

      With all the fuss WSR has made of this store opening, and the ecstasy that shoppers are exhibiting, one might think this is not a mere store opening but the second coming of Christ.
      It’s JUST a store, folks.

      • Annoyance says:


      • Bye. says:

        TJ’s may indeed be just a store. But it’s a conveniently located store for a large swath of the UWS, offering prices half as much as WFM, and a quarter as much as D’Ags.

        I think a lot of people see it making WFM more price competitive.

        Walked through D’Ags on my way home from TJ’s. A tomb. Not long for this world.

    13. Lauren says:

      It was SO much better than 72. The layout is excellent and one floor is such a relief. I got my shopping done in half the time despite the crowd. Welcome, TJ’s!

    14. Margo says:

      let’s not forget our wonderful long-time specialty grocery Mani Market on Columbus, between, W.93 and W.94th Street. They have treated us like friends not customers for so long.

    15. margo says:

      This neighborhood must not abandon Mani Market, our wonderful specialty grocery, on Columbus and W.93rd Street, who has treated us all like friends as well as valued customers.

    16. LC says:

      Waiting for TJ on the upper east side

    17. Theresa Narbut says:

      We need a tracer joe’s in Massapequa new york

    18. Rebecca says:

      I truly hope people still shop at Mani’s. Mani’s is a true neighborhood staple and to me is what the UWS use to be about, family owned and run, local fresh produce. It is so important shops like Mani’s don’t go away. Big corporations like Traders Joes will survive but will our ma and pops shop survive. Mom and Pop shops are what makes a neighborhood unique, I don’t want to lose that.

      • Shirley Z says:

        To Rebecca, couldn’t agree with you more. UWS used to be a sprawling NEIGHBORHOOD! The influx of corporate chain stores are gradually destroying our unique ambience! SAD!

      • Kate says:

        Lived on 92nd st and remember Food City and Mani’s. Both were neighborhood. Mani’s gave credit. It was a great neighborhood where you recognized folks in the store. UWS is becoming Long Island with corporate stores.
        Wishing mani luck. The last of the true independent stores that made the w90s feel like home!

      • Lola says:

        LOL mani market, the place where half the items have no price tag and 50% of the time they overcharge you? And where they hide it by having the receipt say “produce” for every line item?

        Good riddance and welcome trader joes!!!

        • UWSHebrew says:

          unfortunately Lola, you have a point. Three years ago I purchased their “fresh squeezed” 32oz orange juice, and when I opened it, it was the cheapest oj concentrate. I was disgusted and did not step back inside to Mani’s for over a year.

        • MaryUWS says:

          Im all for supporting local small businesses but its difficult to do so when prices are not stated or when fruit is sold rotten. I have noticed at the register they frequently overcharge – but always but just $1-2 dollars so you never bother to say anything. Had that happen a couple times at whole foods too unfortunately

    19. Brendan says:

      No lines at Mani Mart today!

    20. M. Edwards says:

      We love Trader Joe’s. TJ’s has products that are exclusive to the chain. Products we know, love and use daily. Itsa day trip to Spokane. We very much need stores in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Sandpoint Idaho

    21. M. Edwards says:

      To continue….from Idaho….

      Thank you for bringing Trader Joe’s to Idaho. There are many living here who are former customers and will return as soon as we have stores.

    22. Claudia Miller says:

      I don’t understand why my city doesn’t have a TJ. We have the largest Army Base 10min away. Easy access and Interstate 14 provides decent travel flow.Every year we are told one is coming in 6 months.For the last 5 yrs.

    23. Ellen says:

      Will there be the same accommodation for the disabled that you have st other locations? I’m 77, use a cane and can’t stamd for a long period of time.

    24. jd says:

      I hate to say it, but I think Mani’s will not be there for long. Also, Dagastino’s, are they still there?

    25. Annoyance says:

      Well that’s quite stupid. People waiting in line to get into a STORE. Like it’s the only one available in that area or the only one they’ve ever seen in their life! Morons.

    26. John says:

      What the fuck; a bit smaller than W 72?

      • Cato says:

        Did you really need profanity to express your assessment that one store is a “bit smaller” than another store? Really?

    27. Virginia says:

      No line to enter the store at 11:30am today. Sure the store was busy as we all explored the aisles in search of our favorite items. I picked up 10 – 12 items of different types and was out in 25 minutes, which was pretty good since I didn’t know where things were. Three quick-moving lines to reach cashiers; managed by welcoming employee who dispatched us to next available, numbered cashier station. Quick, friemdly, clean, interesting variety of foods, reasonable prices for NYC. Good-bye D’ag

    28. Bob says:

      just finished visiting…everything was great as usual for Trader Joe’s. Nice prices, friendly staff…a real pleasure to shop there!😊

    29. DEB says:

      Shopping at Trader Joes on 72 & Bway has always been a team sport: 1 to stand on the checkout line and 1 to run the shopping course. Hopefully, shopping at TJ of 72nd will become a singles event. I live at WEA & 79 and rely on 72.

      I love the store but hate the lines! Looking forward

      • dannyboy says:

        DEB, the 2 of you could shop together and then get on line to checkout together.

      • Cato says:

        Here’s an idea: First, do your shopping. Then, when you’re finished shopping, get on line.

        I know it’s unusual these days, and may make you feel divorced from the prevailing Trader Joe’s culture, but you may find it makes your time there much less stressful. Do one thing, then the other, instead of jumbling it all up and trying to do it all at the same time.

        You will also piss off far fewer people who did their shopping before getting on line behind you, while you skitter here and skitter there for this item and that item, running back to push your basket a foot ahead before skittering off to do more shopping….

        But, then — think about other people? Here? On the new Upper West Side? What could I have been thinking??

