By the time the doors to the new Trader Joe's location in St. Petersburg at 2742 Fourth St. N., the line of people waiting to get in had snaked along the storefront and wrapped nearly around the block. A man played calypso music near the from entrance and another juggled.
A few minutes before 8 a.m., Mayor Rick Kriseman addressed those waiting in line.
“The sun is clearly shining on us here today,” Kriseman said. “We are so happy to be able to welcome Trader Joe's to this community. Clearly, based on the line and all the excitement about this store. We are so glad to have you guys here. For those of you who have never been to Trader Joe's, you are in for a treat.”
The St. Pete store has been in the making for more than a year, when a number of businesses on the block moved and the buildings razed. But as the hype wore on, devotees to the shop's discount specialty food and beverages (and the place's quirky tropical vibe) had to drive over a bridge, either the Howard Franklin to get to the one on Swann Avenue in Tampa, or the Sunshine Skyway to get to the one on Sarasota's Tamiami Trail.
When the doors opened, each person who walked through was greeted with a silk flower lei by the staff.
Unlike the Tampa location's crowded opening last year, the congestion Friday wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been despite the large crowd outside.
7:45 a.m. Trader Joe's opens in St. Pete at 8 a.m. today. Line keeps growing. Mayor Kriseman's here with a TJ's pin on.
7:54 a.m. Kriseman's saying a few words during the new store's lei-cutting ceremony. And we saw two women dressed as TJ's reusable bags (kinda envious). Cut it, cut it.
7:56 a.m. The madness. (It actually wasn't too bad.) And the doors are open before 8!.
7:59 a.m. Patrons receive leis from staff as they enter by TJ's tradition.
8:04 a.m. Gluten-free V-Day cupcakes… hello.
8:09 a.m. Where the heck is the cookie butter? Should look for the most popular aisle, perhaps.
8:12 a.m. British english muffins, tomato-less salsa, coconut oil cooking spray, Thai lime cashews. Shall I go on?.
8:15 a.m. Um, TJ's makes its own beer? I see its three signature lagers and a Belgian-style ale alongside Coppertail, Big Storm and others.
8:17 a.m. Frozen items like figs (!), parsnips, mochi and meatless meatballs, highly recommended by Kate.
8:21 a.m. Found the (cookie butter) section. In all its glory. They're on an end cap near the entrance, folks. Sign above reads: "grab your spoons!"
8:26 a.m. Kate showed me the $2.99 wine I thought was fabled. Merlot, pinot grio, cab sauv, etc. Seems like someone could pull off a wallet-friendly Valentine's Day meal out of the store's bounty.
8:30 a.m. Still pretty spacious in here surprisingly
8:41 a.m. Cashier tells me I need to try the orange chicken "Joe's Grille" is sampling at the back of the store. So do that.
8:47 a.m. Final thoughts: you probably won't get trampled shopping here, at least we didn't. There's a lot to peruse, and I hear food samples are happening throughout the day. Kate and I walked, which helped, but people also parked along the neighborhood streets rather than the TJ's lot.