As we started telling people we were moving to California, the unsolicited commentary seemed to be that we were embarking on the coolest of grocery-ing phenomena: Trader Joe's. After a few brief months in this state, I can safely say I don't get it.
I will admit that they have one of the most extensive and tastiest selections of dried fruits and nuts. I think I'm already addicted to the black pepper cashews and the granny smith dried apples. But beyond that, I don't see much reason to shop there.
The produce is of poor quality and overpriced. Similarly, the meat (unless you need kosher meat -- I guess they have a decent selection then), is of poor grade and too expensive. The selection of general grocery needs is minimal. I walked over there one day because I really wanted to bake cookies, but I needed baking powder. After staring at the baking shelf (they had flour, sugar, etc.), and giving up, I asked someone, and they told me they don't carry baking powder. Really? So, I walked back by a drugstore, and bought my baking powder there and baked my cookies anyway.
Then, I'm a scotch snob. I'll readily admit it. And more than that, I'm a fan of Macallan, as you'd be able to tell by the 4 bottles of various years of the stuff in my liquor cabinet. Trader Joe's seems to be in some sort of bottling agreement with my favorite of whiskies, and they bottle 12 year old Macallan in Trader Joe's bottles. I can't bring myself to buy one to see if it's the same stuff on the inside of the bottle as they seem to claim on the outside of the bottle, because it costs exactly as much as the real thing! Honestly, why would anyone buy a "Rolex" from a street vendor in NY for the same price as a real one? Obviously, someone (or a lot of someones) are doing this, since they seem to keep having this stuff on their shelves.
Anyway, just seems like a lot of hype for something that, like a lot of other hyped things, isn't all that.
2 months ago