Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s

COVID-19 Roundup: Longshore Golf Course; Paul Newman; Jon Gailmor; Food, Art, And More

1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Parks & Recreation director Jen Fava confirm that the Longshore golf course fairways, rough and cart paths are open to walkers. The greens are not open, and of course the course is closed to play.

Oh, yeah: It’s closed to dogs too.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)


Can’t get to the Westport Country Playhouse? Missing Paul Newman?

In 2002, our town’s hero appeared on stage — as the stage manager — in Thornton Wilder’s classic “Our Town.”

It was one of the most memorable performances on that venerable stage. And now you can watch it all, through the magic of YouTube. Click below — and thank your lucky “stars.”


Speaking of stars, Jon Gailmor shined brightly — and sang beautifully — even before graduating from Staples High School in 1966.

Decades later, “Peaceable Kingdom” — his Polydor album with classmate Rob Carlson — remains one of my favorites ever. (You’ve got time on your hands. Click here and here for 2 of the greatest tracks.)

Gailmor then moved to Vermont. He runs music-writing workshops in schools, writes and performs all over, and has been named an official “state treasure.”

Ever the social commentator, he’s taken his guitar and pen to the coronavirus. “What We Have Found” (“This is 2020 from a distance”) is all too true, and very poignant.

There’s not a lot to enjoy about COVID-19. This, though, is one of them:


They’re located just a few yards over the border, in Southport. So Garelick & Herbs did not make the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s great list of markets open for takeout and delivery.

However, their many local customers will be glad to know that G&H offers curbside pick up and home delivery, via phone (203-254-3727) or online (click here).


Trader Joe’s is limiting the number of customers in the store at a time. Mornings are the most crowded, but the line moves quickly. This was the scene this morning, as shoppers lined up (properly socially distanced) beyond Jersey Mike’s.

(Photo/Tom Cook)

At 12:30 there was no line. When I left 15 minutes later, 2 people waited outside.


Reader Adam Murphy writes about this generous act: “When the owner of The Simple Greek in Norwalk (its really close to Westport!) found out that a recent catering order was for the Gillespie Center, he voluntarily doubled the amount of food. ‘I want to make sure everyone has enough,’ he said. In times that must have him worrying about his business surviving, he still has generosity for others. Great food and great people!”


Westporter Steve Parton reminds readers that — with galleries closed, and self-isolating the new normal — our neighbors who make their living from art and art lessons are having a tough time.

“We would all like to make a sale if possible,” he says. “Everything must go! No reasonable offer refused!”

Check out his website — and those of any other local artists you like. As you look at your walls (what else is there to look at?!), now is the perfect time to buy new works!

“Compo Beach,” by Steven Parton

Pic Of The Day #1059

An hour or so after the Westport Public Schools announced they’re closing, Trader Joe’s looked like the day before a snowstorm. Or “The Day After.” (Photo/Armelle Pouriche)

Meanwhile, hand sanitizer is in such short supply, the Westport Library took special precautions — plenty of tape — to make sure this supply stayed in the Hub.

Going Bananas At Trader Joe’s

As panic about the coronavirus spreads, shoppers are stocking up on food. Who knows what a quarantine might bring?

At Trader Joe’s, that meant a run on bananas.

Bananas at Trader Joe's - Jaime Bairaktaris

(Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

Well, some of them anyway.

The 19-cent ones are almost all gone.

But the organic, 6-cent-more bananas are there for the picking.

Billy Senia: A Tale Of Two Talents

Among the many things that separate Trader Joe’s from other grocery stores, its relentlessly upbeat, smilingly chatty and genuinely helpful employees are at the top of any list.

Billy Senia is one of the many Trader Joe’s folks whom Westporters love. Whether dishing out samples, checking out customers or answering questions, he’s always got a smile, a kind word and a joke.

Few people know that this is only one of his gigs. Billy is also a longtime, well respected and very talented video editor, advertising writer and director. He’s traveled the world, won countless awards, and worked with clients like Michael Jackson, MC Hammer and Aretha Franklin.

And he loves both jobs: creative and culinary.

Billy Senia

Billy moved to Westport 26 years ago from Manhattan. He and his wife were paying $40,000 a year for their 2 young children to “finger paint in pretentious schools.”

He was already successful, making commercials and music videos. Working with top agencies like BBDO, McCann Erickson, Greg and J. Walter Thompson, he cut spots for clients like Bulova, Sears, Club Med and Disney.

Through relatives and colleagues, he heard that Westport was a magnet for creative people. They moved here, and he has not been disappointed.

Twenty years ago, Billy opened his own one-stop shop: Ice Pic Edit. He commuted to Chelsea, and built a home studio here. He was innovative, turning his laptop into a “Maserati” that he took everywhere.

But the advertising and video business evolved. Now everyone does everything — shooting, editing, graphics, sound. “It’s all solo,” he laments. “There’s no team.”

Billy is all about teamwork. So 4 years ago, he applied for a job at Trader Joe’s. He loved the company’s “spirit, positivism, food, giving back philosophy and focus on people.”

He thrives on making a customer’s day brighter, with a smile or quip (or extra sample). Working at the store — his main priority — gives him energy that feeds his creative side.

Not long ago, he joined forces with Dave Fiore. They’d worked together when Fiore was chief creative officer at Catapult in Westport. Their new company is called Massiv.

One of their first projects is “Union-Built Matters.” It’s a tribute to construction unions, and sounds an alarm against developers who cut corners by using cheaper labor.

Billy is a union man through and through. “My compassionate side is to help people,” he says. “This is not a sexy subject. But it’s very important.”

He and Dave are using social media, to get the word out that “union-built matters.”

Now it’s on to new projects.

And to serving up whatever samples Trader Joe’s offers today.

“May Your Dreams Be Bigger Than Trader Joe’s Parking Lot”

As much as Westporters love Trader Joe’s, we hate its parking lot.

We’re happy to buy our organic Caesar salad kit, chile spiced dried mangoes and Ethiopian peaberry coffee. We love chatting with the chatty checkout folks in their Hawaiian shirts, as foot-tapping music plays gently in the background.

We despise backing out of the of the narrow spaces, praying we don’t hit another vehicle, pedestrian or shopping cart. We loathe the Post Road light, playing bumper cars with drivers racing through the red or leaving CVS. We congratulate ourselves every time we make it home, promptly rewarding ourselves with a quart of cookie butter ice cream.

Fortunately — actually, not — ours is not the only killer Trader Joe’s parking lot. In fact, our country seems to be filled with them.

How else to explain BuzzFeed’s recent listicle: “17 Jokes About Trader Joe’s Parking Lots That You’ll 100% Relate To.”

How’s this for schadenfreude? They come from across America.

  • Oh, so you’re into BDSM? Have you ever tried to find parking at Trader Joe’s on a Saturday afternoon?
  • The Job Interview. Employer: “What was your last job?” Applicant: “I designed parking lots for Trader Joe’s.” Employer: “Get out of my office!”
  • Daughter was being annoying so I threatened to make her practice driving in the  Trader Joe’s parking lot.
  • Trader Joe’s Real Estate Agent: “How’s the parking lot?” Landlord: “Terrible.” Trader Joe’s Real Estate Agent: “We’ll take it!”

  • My car insurance doesn’t cover Trader Joe’s parking lot.
  • I don’t wear my wedding ring when I go to Trader Joe’s, because I need every motherf***er in that parking lot to believe I got nothing to lose.
  • If you didn’t have a near-death experience in a parking lot, did you even go to Trader Joe’s?
  • “Every hour the universe expands by a billion miles in all directions.” Trader Joe’s will still find a way to make sure there’s no parking.
  • May your dreams always be bigger than a Trader Joe’s parking lot.

(Click here for the full BuzzFeed piece. Hat tip: Richard Fogel)

Food Rescue US — And Trader Joe’s — Deliver

Sunday’s storm devastated parts of Westport. One house was demolished; a Staples graduate was killed by a falling tree in Fairfield.

Yet in the midst of tragedy, rays of light shined through. Nicole Straight — Fairfield County site director of Food Rescue US, the app that uses volunteer drivers to move fresh, usable food that would be thrown away by restaurants and grocers, to shelters, kitchens and pantries — tells “06880” of one such story.

At 6 p.m. Sunday she was in New York, enjoying the Pride parade. The manager of Trader Joe’s texted. Their power was out — and they did not want to waste all the food that might go bad.

Nicole created a Facebook ask. Within minutes 5 Food Rescue US volunteers said they’d help.

One of the many Food Rescue deliveries.

They delivered food to Westport’s Gillespie shelter, and the Open Door Shelter in Norwalk. It was Sunday night; they were 2 of the few agencies that were open.

Yesterday morning, the Trader Joe’s manager called again. He had still more usable food. Four more volunteers quickly brought it to several local organizations.

Christy Colasurdo was one of those food rescuers. She says, “It was sad to see Trader Joe’s empty freezers. But it was wonderful to know that all that food that would have been tossed has been used.

“The Gillespie Center and other places were thrilled with the crate of frozen organic chicken, gourmet ravioli and breakfast foods. They said Food Rescuers had made 4 stops there today.

“Trader Joe’s could have taken the easy route and dumped everything. But they have big hearts. They always turn to Food Rescue US when they have surplus.”

(Food Rescue US-Fairfield County is the beneficiary of a special fundraiser. “Pools, Patios, Pergolas, a Luxury Tasting Event” — hosted by KMS Partners at Compass — is set for 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, 5 pm to 9 pm. Several Westport properties will showcase their pools, patios or pergolas. Each features a different award-winning caterer and specially designed drinks. Click here for tickets.)

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We’re Getting 1-3 Inches Of Snow, Followed By Rain. Here’s The Scene At Trader Joe’s.

Naree Knows Trader Joe’s

In 1994, Naree Viner was a new intern at the Getty Museum. Her family was back in Indiana, so her colleague Madeleine invited Naree to her parents’ home in Pasadena for Thanksgiving.

“You’re going to Trader Joe’s house!” her co-workers exclaimed.

Naree had no idea what they were talking about.

Joe Coulombe and his wife Alice welcomed Naree with a flute of champagne. Each course had a different wine, which Joe described. The Coulombes were Francophiles so the main dish was goose, not turkey.

Joe and Alice Coulombe

It was a delightful day. And — as Naree learned — Joe Coulombe was also known as Trader Joe.

The Trader Joe.

A Stanford Business School graduate and serial entrepreneur, in 1967 he’d turned a poorly performing Pasadena 7-Eleven into a new kind of grocery store.

The target market was “people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees who made teacher’s salaries,” Naree says.

The concept caught on. By the time of that Thanksgiving dinner, there were Trader Joe’s — the store’s name — across California. Joe Coulombe had already sold the company to German conglomerate Aldi.

Last year, Joe Coulombe celebrated the 50th anniversary of Trader Joe’s with his son Joe Jr., and 2 employees.

In 2012 Naree and her husband moved to Westport. After leaving the Getty — armed with a master’s in art history — she became a headhunter. Specializing in museum directors, she’s worked with institutions like the Smithsonian and Yale Art Gallery.

She’s still friends with Madeleine. And Naree has never forgotten that Thanksgiving as an intern.

She marvels at what Joe developed. He thought of tropical costumes for employees, and created a corporate culture that celebrates smiles and good fellowship.

As she studies organizational culture for work, Naree is amazed that the now-national grocery chain has managed to maintain so much of its original charm.

Naree Viner

Today Naree lives just a mile from the Westport Trader Joe’s. She loves finding new items there, and is not disappointed when favorites (like mango lemonade) disappear. One of the keys to Trader Joe’s success, after all, is low inventory.

Naree has told a few of the very cheery Westport crew that she knows the real Trader Joe — and that at 87 he’s alive and well, still painting and gardening.

“They’re amazed and amused,” she says of the local store staff.

Still, Naree wondered, why did I think this would make a great “06880” story?

“It’s fun and quirky,” I said.

Just like Trader Joe’s.

Bring It On!

Last Tuesday — as Westport braced for our 3rd nor’easter in 2 weeks — shoppers did their usual bread, milk and eggs thing.

By early afternoon, supermarket shelves were bare.

That storm barely touched us.

Today — with yet another storm bearing down — the scene at Trader Joe’s was quite different. An hour ago, it looked like just another day.

I guess Westporters aren’t worried —  even though the latest forecast warns of up to 18 inches of heavy, wet snow.

Or else we’ve stockpiled so much food from the last 3 panic buying sprees, there’s no room for any more.

BONUS FUN FACT: Spring arrived today at 12:15 p.m.

Unsung Heroes #33

It’s the middle of winter. The weather will get worse before it gets better. The flu season is the most deadly since the pandemic of 1918, or something like that. Everyone in town is sneezy and grumpy.

It’s time for a smile.

That’s what you — and everyone else — gets the moment we walk into Trader Joe’s.

It doesn’t matter if there’s no one in line, or the entire town has descended to buy milk, bread and eggs because an inch of snow is forecast.

It doesn’t matter if it’s 9 a.m., midday or seconds before closing.

The staff at Trader Joe’s is astonishingly — and always — upbeat, helpful, friendly, genuinely interested, and (a retail rarity for sure) efficient.

They smile when they ring you up. They smile when they tell you those berries look bad, and ring the bell so someone else can fetch better ones. They smile as you fumble through your change, then tell you to forget those pennies — no problem!

They smile when people grab the daily samples, without so much as a “thank you.” They smile as they corral shopping carts outside in the freezing cold, because too many people are too lazy to return them themselves.

They even smile when you complain about the parking lot, over which they have absolutely no control and hate as much as you do.

Everyone has his or her favorite Trader Joe’s guy or girl. But really, they’re all special.

Which is why everyone who works at the Westport Trader Joe’s is this week’s Unsung Hero.