Miami-Dade County

Miami foodies eagerly await Trader Joe’s in Pinecrest

Trader Joe’s grocery store’s whimsical ambiance charmed Kimberly Kurzweilt when she visited one in Los Angeles. Like a child in a candy store, she was attracted to the artisan cheese section, the “inexpensive wine,” and “the variety.” Now she can’t wait to have one close to home in Pinecrest.

If it all goes as planned, the new Trader Joe’s in Pinecrest will be swarming with employees wearing off-beat Hawaiian shirts sometime this year. Known for its specialty and organic foods at prices below those of other specialty grocers, Trader Joe’s has local foodies awaiting an opening date with cultish anticipation.

“The prices are always great,” Kurzweilt said. “The ambience is funky, ‘hippi-ish’ and retro in a good way.”

The California grocery chain is working with local officials to prepare for an opening this year at 9205 S. Dixie Hwy. Construction should begin early this year. There are no plans to demolish the 13,800 square feet building that used to house a Borders bookstore, instead it will be remodeled, Pinecrest Planning Director Stephen Olmsted said.

“They submitted site plans in December and we already reviewed them,” Olmsted said. “Once the drawings are approved and building permits are issued construction will begin. I don’t anticipate any problems in the permitting process. It should be fairly soon.”

Jeannette Golindano can’t wait. When she moved to Miami in August from Charlotte, N.C., she missed the store, so she began to drive to the Trader Joe’s in Naples once a month to do her grocery shopping.

“It was during a friendly conversation with the cashier that we were told about Trader Joe’s opening in Miami in 2013,” Golindano said. “I can’t explain to you with words how we reacted to the news.”

Golindano began a petition on Facebook to get a Trader Joe’s in Miami. One of the Facebook fan pages she set up has more than 1,000 followers. Besides Naples, the chain also has stores in Gainesville and Sarasota, which opened last year, and another is planned for Tallahassee.

Fans usually flood in on opening day. The Naples Daily News reported that hours before the store’s opening last February, hundreds waited in a line that snaked around the entire back of the shopping center. Some people traveled from other cities and stood in line as early as 5:30 a.m.

Pinecrest officials believe parking won’t be an issue. The city requires the store to provide at least 56 parking spaces – and the store is planning to have 89, Olmsted said.

The store in Pinecrest is projected to generate about 70 jobs. The management team will come from existing stores around the country. As soon as the team is set, they will be hiring for “crew positions” to run registers, stock shelves, merchandise products, and chat with customers. The “Now Hiring” banner or sign will be placed outside of the store about one to two months before it opens.

According to the company website, the store will also have a food donation program coordinator. In 2010, Trader Joe’s donated more than 25 million pounds of food – that’s equal to almost 656 truckloads of food or 20 million meals, the company claims.

Benjamin Gutierrez, an architect who enjoys cooking for his family of five in Pinecrest, said he is looking forward to the opening. He said every one in the store in New York’s Upper West Side “was always friendly” and willing to offer samples of the food.

“They have a nice culture,” Gutierrez said. “I’m looking forward to getting their all-natural house-brand items.”

The store brand, which started with granola in 1972, now has at least 3,500 different products that rotate in stores around the country. Some of them include items like chocolate covered sea salt butterscotch caramels, sweet potatoes tots and organic mango lemonade. It is not sold online.

Margarita Rodriguez lives in Kendall and said she shops at Sedano’s Super Market in West Kendall, and Whole Foods and Publix in Pinecrest. Now she is looking forward to Trader Joe’s. She said she “was obsessed” with Trader Joe’s when she lived with her sister in California.

“It’s like affordable gourmet,” Rodriguez said. “I haven’t bought into organic and natural food being completely safe. Every now and then you hear recalls here and recalls there over salmonella and listeria. For me is just about the price.”

Trader Joe’s recalled at least six products last year including their frozen Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice entrée, after reports of a listeria contamination risk.

Across the street from the Pinecrest location, near the Dadeland South Metrorail Station is Publix, 9105 S. Dadeland Blvd., and about five minutes south on Dixie Highway is Whole Foods, 11701 S. Dixie Hwy.

A Publix spokeswoman said the grocery chain is competitive with natural and organic foods.

“Publix GreenWise Market is our private label brand of natural and organic products that can be found in all of our stores,” Publix Super Market’s Kim Reynolds said. “In addition, we carry many national natural and organic brands that are integrated throughout the store.”

Rodriguez buys some of these products at Publix. Her husband Manuel said he didn’t realize his wife shopped at so many different places.

“We like to save,” he said in Spanish. “But I don’t understand what the big deal is with this Trader Juan’s place.”

She rolled her eyes and corrected him on the name of the brand, which was born in 1967.

“It’s for people who are educated on the culinary world. Where else can people get edamame rangoons, scallops wrapped in bacon and chicken parmesan lollipops,” Rodriguez said. “Miami needed one like yesterday.”

Related stories from Miami Herald