Eat at Joe’s

More than 6,500 people signed on to the “Bring Trader Joe’s to Asheville” Facebook page that launched in 2009. It’s unclear how much influence the group had on Trader Joe’s decision to come to Asheville, but now the store is ready to open its doors this week.

Asheville finally will have an outlet for “Two Buck Chuck” (Charles Shaw wine) and other idiosyncratic Trader Joe’s products on Friday, Sept. 27, at 8 a.m., when the store hosts a grand opening that will feature live music, giveaways, food demonstrations and a “ceremonial lei cutting to welcome new customers.”

The grocery store has a reputation for attracting shoppers from miles around. It’s not a typical supermarket; rather, its shelves feature mostly proprietary-label frozen and prepackaged items. “About 80 percent of our product is under the Trader Joe’s label,” says Alison Mochizuici, a public relations representative of the California-based company.

Because the inventory includes unusual products, such as chili-spiced dried mango, Trader Joe’s offers a rather permissive sampling policy. By customer request, store associates will open any product for customers to taste. And if you buy something and don’t like it, you can return it. “Take it home; try it; bring it back If you don’t like it,” Mochizuici says. “It’s an adventure to shop with us.”

Trader Joe’s opens on the heels of the adjacent Harris Teeter, which launched earlier this month.

Both stores sit on Merrimon Avenue, and neighborhood residents and commuters have raised concerns about traffic problems throughout the area, both at City Council meetings and through online forums, such as the Five Points Neighborhood Association Yahoo group and Listserv.

City traffic engineer Jeff Moore says he doesn't expect the new stores to create traffic delays on Merrimon, although they could affect Chestnut Street, which runs between the stores. His office hasn't received any complaints, he says. "We've been watching it for a traffic perspective, and it seems to be flowing pretty well," he says, adding that he hasn't observed the area at peak times, 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. “At peak times, there could be delays on the side streets."

Once the traffic "stabilizes" in about six months, the city could conduct a traffic study, Moore says.

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