After months of anticipation, and almost an exact year after their original opening date, Trader Joe’s finally opened in State College. This small specialty store is located in the aptly named “Trader Joe’s Plaza” right off of North Atherton street, their only competition so far being a Pier 1 next door.
Trader Joe’s specializes in all natural and organic selection, a foodie’s paradise. I, like many others, couldn’t wait to see what I would find upon exploring the tiny grocery on my first visit on opening day. A small group of friends and myself made the pilgrimage to this holy mecca of the bizarre treats and freeze-dried deliciousness around 7 p.m. We were surprised at how busy it was, and apparently it had been in a similar state the entire day. After we found a parking spot, we anxiously walked towards the neon glow of Trader Joe’s like hipsters stumbling upon a second hand clothing sale.
Once inside we were completely overwhelmed at the surrounding scenery. Colors bombarded us from every side. Piles of food were stacked precariously on crates. And people — lots and lots of people — crowded every aisle. We grabbed a cart and proceeded to walk around in awe, gaping at the variety and quantity of products.
One of the main reasons it’s so easy to get overwhelmed in Trader Joe’s (despite it being a relatively small store) are the prices. Most things at Trader Joe’s cost around $2-3 — a college student’s dream-come true. If any products were above this average they rarely exceeded $10. So not only is there an extreme abundance of delicious food, almost all of it is within your reach — financially speaking. This is something that is not experienced very often when living in a college town that profits off of jacked-up prices on students necessities.
Another quirky feature of this grocer is the customization of each Trader Joe’s to fit the surrounding town. Our particular Trader Joe’s boasts a State College mural that wraps around the entire store that even includes the Lion Shrine with a lei of plumerias around it’s neck. The check out line was also given a Centre County feel. Names of local streets like Atherton and Beaver made up the signs for each register, instead of traditional numbers. Even Nittanyville was afforded a shout-out.
All of this I noted in the back of my mind, as I was too busy piling food into our cart to really pay attention to anything else. The only stop in our shopping extravaganza was for a sample of pecan pie ice cream that tasted — surprise surprise — like pecan pie. This selling technique was highly effective, as we left the store with at least one half gallon of the pie-like substance. Apparently the samples differ day to day, which in itself is a reason to stop by throughout the week.
Overall, Trader Joe’s lived up even to my unrealistic fan-girl expectations. The food selections were unique and delicious, and well within the average college student’s budget. As I sit here eating my yogurt covered stars, I know it will only be a matter of time before I grab my reusable cloth shopping bag and head back out into the wonderful world that is Trader Joe’s.