There’s now a Trader Joe’s in Manhattan with enough room in its aisles to stretch both of your arms.
Seriously — it’s big. Like, it’s biggest-on-the-East-Coast big. Like, 30,000-square-feet-in-New-York big.
The grocery store is beautiful, affordable and adored — try and name three chains Manhattanites like more than Trader Joe’s — but some customers on opening day today were wary of the potential affect the chain will have on smaller, lesser-known stores in the area. The location at 400 Grand Street— part of the Essex Crossing development, which also brought a Target to the neighborhood— resides on the same stretch as several small, often more expensive storefronts.
This new addition to the street could bring the smaller guys down and also impact the rent of non-related businesses like Silverella, a local art and jewelry supplier, its owner Rebekah Harris said.
She checked out the grand opening Friday afternoon during lunch, and “hated that [she] loved it.”
Harris doesn’t have a grudge against Trader Joe’s, she just has a suspicion that it’s the reason her store’s landlord let her know the same day as the opening that her rent will be going up $1,000 a month.
She thinks the upped rent will stomp on local vendors, and perhaps lead to a street barren of non-chains.
Though, she admits, “they had to do something with this corner” after the Pathmark grocery store closed, “and now it’s packed with people.”
Even with Harris’ hesitancy to like the shop, she was still there opening day.
As was Gena Zaiderman, who has been looking forward to the store’s opening day for months, but admitted that she’s also worried of the local impact it could have. Zaiderman felt “joy and relief” that the store going into the Grand Street location wasn’t overpriced, but cautioned that she didn’t “wanna kill the mom-and-pop shops.”
But Andrew Katz, one of the principles of the Prusik Group, the development arm of the Essex Crossing project, said the Trader Joe’s is all about community — after all, it’s a grocery store. And the store leader (captain) Renee Leibowitz, agreed.“Trader Joe’s core value is a national chain with neighborhood stores,” she explained. Leibowitz said about 90 percent of the new location’s staff (of more than 100 people) live in the neighborhood, and some of them painted the murals found throughout the store.
Katz said Prusik Group doesn’t have any estimates on what exactly the socioeconomic impact in the area could be, but he assured it’d be “nothing but great.”
“Trader Joe’s basically speaks for everyone, the goods are high quality and extremely good value,” he said. “No one feels excluded or that they cannot afford to shop there.”
It seemed that inclusive on day one, employees said the line was down the block upon the store’s opening, which was officialized with the cutting of a lei. Families made up most of the customers, and it was a diverse bunch grabbing their goods and going.
In truth, nobody will really know the impact until it happens, but for now, Zaiderman’s husband Dan Boruchowitz said, “The positives outweigh the negatives.” These positives for the family include the Scandinavian Swimmer gummy candies their three-year-old twins Olivia and Jack were munching on — and the fresh fruit. That matters, too.