Trader Joe's opens in Sarasota with huge turnout

SARASOTA -- Thousands from the Manatee and Sarasota counties packed the aisles of Trader Joe's during its grand opening Friday, which drew an estimated 3,000 shoppers.

The 11,200-square-foot at 4101 S. Tamiami Trail is the second Florida store for the California-based company and its second store location in Florida.

The grocery chain also has a store in Naples.

On Friday, shoppers arrived at the store as early as 5 a.m. Trader Joe's is known for its organic and environment-friendly products at low prices. The company also purchases from manufacturers directly rather than through distributors and will often alter a products artificial ingredients and sell it under its own label at a lower cost.

The store chain offers more than 1,000 items under the Trader Joe's private label, which include vitamins, salsas and sauces, and sells domestic, as well as international goods.

The opening ceremony included an appearance from Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell and a performance by the Sarasota High School jazz band.

"It's very exciting that it's here," said Paula Lohnes, who drove 40 minutes from Bradenton with her family to shop. "They have high quality items at low prices."

Checkout lanes stretched into food aisles and traffic officers were needed to direct hundreds of motorists filling the parking lot.

"We have great customers that are die hard Trader Joe's fans," said Linda Moffa, store manager.

"We were surprised to see the crowd," Lohnes said.

The store will be open from 8 a.m.- to 9 p.m. daily.

More than 1,500 applications were received at the store and 80 percent of the employment staff were hired from the Manatee and Sarasota area, Moffa said. Trader Joe's would disclose the total number of staff hired at the store.

"We have great prices and that's what keep them," Moffa said.

"They can believe in our product. There's no artificial coloring, no preservatives and they're natural and they're at really low, everyday prices."

There are 370 Trader Joe's in 34 states. The company's third location will be in Gainesville.

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams