Bay area's first Trader Joe's set for Friday opening
SARASOTA - Foodies take note: The Tampa Bay area is finally getting its very own Trader Joe’s. The trendy, California-based grocery chain is opening a location at 4101 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. The store is known for its high-end products that come with a low price tag. It also has quite a following. "We've had people stopping by, saying they're so excited," said store captain, Linda Moffa. "I had probably 1,500 people come and apply for jobs the first day we opened up applications."Moffa wouldn’t say how many of those applicants the store hired, but said 80% of the employees are local residents. And the store’s design gives a nod to Sarasota history. Inside, there’s a mural of Siesta Key, and the Ringling Bridge, as well as the Van Wezel Fine Arts Center. Trader Joe’s stocks 3,600 different products—everything from candy, to health and beauty aids, to vitamins and supplements. Moffa points out, shoppers can also get a good deal on everyday grocery items. "We have great deals, just on your milk. Our half gallon of milk at 2.99 is cheaper than you're going to find elsewhere," she said. There is a wide selection of imported olive oils and coffee beans. But there’s one product Moffa says customers have come to associate with Trader Joe’s. "Our Charles Shaw, which is our 2 Buck Chuck, is probably what we're also known for. It's $2.99 here in Florida." A bottle of wine for under three dollars? How do they do it? "Our buyers travel the world, looking for Trader Joe's exclusives," explained Moffa. "We eliminate the middle man and we go directly to the manufacturer to buy them." Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer any sales, coupons, or special promotions, but it does try to focus on quality products. "The customer can have confidence there's no artificial coloring, preservatives, fillers," said Moffa. The Sarasota location will be Trader Joe’s second store in Florida. A store in Naples opened back in February. Customers started lining up around the block at 5 a.m. If that’s any indication, Friday’s grand opening in Sarasota will be crowded. Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell will be attending the ribbon cutting. When asked, Moffa said Trader Joe’s doesn’t have any specific plans to open another location in Tampa, but the company is looking. "The only other location we have is Gainesville, which we hope to have open by the end of the year," she said. "But we're looking all up and down the state of Florida."