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Fans flock to Trader Joe's for Fort Worth opening

By Bill Hanna -

June 15, 2012 10:36 PM

FORT WORTH -- Charles Lasseter was one of those Trader Joe die-hards who occasionally sent an e-mail to corporate officials urging them to open a store in Texas.

Lasseter, who lives in east Fort Worth near the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area, had hoped the specialty grocer would open a store in the Mid-Cities but was thrilled to see one of the first two Trader Joe's in Texas open in Fort Worth on Friday. The other opened simultaneously in The Woodlands, north of Houston.

"To tell you the truth, I would have driven to Dallas if that's where their first store opened, but I'm happy it was in Fort Worth instead," Lasseter said.

His only quibble was that his favorite coffee, Trader Joe's Dark Sumatra, wasn't in stock. But it's coming.

Like many other first-day visitors to Trader Joe's, Lasseter is a California transplant who said the main thing he missed about the West Coast was Trader Joe's.

"The closest stores were in Santa Fe and St. Louis, but I couldn't understand why they weren't here," said Ricki Klos, a former Bay Area resident who lives just down the street from the Hulen Street store.

Klos thought briefly about camping out but eventually decided to show up with her 6-year-old daughter, Tilly, at 5:30 a.m.

Wearing a Hawaiian shirt just like the Trader Joe's employees, Klos was second in line. She raced through the store, bought cans of smoked trout and was the first to check out. The store made a copy of her receipt and said they would frame it.

Trader Joe's is different from Whole Foods or Central Market, Klos said.

"You can trust them and the price is right. Pretty much everything is affordable," she said.

Sisters Demesia Razo and Heidi Schmidt of North Richland Hills said they survived on Trader Joe's care packages from friends and relatives back in California after Razo moved to Texas. Their grocery cart was packed with favorites like Mochi ice cream and frozen mahi-mahi burger patties, which they swear by.

"You've got to try them, they're great," Schmidt said.

One of the few customers making their first visit to a Trader Joe's was Patrick Zamarripa of Fort Worth, who wasn't aware of the chain until he heard about it on the news. So before he went to work Friday, Zamarripa dropped by and bought some of the store's famed Charles Shaw house wine, aka "Two-Buck Chuck." It still costs $1.99 in California, but in Texas and many other states it's $2.99.

"I'll try it tonight after I get off work at midnight," Zamarripa said. Even with the crowds, the day went smoothly, said Doug Campbell, the Fort Worth store's captain, as its managers are known.

"It's a mixed crowd. Some have come in asking for their favorite things, while others have been asking where to find things," Campbell said. "But it's been a patient crowd. We haven't had many complaints about the wait to check out."

Trader Joe's, a privately held company, doesn't disclose sales figures and wouldn't say what it expected in first-day sales at the Fort Worth and The Woodlands stores.

The company says it will open five more stores in Texas this year, including one in Plano in September.

A Dallas store is set for Lower Greenville in early 2013, but no other Tarrant County stores have been announced.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna