The New Normal: Trader Joe’s Lines Stretch in Two Directions Even Before 8 a.m. Opening

The coronavirus has led to a new daily ritual for many Upper West Siders — rising in the early dawn to get your Trader Joe’s fix.

The store near the corner of 72nd and Broadway now has crowds lined up prior to opening at 8 a.m., stretching in both directions from 71st to 72nd. Like farmers who must milk the cow before the sun is too high in the sky, these West Siders musty grab their frozen chana masala before their neighbors put it all in their carts.

Employees are getting used to the new normal, with one telling our tipster Bobby Panza “Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do,” and another joking, “Make it stop!”

Stay healthy, Upper West Side. But don’t stay hungry.

FOOD, NEWS | 50 comments | permalink
    1. Joe says:

      Its’s OK our dear leader has a tremendous tax cut ready for us!

      • Jeff Berger says:

        The tax cut is directed at businesses that might suffer if people stop shopping due to the virus. This is very important to the mom and pop stores that are already hurting due to online shopping. If UWSers stay in their apartment, small shops will suffer. I know you have the orange monster but as someone whose family owned a small business that suffered during the gas crisis, this is a smart move.

        • pnl says:

          Seems that Wall St disagrees.

        • Upperwestsidewally says:

          Trump clearly referred to a ‘payroll tax cut’. But I wish you and your business well.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          UpperWestSidewally is correct. Trump is aiming at a moratorium on the payroll (FICA) taxes, which are paid 1/2 by employer and 1/2 by employee.

          In general, as this disproportionately flows to more upper income people and leaves out unemployed, seniors and others not in the workforce, it is not a good idea.

          Further, while it does alleviate employer payments, FICA taxes go to Social Security and Medicare. Thus, the overwhelming number of economists consider them to be part of employee compensation. If there is a moratorium, the fair way for employers to handle the situation is to directly pay the employee the FICA tax, instead of pocketing the tax relief.

          When employers DON’T pay FICA taxes, they are subject to prosecution for wage theft. thus, any tax break should entirely flow through to employees and not employers.

          If Trump wants to give aid to small employers, he should do so, but not at the expense of their employees.

      • SG says:

        Its a brilliant move that only a stable genius could conceive or appreciate.

      • ZoomZ says:

        In 2009-2010 we had a virus as well, by a different name, the swine flu
        12,500 Americans died from it.
        The honorable Bama-O’Biden regime did nothing to help the small business and large one as well.
        Go ahead and blame Trump for the virus.
        You must be loving China so much so you can’t even bring yourself to point out that they kept this virus a secret from the world for two months!
        That was critical and criminal.
        May we all be well and win this war. The virus can not know who’s a democrat or republican.
        It will hit us all.
        Cheers to better days.

        • wow says:

          According to Reuters, the Trump administration has ordered health agencies to treat all coronavirus deliberations as classified.

        • Bob says:

          Respectfully, I don’t think this sort of whataboutism works here. Look at the stock market in 2009, when swine flu was active — do you see a dip? No, you see a sharp increase in the markets; it looks like about an 80% increase from the beginning of the crisis to the end. This was reflective of a larger economic recovery that went on at the same time. Saying that Obama and Biden did nothing to help small businesses at that time is… not reality-based. They absolutely did — in the form of a massive economic recovery — and even if you want to try to pretend away their contribution to that massive economic recovery, you can’t pretend away the fact that the economy was going in a very different direction under their leadership.

          So is it fair to say that you’ll hold Trump to the same standard? That since you think 80% returns are “nothing,” you’ll say that if Trump only manages, say, 75% gains, he’s done less than nothing? Or will you just stick with the Rush Limbaugh talking points no matter what?

        • Jim says:

          I guess that shows the confidence the two leaders project. One kept the markets stable and the economy running, and the other turned the longest running bull market into a bear in less than a week, and will need the tax cuts and feds help to get him out of his mess.

