More than 3,000 people shopped and gawked at the new Trader Joe's in Greenwood Village on Feb. 14, the store's first day in operation.
Rhonda MacDonald made the drive from Castle Rock to check out the new store.
“We moved here from San Jose (California) a couple of years ago and the thing I missed most, except for maybe the ocean, was Trader Joe's,” she said. “None of the other grocery stores around here are quite like them.”
Centennial resident and Colorado native Tim Hunter and his daughter Julie spent more than three hours — and several hundred dollars — shopping at the new store on Feb. 14.
“I'd heard a lot about Trader Joe's but had never been to one until today,” said Hunter. “It's cool. I like the vibe here. And the prices are really good, especially on things like nuts and dried fruit. We'll be back.”
Store manager Dan Guarjardo, whose business card lists his job title as “captain,” said his staff “wasn't sure what to expect” on opening day.
“We're prepared for a brisk turnout but honestly, I don't know how many people will show up,” Guarjardo said. “Hopefully, we're ready for everything and everybody.”
Three hours after the doors opened, crowd control was the biggest challenge. The parking lot was full and checkout lines snaked the length of the store as employees, dressed in red T-shirts, answered questions about food items and directed customers pushing overflowing shopping carts to available check stands.
The Polynesian-themed, 10,000-square-foot store, located in the Cherry Hills Marketplace on South University Boulevard at East Orchard Road, features more than a dozen murals of area landmarks, including Fiddler's Green Amphitheater, the High Line Canal Trail and Dinosaur Park.
The California-based company, which started in 1958 as Pronto Markets and changed its name to Trader Joe's in 1967, has stores in nine states.
The company, which opened its first Colorado outlets on Valentine's Day, has a cult following, fueled in part by its selection of low-cost, private label products.
But south metro-area wine aficionados who visited the Greenwood Village Trader Joe's were disappointed: Only the Denver store (at 8th Ave. and Colorado Blvd.) has a liquor license and sells the company's popular “two-buck Chuck” wine.
“Bummer,” said customer Phil Stevens of Highlands Ranch, when informed by a store employee there was no wine at the Greenwood Village Trader Joe's. “If I have to drive all the way in to Denver for cheap wine, I'm going to buy a case or two. Not just a few bottles.”