After reading about others' gushing over Trader Joe (TJ), especially about how it was so much better than Whole Foods (WH), I had to go check the place out this weekend. Perhaps with was because my expectations were raised too high but I don't see what the fuss is about. I'll try to go down each aisle in my mind's eye and comment and make comparisons.
1. Floral-- not even a fair fight, Whole Foods wins, at least the ones in Durham and Chapel Hill do.
2. Bakery-- TJ has excellent bread selection but I' give the quality nod to Weaver Street (WS), and overall I have to give the nod to WS or WF because the TJ's pastry selection is lame and just as expensive.
3. Cheese-- TJ wins here, very good selection and some excellent bargains like fontina for $3.99/lb.
4. Veggies/produce-- TJ is rather limited, especially organic stuff. Where's the produce? WF and WS wins easily.
6. Dairy/eggs/etc.-- Milk costs a little less at TJ but that's about the only difference I noticed. Only brand of sour cream they had was Cabot.
5. Nuts/Jellies/ Juices, etc.-- TJ's has some interesting choices, their angle seems to be foods of the world, but their prices aren't that much better than WF.
6. Coffees/ teas-- TJ wins here. I'd say their coffee is a good 30-40% cheaper. Can't comment on quality until I try it but Tanzanian peaberry at $6.99 a pound? Wow!
7. Meats/seafood-- WF wins the meat dept.easily because it has a much wider selection and butchers. TJ win the seafood, there are some great deals here like mahi at $4.99/ lb or swordfish at $6.39/lb.
8. Wine/beer-- Not a wine guy so I won't comment but WF and especially WS have much better beer departments.
So in short, TJ has some great deals here and there and lots of exotic temptations, especially in the frozen foods section, but their lack of a good veg, produce, and pastries, limited organic choices, and no conveyer belts on cash registers leave much to be desired. My trip to Cary made me realize how spoiled we are in Chapel Hill with WF, WS, Southern Season, and even Earth Fare to choose from.