There are many kinds of surprises, and one type is that caused by Tunnel Vision, a common ailment with New Yorkers. The perennial joke that Village residents never go north of 14th Street is not an exaggeration, only a New York City variant - people who don't even look past their neighborhood.
We typically see ourselves as inventors, or at least very early adopters, but certainly not the last to know. There are a few exceptions - the things we don't want or the things we just can't have due to space limitations. Big box stores like Home Depot were very late comers here, and there is no Wal-Mart in New York City. Large behemoth retailers have had to scale down their operations, shoehorning and tailor fitting them to the biggest spaces they could find.
A California resident told me about the opening of Trader Joe's first store in New York City, on 14th Street in Manhattan, on March 17, 2006. I was informed that the place had a cult following and was known for their sharp pricing, good quality, and a fan base for their house brand (80% of Trader Joe's product line is their own brand). The product line is very green conscious, with health oriented foods, including gourmet foods, organic foods, vegetarian items, and an extensive line of frozen and imported foods.
I assumed that this new opening was a case where New York City was privileged to get a specialty shop that had a location or two elsewhere on the West coast. However, I learned today of the mammoth scale of this retailing operation with 344 stores nationwide.
New York City's first location at 142 East 14th Street opened to much fanfare, with long lines to enter. Recently however, a new location opened at 20th Street and 6th Avenue (seen in the photos), with a much roomier feel and large aisles. Shopping here is an adventure, particularly for Manhattanites where food shopping in a large space is such an anomaly. Customers push shopping carts around like their suburban brethren.
So, if a New Yorker brags to you about the wonderment that is Trader Joe's, as if it were a city creation, humor them and let them believe it. Why spoil the fun and tell us the truth - that actually we are the last to know? :)
About the Company: Trader Joe's was started in 1958 by Joe Coulombe as the Pronto Market chain in the Los Angeles area. The South Seas motif was inspired while Joe was vacationing in the Caribbean, and the first shop with the Trader Joe's name opened in 1967 in Pasadena, California. The company expanded, and in 1979, it was purchased by the late Theo Albrecht, one of two brothers behind the German supermarket chain, Aldi. The Aldi chain is comprised of two separate businesses, Aldi Nord (owned by Karl Albrecht) and Aldi Sud (owned by Theo Albrecht). Aldi Nord has stores worldwide, including 1000 locations in the USA. However, Trader Joe's is owned by Aldi Sud, so there is no business connection between the Aldi stores in the US and Trader Joe's.