Long Goodbye to Route 17 Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is opening in Albany.  If it opens in April, I'll only have lived without one locally for 17 months, which isn't so bad.

My first TJ was in Bailey's Crossroads.  Since then they've built one in Clarendon.  Then we enjoyed having Bethesda nearby.  Since we've moved to Albany we stop on Route 17 in NJ on our way home and shop in Paramus.  We pack our frozen and fridge items together to keep cool for the next 2 hours home.   

The news outlets were all atwitter, some folks are all about not caring, and a lot of people are promising not to go there because of the traffic.  Some people (I'm included, but it's just a twinge of eh) wish it was in a different location.  I'd like if it were built in an empty lot in my neighborhood, personally. 

About the traffic: popular places are crowded.  For proof, go to any Cheesecake Factory (mind = boggled, every time).  I can't imagine parking and shopping at the Wolf Road Trader Joe's will be any less pleasant than the Pentagon City Costco.  I can't imagine the line will be anything like the Union Square TJ before UWS opened (you'd walk in and start standing in line, picking up things from aisles as you waited and moved forward).  But perspective is key in complain-y situations of all sorts, right?  A long commute to work is better than not having a job?  Ouch, how the diamond encrusted floors are ripping up my feet.

One thing I like about TJ is that it's small and it doesn't take me a long time to go from one side to the other when I've forgotten something--maybe I'm not the most organized shopper.  I like that I know the products and know where to find them quickly; I can find my favorites and move on.

Nobody makes me go to Burger King or weird mall fake Chinese food places (or insert other stuff I wouldn't touch), so if you don't want to go to Trader Joe's, chances are you'll be safe from a kidnapping that locks you in there unwillingly.  In fact, I hereby swear on my lemon pepper pappardelle (with olive oil, parmesan, and peas) that I will not personally force you to go to a store that "doesn't impress" you and that you think is "overhyped."  I will definitely not pick you up on my way there.

Most of the items that I buy at Trader Joe's either only exist (to my knowledge) there or  are less expensive there than other places.  I'm also not much of a couponer.  I don't like playing games, just give me the lowest price you can, consistently.   I don't need Hannaford or Price Chopper almond butter for $10 when I can get it at TJ for $5.  I don't need Amazon's glucosamine chondroitin (dog vitamin for joints) for $25 (or PetSmart's for $28) when it's $9.99 at TJ for 20 fewer tablets.  Ten cents per tablet v. twenty cents per tablet.  You don't have to be a hippie or obsessed with organic or have a food sensitivity to appreciate not being overcharged. 

Today's haul included the following items:

Challah rolls, 4: $2.49
Reduced sugar organic strawberry preserves: $2.99
Brown rice pasta (they also had corn pasta, 3 shelves of gluten free in all):$1.99
Whole wheat organic pasta: $1.39
Israeli couscous: $1.99
Chocolate chips (pareve
Lemon pepper pappardelle: $1.99
Spinach and chive linguine: $1.99
Whole wheat Middle Eastern flatbread: $2.49
Dark chocolate covered cherries: $4.49
Garbanzo beans: $0.89
Tomato basil past sauce: $1.79
Glucosamine for pets (hips, joints--100 count, FYI on Amazon it's $25 for 120): $9.99
Steamed lentils (refrig section - love these in salads): $2.99
Beef cabernet pot roast: $12.58
Mild fresh salsa: $2.99
Roasted vegetable frozen pizza with no cheese: $4.29
Frozen brown rice packets (4 per box I think, 1 packet for dinner for 2 with leftovers): $2.99
Chicken drumettes: $3.79
Annie Chun's Udon Noodle Bowls (emergency lunch for work): $1.99
Clif Zbar: $0.69

Lastly, the people who work there are typically very friendly and helpful.  They'll ring that bell and have someone get you a new marinating roast when the plastic was punctured on the one you chose.  The bagging is exceptional--we used to bet in Virginia whether or not they'd be able to fit all our stuff in the bags we brought; otherwise we'd be going home with some future wrapping paper.

