HOUSTON— Specialty grocery store Trader Joe’s opened its first Houston location Friday inside the historic Alabama Theater and drew a crowd of curious shoppers.
“Because this is a historical building, Trader Joe’s had to keep its original façade, but what’s inside, is all new,” said Trader Joe’s Manager David Fuller.
The store debuted in The Woodlands in May and the Houston location on Shepherd opened at 8 a.m. Friday.
Fuller said he was ready for big crowds.
“It’s really a pretty large parking lot, larger in the back,” he said. “I had a lot of people coming by, saying they’ll walk.”
Trader Joe’s offers choice you may not find in your regular grocery store.
“About 80 percent of our products and anything under TJ private label has no artificial flavors, no artificial colors and no preservatives,” Fuller said.
The store will also sell its famous $2 wine.
Like a movie, the store has a cult following.
“People are going to be talking about, have you been to Trader Joe’s? Where do you buy food? What did you think? And that’s a good thing for a lot of stores,” said Betsy Gelb, with the University of Houston Bauer School of Business.
Market analysts say this will set in motion a grocery war that everyone wins.
“I will shop everywhere where I can get a good price,” said one man inside Trader Joe’s.
Experts say Trader Joes will get its fair share of customers, just like Kroger, Walmart, Randall’s and H-E-B because people no longer shop at just one store.
“It has a very unique blend of things—not the usual run-of-the-mill things you find at Kroger. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kroger,” said Linda Hoffman, a shopper at Trader Joe’s.
One shopper said she went to Trader Joe’s and then came straight to her regular H-E-B.
“They carry specialty items and a lot of boxed products with their own labels, which I personally don’t shop for,” said Annette De La Garza.
A Kroger spokeswoman said the store welcomes the competition.
“It just raises the, what I’ll call sub-categories of stores that are fun places to buy food,” Gelb said.