Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trader Joe's Moved Into The Neighborhood

Is this scenario I am about to describe looking familiar in your neighborhood? Many strip malls sit two thirds, or half empty. Small businesses, one by one have closed over the past year. Your favorite restaurant is locked when you pull the handle, but you are pretty sure they were open last week.

I witnessed the economy slowly sinking years ago in Texas, but when I moved to New Jersey I thought the worst of times were behind me. Lots of small businesses closed before the big companies began to move out of the area, or shut down period. Many of my friends were out of work, and have had to move out of state to find jobs. Even hubby had to seek employment in the mid-west before he found solid income base in New Jersey four years ago. Is his job secure we ask ourselves today. People keep telling me that it will turn around. Tale-spin is what I say. Yet, chains like Trader Joe's seem to find a way to open in New Jersey. Have you wondered what the secret is?

When you work in the food industry over the years you learn that starting small, peaking the consumers interest, and keep the prices reasonable is a smart start. I have always loved giant gourmet and organic markets such as Central Market (Texas), Wegman's and Whole Foods, but face it the prices can be astronomical on the food budget. Curbing budgets with the economy changes is a challenge. Friends, clients, and many of you want good prices, but we all still want to satisfy taste buds with hard to find treats and ingredients...I discovered Trader Joe's.

They opened years ago back home in Texas, but it was exciting to learn we had one opening just south of my house. Sure, people like Donna-FFW who live in Jersey are saying "Well E, there is one up north in Westfield"! Hey, Donna I am turning into a true New Jersian...I do not want to drive out of my neighborhood unless we are having lunch some day! *hint hint*

Trader Joe's is not your normal grocery market experience. The company actually began as a convenience store in the LA area; until someone realized they were up against a chain (I was employed with the Southland Corporation during my early college years), 7-11. Changing the company's strategy has kept them thriving. Turning the business into something more than what is the 'norm' was brilliant. A book has even been written explaining their strategy, 'Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon', The Trader Joe's Adventure, written by author Len Lewis.

I made a phone call asking my friend Gen if she had been to the new store, and what did she think. She got so excited telling me she had been there three times just since its opening at the end of September (I wrote this piece at the beginning of October). Gen went on to explain that you will find Trader Joe’s own manufactured products in most of their isles, and with decent prices. Finally I explained that I already was aware of TJ's concept via living in Dallas.

Hubby made a stop into Trader Joe's while I was traveling. He bought a few things for me to try when I returned- Wild Garlic bulbs, hummus, bread, and a few jars of sauces bearing the Traders Joe name. I am all for good narcissistic marketing particularly when it offers me a better price. He complained that the fresh produce section is small for our dark green vegetable eating habits. An upside is that they sell local organic produce at low prices, along with other sections that would not disappoint consumers.

The downside to Trader Joe's (most markets have one) is many of their products are not organic, local, and many packaged goods contain sugar, excess salt, cornstarch and other refined ingredients. Even with the convenience of ready made products, we have to keep our health in mind. So, as with any store, I recommend reading the labels before making your final selections.


Pork Medallions with Garlic Rice & Black Beans

1 Pork Tenderloin, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces-

Place pork in between plastic wrap and use mallet to flatten to 1/4 thick; drizzle with olive oil, salt/pepper to taste.

4-7 Cloves of garlic; slice thinly, and set aside
1/2 Red Onion; half, and then thin slices
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

In medium hot pan place oil, and just before smoking point add garlic and onion; remove just as it begins to brown, or will turn bitter; remove to plate.

Cook pork in seasoned oil, and remove as each medallion brown.

Add rice into same pan, and brown with another table spoon oil; add stock, and cook per instructions.

Trader Joe's
US Highway 1
Princeton, NJ
(609) 897-0581