This city loves its Trader Joe’s.
News that the store is opening its new location at Friant Road and Fresno Street on Feb. 16 has people in north Fresno rejoicing. And news that it’s closing its Blackstone location Feb. 15 has people in central Fresno in mourning.
But the one thing they have in common – along with customers nationwide – is a passion that borders on the unusual for a retailer and its products.
Customers are quick to tell you their favorite prepackaged foods, even the oddball ones like bacon jam or dill pickle-flavored popcorn.
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With that sentiment in mind, here are 10 quirky things to know about Trader Joe’s.
1. The frozen Mandarin orange chicken is the store’s most popular product. It won the company’s customer choice awards. Runners up: Everything But The Bagel seasoning, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, cookie butter spread and Unexpected Cheddar, an aged cheddar with hints of Parmesan.
2. Trader Joe’s decided not to put a PA system in its stores. Instead, it uses bells. What they mean: one ding of the bell means they need to open another register. Two dings mean there’s a question that needs to be answered and three means a manager is needed.
3. You can sample anything at Trader Joe’s. Ask an employee and they will open the package for you.
4. The next time you shop at Trader Joe’s, chances are at least one person in the store is silently singing the Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby.”
Why? Because this guy on Twitter discovered that many of Trader Joe’s products have five syllable names and can be sung to the tune of “Eleanor Rigby.” Like: “Maple leaf cookies. Shelled edamame. Three seed beet crackers.”
Now try not singing it to yourself next time you’re in the store.
5. Website Trader’s Table features recipes using all Trader Joe’s ingredients. It’s run by a Fresno-area woman. She doesn’t want us to use her name, but she cooks up some tasty things. She’s not paid by the company, but does this as a hobby in addition to her day job.
You can also catch her on Pinterest, where you’ll find everything from a whiskey-Clementine cocktail to a Brussels sprout Caesar salad.
6. The Trader Joe’s brand includes several named after the type of cuisine. So there’s a Trader Ming’s brand, Trader Jacques, Trader Jose and Trader Giotto.
7. There’s a good chance that some food sold under the Trader Joe’s brand comes from right here the central San Joaquin Valley.
The company never identifies who makes its food. It likely doesn’t want to cheapen its brand by having customers find out some of its foods are made by a big brand like, say, PepsiCo., or other global corporations.
The Valley has a lot of processors and manufacturers that make food sold under other brand names. Some even have legal contracts preventing them from saying for whom they’re making food.
But Eater, an online dining guide, did a big investigation of Trader Joe’s brand, filing public records requests for federal recalls and alerts. The documents showed who was producing their food.
Wonderful Pistachios sound familiar? We haven’t confirmed it ourselves, but Eater says that Wonderful supplies Trader Joe’s with its bagged pistachios. The Kern County-based company has several nut-processing plants in the area, including one in Firebaugh.
8. Trader Joe’s has a pretty friendly return policy. If you opened something and you didn’t like it, you can bring it back to the store
9. The first Trader Joe’s branded product was granola in 1972.
10. The stores stopped selling pantyhose in 1978.