        Sorry. Never mind.

    30. UWSHebrew says:

      I was there at 10am. I like it, no broken escalators to deal with a la 72nd. The checkout lines seemed a little haphazard (three lines?), but it’s the first day after all. Also did not see the big-eyed (strange/coocoo) older women I usually do at 72nd. This was…civilized. Hope it stays that way!

    31. Nashville Lover says:

      People in NY are strange. They pay a crazy amount to live in a place where basics like these kinds of stores are few and far between.

      You realize in most of America there are TONS of HUGE stores with GREAT stuff. And you pay 80% less to live there.

      • dannyboy says:

        We’re not living here for that stuff.

      • UWSHebrew says:

        Metropolitan Museum of Art. Central Park. Any food, any cuisine, any price point 24/7. Best doctors in the country. Interesting, intelligent people from all backgrounds. Millions of people without the nosiness of a next-door neighbor in the suburbs asking you what kind of mulch you use for the grass. Get the point yet?

        • Luvs NYC says:

          To “UWSHebrew”:

          THANK YOU for enumerating just SOME of the reasons real NY’ers live here.

          Actually each of us has her/his own reasons, and all are valid.

          As for Nashville (😱)…besides country/western music and barbecue, it’s just another semi-suburb.

          • UWSHebrew says:

            you’re welcome. I grew up in Long Island and when I came here it was like I broke free from prison.

    32. Wendy says:

      Mani’s market, practically across the street, has better produce.

      • Debbi says:

        Absolutely. you cannot beat Manis for prepared food or produce

        • dannyboy says:

          I managed to stay out of the Mani/TJ Debate, but I do believe that the Produce Section at Health Nuts is wonderful.

          Just walking through it you can smell life.

    33. Nadine says:

      Give me Mani Market on 94th and Columbus any day!

    34. UWSGiraffe says:

      We were just there to grab a few things, ten minutes before closing, and it was great! The guy who rang us up was named Noah, and he was a total joy, even after what I’m sure was a crazy day!! Noah for MVP!

    35. Sharon Gabriel says:

      Love Trader Joe’s. First one I ever used was 30 yrs. ago in Encino Calif. Great store and wish we had one in Rockaway.

    36. Jackquelynn Jones says:

      Maybe, just maybe, Trader Joe will continue moving North…Kingsbridge/Riverdale area waiting?!

    37. Candy says:

      Managed to find a parking place and tried out the new location. Very nice! If we can park, we will abandon 72nd for this one. Much less stressful to shop here.

      • dannyboy says:

        “Managed to find a parking place and tried out the new location.”

        Candy, the mariachi band was playing for you and your good fortune!

    38. Sally Sue Watching You says:

      Is this the only FOOD store in USA without a protected ceiling?

      Will they give us a discount for the plaster particulates that will be in the weighed produce, and the medical bills after unluckies ingest the plaster droppings, etc?

      We urge the media to promptly explore this

    39. Rose S. says:

      Grocery shopping in this city is an extreme sport, and this neighborhood has very much needed more grocery stores for some time, so I understand to some extent the excitement about the opening of this TJ’s location. That said, I share the concerns mentioned in other comments about how this will impact Mani Market – a genuinely beloved neighborhood institution. Small independent local businesses shutter their doors every day in this neighborhood – please continue to support Mani Market & help keep them in business!

      • UWSresident says:

        Are all these people saying “dont forget Mani” the friends and family of the owner? It is mind boggling to me that anyone would support that store – unfriendly staff, fruit sold thats a day away from going rotten and prices rang up on the register that are different from what’s listed. What am i missing??

      • Jay says:

        I suspect Mani’s will be fine. They have good produce, which TJ’s does not.

        Dags on 91st and Columbus has probably already started to plan their exit. Which I don’t think many will miss.

    40. Nia says:

      Anyone remember that dump Key Food that used to be on Broadway? How far we’ve come.

      • Mark Moore says:

        Now Key Food has taken over the Associated on Amsterdam and 97th. We’ll see what happens there.

    41. Lynn Cannady says:

      Enjoyed your grand opening. VERY impressive. Neat organized shelves and helpful staff. LARGE aisles and great prices. I’m sure your going to give Whole Foods a run for their $. Prices are great!!! Nice selection of organic fruit & veggies. No complaints. Congrats!

    42. Tostonesfix says:

      Also regarding Mani Market,

      I have been shopping there for 15 years and will continue to do so as it is closer to my home than any market. Unfortunately Mani is just too small for me to do all of my family’s grocery shopping and they do not have many items that we consume regularly (tortillas for one). Also, they run out of organic milk routinely. Their cheese selection is often hit or miss, at times one cannot even get basic Monterey Jack there.

      Additionally, what are their hours? If one needs something at 7:30am in the morning, sometimes they are open, sometimes they are not.

      I absolutely do not want Mani to go out of business but it has its flaws and I’m not going to apologize for it just because it is a neighborhood “institution”. Business is competitive and frankly over the past 15 years I have not seen them do anything to be more competitive.

    43. It is not necessarily the end for local businesses. Trader Joe’s does not carry many of the competitive brands that are favorites among shoppers. Chain pharmacies weren’t the end for supermarkets who sold beer and soda at higher prices.

      Many will not walk the extra distance or wait on long lines to get staples or items needed in a hurry. Seeing a familiar face evert day at a store may be a reason for returning.

      Competition is good. Grocery stores in the vicinity of Trader Joe’s will have to adapt. Prices on certain items will have to drop. Bad business habits will have to cease. Mom and pops will continue to sell things Trader Joe’s doesn’t. There is much to be learned and definitely room for both.

    44. Sharon Barcley says:

      Do you deliver And how close is this store to Columbia University?