I’m not really that big on advent calendars. Counting down the days of Christmas was always an activity I actively engaged in as a child; however, my family never felt the need to employ the use of a cardboard calendar filled with chocolate. Ask any of us on any given December day how long until Christmas and we could probably tell you exactly how many hours until we anticipate Santa dropping down the chimney — it must be in the genes.
This year, when my mother gave me an advent calendar in late November to take home to my apartment, I was skeptical but excited. I could get behind a new tradition, especially one that involved chocolate from Trader Joe’s. I tore open the first little box on the first day of December and popped the chocolate in my mouth. Stale. I’d heard that advent calendars do not traditionally house the freshest of chocolates, but I assumed one coming from Trader Joe’s would be tasty. I was shocked.
But that’s just how I feel about TJ’s. Except for a very strange hefeweizen I once purchased there, everything I’ve ever brought home has been superior in taste and price. When I moved to Boston after college, my favorite thing about my new neighborhood? A TJ’s within walking distance of my apartment. High quality products at lower prices than you’ll find at the big grocery stores.
That’s why I’m thrilled about the possibility of a Trader Joe’s coming to downtown Ventura. Although the people of Ventura have shown an almost reflexive distrust of chain stores that would like to swoop into Main Street, Trader Joe’s is a different sort of chain.
When Joe Coulombe opened the very first TJ’s in 1967 in Pasadena, his goal was to create a grocery store that catered to the “overeducated and underpaid.” He wanted to provide interesting, good food and wine for people who were living on restricted budgets. And I’d say he succeeded.
I interviewed Joe once for an article. He told me that on the day that first store opened, he just wasn’t sure that his idea would pan out. A grocery store where things were inexpensive but good; where everyone from the managers to the checkers were paid a fair wage; where people who bagged groceries might one day end up running things on the corporate side — it didn’t necessarily come across as a brilliant business model.
The point? There is value in keeping Main Street from becoming a long row of Banana Republics and Gaps, in considering what types of non-local businesses we want to keep out, but there is also value in thinking long and hard about the type of businesses we want to attract. Trader Joe’s seems like a good start.
And, on a more selfish note — I’d just like to have a place within a two-mile radius of my apartment where I can buy a cheap wedge of brie.