Obviously, I welcome Trader Joe's with open arms.  I'd love to see Wegman's (a much different and much larger store) follow soon.


  1. As a former resident of Ann Arbor, MI and Wshington, DC, I'm equally excited for TJs coming to Albany. While I did appreciate them very much for their wine/beer selection, I also grew to love them for other things as well. The big one that jumps into my mind is the 99% fat free black bean dip - amazing!

    Anyway, after they open (or before!), I'd love to hear some more TJ's recommendations from you so I can broaden my horizons even more!

  2. Awesome sauce, I need to try that dip. TJ is by far the best place to shop for a party. The dips and spreads and chips and crackers are beyond comparison with other places. Rye toasts, baked lentil chips, stuff you didn't know you want but really you want very much. And you want to get flavored sodas (like sparkling blueberry or grapefruit) and spike 'em for your guests.

  3. I think you are missing my point. Trader Joe's is in going to be in Colonie, not the City of Albany. Colonie, like most of our local Suburbs (Clifton Park, shudder...) is extremely poorly planned. No one lives near where they work, everyone has to drive everywhere they go. This is my problem. There is no community, just ugly, awful retail zones on the edges of suburbs.

    I am currently traveling in the Atlanta area in Georgia. There are several work/play/live type communities, and more being built. Although this is not my ideal idea of a community, at least they are trying.

    I don't really have anything against Trader Joe's, it is just another grocery store, but it is just another nail in the coffin of a dream of mine.

    I get what you are saying, I am coming off like a hipster, "I hated Trader Joe's before it was cool" type. But that is really not what I am saying.

    Next time you are driving through Colonie, or down Wolf Road. Look around and really think about what is around you. Is it an enterprise you really truly want to be a part of? Is there a better way we could be planning our community? Should we really celebrate, through our patronage, something that represents another step in the wrong direction?

    I don't know, maybe it is all hot air. The news of Trader Joe's just made me feel sad. Call me naive, but I don't think just accepting the way the world is is the right strategy. The least I can do is whine and complain.

  4. Mr. Dave, I didn't realize the urban planning aspect was a heavy part of your position. I certainly recognize that there is nothing charming about Wolf Road (or Route 18 or Route 1 or Route 9 near my New Jersey hometown, which you also might call a sprawling wasteland). In fact, I personally don't find much to be charming about "downtown Albany," wherever that might be. I really don't want to go down that road of explaining why I don't think living within the city of Albany provides any of the benefits of urban living that you can find in major US cities (and that is partly because it is a SMALL city--it's not San Francisco, DC, Atlanta, New York, Chicago). I'm not planning our community, and I'm not going to wax poetic about our nation's move toward suburbs and car-reliant societies after the invention of the automobile and modern highways and demise of main street and the town square. I'm alive enough to be aware of retrofitting going on in places like King of Prussia and Tysons Corner, but I'm not going to hold my breath until it's all complete and nationwide. I'll eat at restaurants that are delicious and have good customer service, and I'll shop at stores that carry the products I love at a competitive price. To the dismay of the chain businesses, I routinely shop online for prices that beat theirs. TAKE THAT, CORPORATE SCUM! (Whatever, I just like saving money). I respect your right to do as you wish.

  5. I don't live in Albany, I live in Delmar. I think that Delmar has the most potential to become the sort of community I want to live in (that is why I live there). If everyone takes the stance that the world is as it is so I don't have to care then nothing can change. It is complacency. I am guilty of patronizing places that don't fit my own ethos too, but I like to try to vote with my money and feet for things that make sense to me.

  6. If we're going to make a wish list (that begins with walkable, livable communities), I'll add goods that aren't made in sweatshops, Ethiopian restaurants, a decent goddamned bagel, and mandatory paid f-ing maternity leave. Not in order of importance, just the first handful of things that came to mind.

  7. On a lighter note, I didn't know TJ's had corn pasta! Woo!