Sunday, September 28, 2008

Notes from the weekend - Trader Joe's edition

Anyone who has been near me in the past four years knows how excited I am to have a Trader Joe's in Richmond. Many of us still think they should have landed in the city-proper, rather than putting roots in Short Pump*. Still, I have to admit that it's just nice having TJ's (and Whole Foods) in this city finally.

Frankly, it's shocking that it took so long for these stores to arrive. Richmond has a fairly cosmopolitan population and a diverse business community. There is a fair amount of old money running around and a strong, young creative class. But the city also has one of the strongest urban inferiority complexes I've seen. Considering all the places I've lived, this is not an insignificant observation. That complex jives well with a certain provinciality—civic structures and the corporate and governmental bodies are driven by a good-old-boy mentality that is further driven by a sense that only home-grown solutions work.

For this reason, I think, our local grocery chain was able to fend off inroads by companies that would hurt its business. Why, then, am I ecstatic about patronizing our recently-arrived chains? Because I do not feel that the local grocers really cater to me in the same way that TJ's or Whole Foods does.

That said... We finally have a Trader Joe's! In short order—shorter order than a similar trip to Kroger or Ukrops might take—I had satisfied most of what we needed, and thrown in a few extras besides. We have a nicely stocked pantry for barely more than I might have spent at either of the other stores, and I can feed Banana snacks and meals that are generally filled with wholesome ingredients. Is the stuff entirely organic? No, but that's not the point. The point is that I do my best to keep high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners and flavors out of her diet, and I do my best to make sure that the food we eat is processed as little as possible. And between TJ's (and Whole Foods) I can make that happen without having to read every label and worry about the sourcing of every product.

I do, however, need to make sure that I keep us within our budget. It would be so easy to slip...

*For those who do not live here, Short Pump used to be farmland, about eleven miles west of the city limits. The arrival of a "lifestyle" mall and many big box stores transformed it about five years ago, and it has been a hub of suburban retail sprawl ever since. Traffic is hell, and fallow soil has been replaced by a soul-less commercial crossroads.