          I live in Seattle and have seen the results of not testing people. Friend at work who he and his wife were in contact with a covid victim 5 contacts over two weeks even in the hospital one day prior to his death of covid. No testing on them, go home self quarantine, county health department calls once a day to see if they have symptoms. Even thought we all know you can shed when you are asymptomatic.

          To many articles out there about lack of testing, and slow ramp up of testing. Major failure major failure of this administration.

          They should never have shut down the Global Health Security Unit that deals with Pandemics two years ago. It was created after the Ebola scare for these exact reasons. To have experts to help the non experts in charge. But as folks who don’t believe in science and want to shrink the government I can see why they did.

          Sad. Sad.

        • Leah says:

          FINALLY, a New Yorker that doesn’t mindlessly hate Trunp. He’s a hometown hero, not the cause of virus’s, earthquakes, OR hurricanes!

    2. UWS Dad says:

      The 93rd Street Trader Joe’s had a huge line outside it at about 10am today. D’Agostino two blocks away had no-one in it and was well-stocked.

      • Danielle Remp says:

        Rather than wait IN line, and risking covid, I order ON line.
        I order the fresh items from WholeFoods at Columbus Circle. The delivery is very reliable and the goods arrive in perfect shape.
        For other items (dry and canned goods, etc.), I find that it’s very easy to get them from Amazon, especially when they’re dense. I worry about burdening the WholeFood’s delivery men with heavy items to carry when I can order as easily from Amazon.

    3. Nene says:

      This is for people who have a bare fridge and cabinets and wait for a serious crisis to happen before buying anything.!!

      • L. Braverman says:

        People have shifted from canned food to fresh, which must be frequently replenished.

      • Carol says:

        I’ve thought the same thing! I wonder what the people in line normally eat? I mean, I long for a deep freezer to truly stock up, but for those of us with disorders and chronic conditions/strict medical dietary limitations, vigilance to keep fed is “normal”.

    4. MA says:

      The smart money has already left the city.

    5. Mark Moore says:

      I was at Harlem Fairway at 9:45 last night stocking up on meat, pasta and canned stuff and it was fine. No lines at all.

      • Cyn says:

        125th street Fairway was a zoo when I was there at 3:30 and the cashier said it had been crazy all day!

    6. UWSNYC says:

      UWS sheeple love chain stores like suburbanites love costco

    7. West 90th Street Jeff says:

      It’s so strange about D’Agostino’s. They’ve been a neighborhood staple for years, but ever since Trader Joe’s moved into the neighborhood people have abandoned all the neighborhood stores which gave them such good service in the past. Don’t be fickle; buy a D’Agostino’s pickle, and a lot more besides. You’ll even get to work earlier since there’s no waiting line to get in, nor another one to get out.

      • George says:

        D’ag has the same issue as Gristedes: the prices are insane. So as soon as people have more affordable options (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.) that also happen to be higher quality, it’s pretty easy to jump ship.

        • B.B. says:

          DAG *is* Gristedes now, has been for some time but final take over occurred several months ago.

        • L. Braverman says:

          “…So as soon as people have more affordable options (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.) that also happen to be higher quality, it’s pretty easy to jump ship.”

          So wait: Whole Foods is more affordable than D’ags?

          Going to WF, for me, means keeping some smelling salts firmly in hand for that fraught moment when the price is finally (and very briefly) glanced at.

          • Jay says:

            Whole Foods is way more cheap than Dags and the quality is better.

          • George says:

            Compare anything and product for product (including the same brand), and you’ll find that Whole Foods is significantly more affordable than D’AG and Gristedes. And as Jay alluded to, you’re also getting higher quality produce, meat/seafood, and general products.

            I would give it another try if you haven’t been in a while, and keep an eye out in particular for Whole Foods’ 365 brand — value-priced essentials that are always an awesome deal. Things like $1.79 for a jar of marinara sauce. $2.29 for a pound of frozen strawberries. 99¢ for a box of spaghetti. $1.29 for a pound of baby carrots. You just can’t find prices like that at Gristedes.

