Thursday, November 12, 2009

I miss Trader Joe's

In DC, there were great grocery stores (Trader Joe's, Whole Foods), bad grocery stores (Safeway, Giant), and corner markets.

I really miss the variety and relatively low prices at Trader Joe's. They had some classic items which I stockpile when I have a chance to go. These include Big & Chunky Applesauce, a million Indian items, frozen goodies including to-die-for mac and cheese, Avocado's Number guacamole, soups, Dunkers cookies, tiramisu gelato, and French Market Lemonade. Their cheese section is drool-worthy. And I'm always game to try something new there, because the cost is so low (me: Do I like New Zealand Sweet Apple Rings/Indian Fare Punjab Choley/Pizza Parlanno? friend: Get it, it's only $2.99!). A Facebook group 1,500+ members strong hopes a Trader Joe's will open in downtown Easton, and I concur. I am tired of making the pilgrimage to King of Prussia and Westfield, NJ (where they have wine! Three Buck Chuck!).

I don't miss the prices at Whole Foods, but I did like the samples and staring at the bakery displays. And, they always had a good beer selection and the most beautiful organic produce.

I never miss Safeway. Each store has a nickname. The one near Georgetown is called the Social Safeway since it is such a pickup joint. It's been called that since before my parents lived there as young professionals. The Tenley store is Secret Safeway (obscured by trees) and the Dupont store is Soviet Safeway (because there is never anything on the shelves and there are always long lines). There may be others I can't remember, but I've blocked most of my memories of Safeway, primarily because the service was so awful and the produce was so peaked. DCist does a good job of outlining all the names and their reasons.

This week, I took an extra look around at Wegman's. The store has done a great job of buying and stocking items that are... dare I say?... Trader Joe's-esque. The organic aisles are reminiscent of Whole Foods, too. I'm impressed. I picked up pumpkin butter, soy milk and frozen organic burritos.

I still like going to small natural foods stores, however. There's something about the smell (is that ginger? patchouli?) and the idea of a local market that I like. Plus, when I find a new one, I like to take the time to explore, and often go home with treasures.

One of my favorites is Nature's Way Market on 143 Northampton St. in Easton. It's been open for 34 years and offers a good mix of fresh produce, pantry items, supplements and beauty products. They also frequently host educational workshops and have a great book and magazine section. This weekend, Courtney and I stopped in to pick up some vitamins, chocolate, mushrooms and energy bars.
Frey's Better Foods‎ at 1575 Main St, Hellertown is right across the street from the Exxon station. On top of everything you'd expect, it has a great frozen section, a ton of grains and nuts, and lots of good organic cleaning products. They have also been around forever, and the staff is very knowledgeable.

Queen's Nutritional Products is a little off the beaten path, near the Giant shopping center at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave. in Allentown. I have heard about Garden Gate Natural Foods at 17 S 9th St. in Allentown but have not visited personally.

Transplants, do you miss your old grocery store?


  1. Interestingly enough, while I'm in DC and frequenting the Secret Safeway and the OHMYGODYouSaidThisCostsHOWMuch? Whole Foods, I really really miss Wegman's and Wawa. Other PA friends reminisce similarly. What if I want a Powerade, soft pretzel, hoagie (which don't exist in DC) AND gum AND windshield wiper fluid? Huh? Where's my wawa?

    One thing I found hilarious in high school was going to Wegman's to eat with a friend or family member, and having to be really careful in the side parking lot not to hit any teenagers. They just hang out around each other's cars in the parking lot in the middle of the night, as if it's the school and the bell just rang or something.

    I've been to Trader Joe's once and seriously appreciate how fast it is at rush hour and how all the patrons just form a line that starts at the cash register and snakes up and down all the aisles until it reaches the door. It's incredibly efficient!

    Don't forget Allentown - there's Sign of the Bear in the West End and Garden Gate Natural Foods on South 10th street!

  2. Oh, nevermind. I see you've given Garden Gate a shout out.

  3. Anonymous11/13/2009

    Wow! I just stumbled on your blog and LOVE IT! My hubby and I are LV Transplants as well (me from TX him from CO) and bought a place in Easton. We would love nothing more than that Trader Joe's! I miss a grocery store in Houston called "Fiesta" which had tons of Mexican specialties and produce and another one called "HEB" which is pretty similar to Trader Joe's. Thanks for the blog, and please keep up the great work!

