If you headed to the grand opening of the new Trader Joe’s in the Christiana Fashion Center Friday, we hope you kept an eye out for the mamas.
We’re not being sexists, but there’s a distinct subset of Delaware shoppers coming for that cheese aisle, hunny, and you best believe they mean business.
If you’re in the Moms of Delaware Facebook page, you already know the new 14,000-square-foot store, which opened in part of the Saks Off 5th space today at 7:55 a.m. has been an endless topic of conversation for the past five weeks.
Some moms declared, “OMG this is the best day of my life!!” Others celebrated officially breaking up with the arduous 202 commute required to get to the only other store in the state— Don’t text us, don’t call us, we’ll get our Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls in Christiana, thanks.
One brilliant mother lamented the Delaware laws that won’t permit the sale of Trader Joe’s wines. A poor misguided soul suggested that the Aldi brand of Everything but the Bagel sesame seasoning was on par with Trader Joe’s, and no one has heard from her since.
And in anticipation of the new store, another mom—possibly this writer—has vowed to make peace with Trader Joe’s deeply flawed decision to discontinue the Cinnamon Apple Snack Sticks.
But for all the cracks about cults, fiends, floral shirts and ridiculous flavor creations (we were serious about those Kung Pao Chicken Mochi Balls), this place is a mom-magnet for good reason: a robust organic selection, unique finds, fantastic produce, snacks on snacks, and, at about a quarter of the size of a traditional super market, a space so intimate you have no choice but to walk ever so close to the deliciously dangerous Chocolate Chip Pain Au Lait.
“I really enjoy the atmosphere and the quality of the food and products,” says homemaker Kelly Hess of Bear. “The atmosphere is nice and clean, and the people who work there are so friendly.”
Of course, getting to the 202 location with littles in tow isn’t ideal.
“With Trader Joe’s I have to really have the time to go up there,” says Hess, who has gone about 10 times during the pandemic. “But it’s worth it to me because I really appreciate the quality. The produce is always fresh and seasonal. I know my family is getting wholesome ingredients.”
Hess is no dummy.
“The shopping carts are smaller to force you to go more often, which I guess is a good business concept,” she says with a dose of side-eye. “But it works, because I’d still rather go there than to a huge supermarket. It just makes me feel like I’m doing good for my family.”Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 11)
Middletown baker Jen McDowell, mother of six, is psyched for all the freezer space she’s about to save. “We previously made monthly trips up 202 to fill our freezer,” she says. “Having this one so close is going to be such a blessing to my family. We’ll be able to take weekly trips and not have to freeze bread and bagels anymore.”
McDowell gives Trader Joe’s all the snaps for its allergy-friendly selection, too.
“Our family of eight has three kids with food allergies, and finding affordable, safe items close to home has always been a challenge,” she says. “Trader Joe’s has so many options that makes feeding kids with food allergies on a budget easy.”
McDowell isn’t the only below-the-canal fan. (And, for what it’s worth, Trader Joe’s, you should have set up shop in Middletown. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
Michelle Myers Wall, a small-business owner in Odessa, is besotted that her beloved Butternut Squash Gnocchi will be so much closer to home.
“The added bonus is I no longer have to navigate the current Wilmington construction to enjoy my Trader Joe’s s favorites,” she says—not to mention potentially avoiding a #JoeJam or five. “Perhaps my visits will now become twice a month.”
Wall is here for the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and the Mandarin Chicken (“I swear you’d think it’s takeout”), but what she most looks forward to are the things that makes busy moms’ lives easier: “There is such a great selection of fresh produce, cheeses, snacks, quick meals and ready-made options,” she says.
Wilmington’s Cambria Lee is saying “Girl, Bye” to everyone hating on her 202 location.
“I will avoid the Christiana store as much as humanly possible,” says the preschool teacher, who enjoys weekly trips to the Wilmington store with her daughter, Gia, who picks a fresh bouquet every visit.
“I don’t know anyone that shares the love for Trader Joe’s that I do, even though I almost get hit by a car every time I go there,” she says, laughing. “Maybe I’m a member of the cult and I don’t know it yet.”
Lee always comes home with Cauliflower Thins and enjoys the seasonal lines, like the Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal.
“We are there like two times a week sometimes,” she says. “It’s reasonably priced and perfectly portioned for my family of two.”
But even the enormously popular story has its haters, hard as it is to believe.
Misoti Stanford, a CT scan tech who lives in Middletown, just shrugs.
“I just don’t get it,” she says, referring to the horror stories she’s heard of folks standing in the cold and rain for hours in Wilmington waiting to get through the doors. “I don’t care how good it is, that’s just not logical! I have been to the one on 202. It’s not anything spectacular; it seemed like just a regular market to me that’s not worth the drive.”
Will the Christiana location entice her?“ Maybe,” Stanford says. “I wouldn’t go above and beyond to go there.”
We’ll give her five minutes alone with a spoon and a jar of Speculoos Cookie Butter and ask again.
Trader Joe’s will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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