            • George says:

              D’AG and Gristedes are on the decline — closing stores and rarely opening new locations. The competition from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods is relatively new, so I think we’ll begin to see more of a shift in the next several years (TJ’s at 93rd opened less than two years ago)

      • UWSmama says:

        My husband saw the huge line this afternoon at TJs and went to DaGs instead. Everything he bought was 3-4x the TJ price. And this includes eggs that expire in 3 days, so pointless for quarantine planning. I cannot even comprehend how DaGs stays in business.

    8. Westside JeffS says:

      Referring to the final sentence: “Don’t stay hungry.” Hmmm. Are you a Twisted Sister fan?

    9. Stef Lev says:

      Egan! There are other stores!

    10. Kluther says:

      People were lining up outside Westside about 6pm today

    11. MG says:

      Smart way to contain a virus.

    12. yoma43 says:

      What is the MATTER with people??!

    13. LUBOMIR FIRKO says:

      I went to the trader Joe’s a few times at a different locations on the east coast. I don’t get it, why is such a big deal?

    14. Barbara Gallagher says:

      People are just hypervigilant and crazy
      now. Foods bought will prob go bad if not stored correctly. (Like produce) check dates….
      You can eat only so much.
      Be smart and savy. Thanks to folks working this industry. NOT the CEOS, upper mgt. Not on the front. Tough now.

    15. Joe Lichtig says:

      Yesterday I was in NJ to shop. Shoprite was the most normal, with just some shelfs empty.

      I can’t speak for Costco as hundreds of cars were outside in their parking lot, milling g around looking for parking. (An hour after their store opening. I gave up and went to Trader Joe’s.

      Here the parking lot was crowded but not crazy. The store was crowded and some items were missing; their recycle bags were in short supply; checkout lines were about double the usual. Overall not too bad.

    16. Relaxing says:

      Lot of great restaurants to choose from at your leisure with no reservations… just walk in…
      Enjoying the quietness of home on the Upper West Side for the next month with plenty things to do with lots of gardening to start with and quiet walks in central park day dreaming with my pooch on the beautiful spring days.
      …and you should to.

    17. mark says:

      Mayor DeBlasio was on WNYC this morning incoherently trying to explain why he is intent on keeping NYC schools open. Many kids (like my youngest) spend much time with their elderly grandparent and the schools are a breeding ground for infections. It seems the mayor is concerned that parents will not be able to find child care. He also believes (falsely) that the virus is not easily spread without an exchange of bodily fluids (he actually said that).

      • lynn says:

        Wouldn’t it make sense for them not to spend time with their grandparents until this is over? Or did you mean that the children would be cared for by their grandparents if they’re not in school? What about the 114,000 homeless kids who need a place to go, in addition to their two meals a day? If all the non-homeless children stay home do all of the non-homeless parents stay home from their jobs to care for them, or are the nannies and housekeepers supposed to come in and do that? Just curious.

    18. Robert Sheridan says:

      There seems to be a run on toilet paper (interesting as “the runs” NOT associated with Covid19 . . . )

      Costco inadvertently posted a message they would be out of stock until 2050.)

      Rite Aid was out of stock this AM but Pioneer on Columbus Avenue had plenty and NO lines ala TJ.

    19. Steven says:

      I went to KeyFood on Amsterdam & 85th. I got there maybe 3pm today (Friday) & the shelved with food was emptying out. It was total chaos & not as organized as Trader Joes I’m sure. The older crowd over 65 seem to be the most aggressive, pushing & yelling. I prob should have went to Fairway. Pretty scary & sad to see what has happened to our city & society with all of this.

    20. C.J. Clover says:

      Pro tip that you’re not hearing about:
      If you go to the Bronx, you will find far less craziness and more amply stocked shelves.