ROLLINGWOOD, Texas -- The 400th store in the Trader Joe’s arsenal will open Friday in Rollingwood -- and its cult-following is sure to fill the grocery store’s doors.
Work began two months ago at the store, located at 2805 Bee Caves Rd, and in that short time General Manager Chris Franklin says he’s fallen in love with Austin.
Franklin moved to Austin from Northville, Michigan. He’s been with the company for 10 years. His Trader Joe’s title of “captain” is equivalent to that of a general manager.
“I absolutely love it. It’s been a great move so far,” Franklin said. He says the things that stick out to him most about Austin are “outstanding food, and really, just generally welcoming people all around.”
The Rollingwood store is set to open on Friday at 8:00 a.m., with a very distinct culture and feel to how they operate, including bells at each checkout lane.
“You know the bells that’s actually part of our culture, it’s one of the ways we communicate throughout the sales floor, so two bells for instance, what you just heard, means somebody up front needs some assistance,” Franklin said.
The "Trader" in Trader Joe’s refers to the way the company purchases products from around the globe. Store employees are called “crew members,” wearing Hawaiian-themed shirts. The company says they consider themselves “traders on the culinary high seas.”
Trader Joe's carries domestic and imported foods and beverages including fresh baked artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees, international frozen entrées, 100 percent juices, fresh crop nuts, deli items, and vitamins and supplements, as well as the basics, like milk and eggs -- at low prices.
“I think the prices will be one thing that people will be pleasantly surprised by. For us it’s more about the overall value. We like to think it’s that combination at the intersection of price and quality. So when people come in they can find the basics at low honest, everyday low prices. They’re also gonna come in and find interesting things that they haven’t seen before,” Franklin said.
Inside the new store, finishing touches are hurriedly taking shape. Customers who aren’t familiar with the grocery chain will find Trader Joe’s signature festive décor, which mixes cedar covered walls, Hawaiian-inspired elements, and some Austin flare. Throughout the grocery store, there are several hand-painted murals that pay homage to the area including Zilker Park, the Pennybacker Bridge, Barton Springs Pool, and Austin Nature and Science Center.
“We wanted to highlight some of the key landmarks in the area here. It’s a group effort here among crew members at Trader Joe’s, and everything that we do here is done by hand. So, they’ve come up with the artwork along the murals on the top. We also do everything down to the shelf signs which describe all the products, that are made by hand here,” Franklin said.
“I’ve been here about two months. So far everybody’s been so welcoming -- from the city, to the neighbors here in the community, it’s been a very welcoming experience so far,” Franklin said. “We’ve found that there’s so many foodies. So we’re just really excited to be a part of this neighborhood."
Austin is also the corporate headquarters for Whole Foods. When Franklin was asked about how his store compares to theirs he said, “Well really, we just think of ourselves as another shopping option for our customers. So, we’re adding to the grocery landscape.”
Franklin says about 80 percent of the items they sell at Trader Joe’s are under their private label; that’s roughly about 3,000 items.
“So that means it’s going to be free of the artificial colors, flavors, preservatives; also going to be free of GMO’s and no MSG as well.” The Trader José's private labels include salsas, Trader Ming’s fried rice, Trader Giotto’s marinara sauces, and many specially purchased items.
The company tells KVUE News they have “everyday prices,” which means they don’t have sales. Their prices change only when their costs change.
“With Trader Joe’s we do have a lot of loyal fans in different parts of the country, so we can’t predict the future. We don’t know what will happen 'til opening day, but I can tell you we’ll be ready for anything,” Franklin said. “I do hope that the customers that come into our store find some wonderful products, and I think that they’re going to find some great people working our store who are generally excited to help them.”
Because Trader Joe’s is a privately held company they don’t discuss profitability or any financial information. However, the company does see potential in Austin.
Franklin said a new location is expected to open at the site of the former Seaholm Power Plant renovation. A company spokesperson on Wednesday said a third location is planned in the Arboretum area.
“We’re so excited to be here and can’t wait for Friday,” Franklin said.
Store hours at the Rollingwood location will be from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., seven days a week.
RAW VIDEO: Chris Franklin with Trader Joe's Rollingwood, Texas