  4. Great blog! Would LOVE a Trader Joes in the Valley, we're over in Hunterdon but do much of our food shopping in PA when we can. we're 40 minutes from the Westfield Trader Joes which isn't too bad. Wegmans (Bethlehem) is the best, maybe in the country, for a major grocery store. For produce, we shop the Valley Farm Market on Stelko Blvd in Bethlehem. Not a big fan of Fresh Market in the Promenade Shops but its worth a try if you haven't gone. Its pretty at least.

  5. in Brooklyn I lived by the world's worst grocery stores ever (C-Town and Key Foods). I missed the Giant. I missed Weis markets even. Now that I'm back though, my boyfriend and I make a monthly trip to North Wales, which is the site of the nearest Trader Joe's and Whole Foods - they are across the street from each other. We come the back way from Emmaus, which is a beautiful country drive. There's a beautiful back way from Bethlehem too, but it would take an hour or so, which is probably as long as it takes to get to Jersey (prettier this way though).

  6. A Trader Joe's AND a Whole Foods across the street from one another? It would be worth the trip from Bethlehem.

    I forgot to mention Fresh Market. It feels like a museum of pretty food to me. Similar to Whole Foods but without most of the fun. A place I'd go if I were entertaining and didn't want to brave the masses at Wegman's or Giant.

  7. We used to live in Cranford, near the Westfield Trader Joe's, and I do miss it a bit. It's just a fun store to browse. We shopped at Wegmans when we lived, there, too, though. Wegmans is cooler, I think, because you can get everything.

    The best supermarket ever has to be Jungle Jim's ( in Fairfield, OH.

  8. Anonymous11/16/2009

    SIL, my closest Trader Joes is several states away. Thank goodness we do have a Whole Foods because it is one of the few places to get seltzer in the South (apparently seltzer is a northeast thing, a fact which I learned when in San Francisco, and they didn't even know what seltzer IS, and this was Whole Foods!) I also sorely miss TJ's Indian fare and rice noodle soups. they also had great prices on plain greek yogurt, one of my dietary staples.

  9. LV trnasplant,
    just found your blog, cool. I'm a transplant also, 15 years now. the BEST market here in the valley is Valley Farm Market. they have 2 locations, 1 bethlehem and 1 allentown. everything is fresh, incredible vegatable selection, fish and meats are great too. You HAVE to visit, you won't be sorry.
    Wegman's you mentioned, love it.
    not to be overlooked for great prices and real good quality is ALDIs. a lot of people blow it off as a discount place, but its more than that. European chain store feel, low prices, all the staple items you need. German chocolates too!
    anyway, I'll be watching. please stop in my blog too, I'd appreciate it.

  10. Veronica recommended the Produce Junction on MacArthur Rd. I definitely need to check it out!

  11. I received this message offline from ChinaMommy:

    I am an Easton native but lived in Santa Cruz, CA for 20 years, then returned here a few years ago. I too miss Trader Joe's!! I am on the internet right now mapquesting directions to Trader Joe's near King of Prussia. I too make monthly trips for my fix!
    We NEED TRADER JOE'S HERE!! Did you know there is a Trader Joe's warehouse in Easton?

    In fact, I did hear about the warehouse, but any fantasies we have about a TJ's here anytime soon have been thoroughly dashed, according to Retail Watch in The Morning Call. All this talk about Trader Joe's makes me hungry. Anyone want to carpool to the one in Westfield?

  12. Anonymous2/01/2010

    How can you miss any other store when there is a Wegman's around? I hope I never move away from here for that reason. Plus, they have beer now. They are improving upon perfection.

  13. Anonymous2/02/2010

    Everyone who misses Trader Joes should go on their website ( and write a comment to them!!! There is a "Info Center" button, then pull down the "Contact Us" button and there is a subject selection for location requests. I've done it a few times over the years and know others have too but maybe if all the people on this site would do it we could finally get their attention? If there are THREE Wegmans in the area its definately a location where people are interested in good food!

  14. Anonymous2/02/2010

    By the way, a new Whole Foods just opened up in Plymouth Meeting Mall (next to the Mid-County turnpike tolls). Its supposed to be HUGE with a place to eat, etc.

  15. Anonymous3/12/2012

    i have been requesting they consider opening in allentown pa for years. what is it that they warehouse near allentown but won't open a store around here...Aldi's is owned by the same company --- i guess they just don't think people here are worthy of their eclectic foods - NOT TRUE ...