(2949 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 504-831-0253) second Louisiana location — the first in the greater New Orleans area — celebrates its grand opening at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23. The California-based grocery chain is known for offering food free of artificial flavorings, preservatives, synthetic colors and GMOs at low prices.
"We're a neighborhood grocery story with everything from basics like milk and eggs to exotic food and wine at great prices," says store manager (or "captain," in Trader Joe's parlance) Nick Parnell. "We work directly with vendors, cutting out the middle man, to keep prices low."
The question on the mind of many New Orleanians is, "What took so long?" With more than 450 locations, including one in Baton Rouge, Trader Joe's presence feels welcome but long overdue.
"We're very calculated in how we do things," Parnell said. "We're committed to measured growth, and we don't blindly go into new markets. We're a great fit for the New Orleans community and are proud to be part of its amazing food culture."
The 12,500-square-foot store's staff is 85 percent local, though Parnell declined to say how many jobs the chain created. Louisiana-centric touches, such as the murals of Mardi Gras Indians and brass bands, embellish the store. All the murals are hand-painted by Trader Joe's employees.
"I came in for a job, and they said, "We need you to make us some art,'" says employee Erica Rodriguez.
"Employees create art and do everything else — stocking shelves, checking people out," Parnell says.
The day before opening, the store bustled with camera crews and team members readying it for business. Employees unloaded cardboard boxes of live orchids and stocked the ample liquor department with Charles Shaw wine — also known as "two-buck chuck" because it costs $2.99 a bottle.
"Charles Shaw is an amazing table wine," Parnell says, "It's the No. 1 selling wine in the world. Customers call it two-buck chuck. I don't. Because it's Charles Shaw."
Parnell says shoppers can expect a busy and fun grand opening on Friday. There's a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8 a.m., balloons, food demos and samples and a performance by a brass band. The store will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.