PORTLAND — Trader Joe’s fans in Maine finally got their wish this morning when the popular grocery store chain opened a new location on Marginal Way.

By mid-morning, the crowds were causing major traffic backups on Marginal Way.

Customers started lining up well before 7 a.m. to get into the store, which opened at 8 with a lei cutting, clapping and cheering.

Marsha Marley of Portland arrived at the new store at 6 a.m. with hot chocolate and a book. She said she was there for bargains, and “to get a look at the store.”

By the time Luke Hitchcock of Portland arrived at 7:15, there were still plenty of spaces in the parking lot. Hitchock started shopping at Trader Joe’s 15 years ago, when she visited her daughter in Philadelphia. In recent years she has traveled to the Cambridge, Mass., store  to stock up.

“I don’t even know if I’ll buy today,” she said. “I just wanted to check the layout. I think I’ll probably start coming when there’s fewer people. I just thought it would be fun to see what they offer compared to Cambridge.”


Dan Furst of Scarborough, who runs a designated driver service, had just gotten off work and “would normally be asleep by now.”

Furst is from California and said he missed shopping at Trader Joe’s since moving to Portland about 10 years ago. He likes the store’s gourmet microwave meals and other products that are not part of his normal supermarket routine.

“It’s the variety of stuff they have here,” he said, explaining the store’s appeal. “They have things that the normal supermarket wouldn’t have.”

Other customers came from as far away as Richmond and Woolwich.

As the clock ticked down to opening time, the line grew longer. By 7:40 a.m., about 85 people were standing out in the cold, and cars were starting to circle the parking lot, looking for spaces. By a few minutes before 8, the line of people curved around the parking lot and had grown to perhaps 200 or 300. People were parking at least a couple of blocks away and walking to the store.

A Trader Joe’s employee emerged from the store carrying a tray of pastries for the crowd. “Good morning, Portland!” he yelled. “We’ve got cookies, pastries, muffins, scones.”


Trader Joe’s employees, known as “crew members,” typically sport Hawaiian shirts. The Maine store’s employees wore blue shirts featuring Maine’s version of aloha – lobsters, lighthouses, and other iconic symbols of the state.

As customers entered the store, crew members placed leis over their heads and passed out free shopping bags with the Trader Joe’s logo.

Not everyone was excited about Trader Joe’s moving in. Wells Staley-Mays and Rachel Talbot Ross of the local chapter of the NAACP and Dawud  Ummah of the Center for African Heritage carried signs and passed out flyers asking the grocery chain to sign a “fair food agreement” that would pay farm workers more for the tomatoes they pick in Florida.

Staley-Mays said they were there “to leaflet and inform the public that Trader Joe’s is the only major food chain which has refused to sign a contract with the Immokolee Florida farm workers who are largely Hispanic, Haitian and Mayan Indian.”

“They’re holding out over 1 cent an hour to people who make really low wages,” he said. “We’re not asking for a boycott. We just want people to know.”

Alison Mochizuki, a Trader Joe’s spokeswoman responded: ” At Trader Joe’s, we work with reputable suppliers that have a strong record of providing safe and healthy work environments, and we will continue to make certain that our vendors are meeting if not exceeding government standards throughout all aspects of their businesses.”








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