South Tampa, FL -- Anticipation was growing with just a few hours until the new Trader Joe's store in South Tampa would open its doors. And based-upon previous store openings, it's likely to be a real foodie favorite.
10 News got a sneak peek inside and we're sharing it with you!
"You gotta kinda take a minute and take it all in," advises Aimee Pawelek, "captain" of the new Trader Joe's.
Pawelek was kind enough to give us a tour of the new store before it turns into a mob scene.
The South Tampa location was designed and built from the ground up. Eleven-thousand square feet, packed with more than 3,000 items.
"We're a neighborhood grocery store," says Pawelek. "We really want to make sure that our customers are here to have a good time. We like to have fun in the store."
From a Gasparilla-themed tasting area to murals and team logos reflecting the Bay area, the store's motif is unique to this location.
"This is not just a Trader Joe's, it's the Tampa Trader Joe's," said Pawelek.
But what lines the shelves is what all Trader Joe's are known for.
Customer favorites fill refrigerated bins such as Mandarin Orange Chicken, cookie butter, and, of course, Two-Buck Chuck wine (which is closer to three bucks these days at $2.99).
But the point is, about 80% of what you'll find here is Trader Joe's own brand.
"Anything under our label is free from artificial flavors, preservatives, and there's no synthetic colors and no GMO's," said Pawelek.
The food store chain does not carry some household staples. For example, if you need aluminum foil you'll have to pick it up elsewhere. But they do carry fresh dairy, produce, and meats as well as a seemingly endless selection of frozen veggies, pizzas, ice cream and ready-to-eat entrees that bear the Trader Joe's name.
"You're not gonna see a lot of national brands at our store," says Pawelek.
And by eliminating the middle man, products are often competitively priced if not cheaper.
The goal, Pawelek says, is to make Trader Joe's a neighborhood grocer. And based upon their fiercely loyal following, it's a concept they pull off exceedingly well.
You'll also see tasting stations inside the store, but not as many as some other places. The reason? If you want to try something Pawelek says they'll just open it for you with no obligation. And if you buy something and it ends up you don't like it, she says you can bring it back for a full refund.
Be warned, traffic for the Friday grand opening and through this weekend is expected to be crazy.
The store has only 70 assigned parking spaces, so the Tampa police department plans to have its special events task force on-hand to provide traffic relief (if that's any indication of what to expect).
Doors open at 8 a.m.