Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s

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.

The Washington Post Calls Tomorrow’s Storm A “Bomb Cyclone.” Today, Everyone Raced To The Store.

Actually, the entire headline was: “‘Bomb Cyclone’ to Blast East Coast Before Polar Vortex Uncorks Tremendous Cold Late This Week.”

And you thought President Trump holding a big Nuclear Button was bad!

This was the scene a little after noon at Trader Joe’s:

Actually, the photo does not do justice to the scene. The line stretched all the way back to Chipotle.

Similar scenes were repeated at Stop & Shop, Fresh Market, and any place else that sells milk, eggs and toilet paper.

So get ready, guys! 3 to 6 inches of blowing, drifting snow is on the way!

06880″ BONUS: Click here for the official Winter Storm Watch.

EXTRA SPECIAL “06880” BONUS: Click here for that full Washington Post story.

No Way!

Part of the granite tombstone — er, sign — at the entrance to Trader Joe’s has met an ignoble end.

The part that said “One Way” is gone.

I’m amazed someone slammed into it. It was pretty hard to miss.

(Photos/Seth Schachter)

On the other hand, perhaps this was deliberate. It was not the most welcoming sign around.

Besides, making that contorted turn from in front of Jersey Mike’s — to exit via the worst traffic light in the galaxy — is enough to drive someone to pick up a sledgehammer.

Of course, this might have been a wayward truck driver, trying a turn he’s not supposed to make.

I’m just sayin’….

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Today’s Trader Joe’s Stupid Parking Trick

(Photo/Howard Silver)

Trader Joe's 2

(Photo/Barbara Jay)

Photo Challenge #124

I thought last week’s photo challenge was different — and tough.

Seth Schachter sent along a shot of 2 kids on the Compo Beach cannons. The question was not where the cannons are (duh), but where you’d find the image itself.

We’ve all seen it. Because everyone in Westport shops at Trader Joe’s.

John Terpening was the first person to guess correctly. He even knew that the exact spot is above the vegetable section. So he wins a year’s supply of free samples at Trader Joe’s.

Following closely with correct answers were Bruce Miller and Susan Schmidt.

Here’s this week’s challenge. If you think you know where you’ll see this — and what it is — click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Jerry Kuyper)

Food Rescue US Sinks Deep Westport Roots

If you’re like me, you’ve probably given little — if any — thought to the enormous amount of food that restaurants and grocery stores throw away every day.

If you’re like Simon Hallgarten and Stephanie Webster though, you have.

The Westporters — he’s a founding partner of Northview Hotel Group, she’s editor-in-chief of CTbites — are national board members of Food Rescue US.

The organization — known until this past January as Community Plates — fills a simple, important, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that mission: moving fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away by restaurants, grocers and other food industry sources, to families that desperately need it.

The national Food Rescue US group has a strong local presence. Under Hallgarten and Webster’s leadership, Westport has become a big town for food donors — and as “food rescuers.”

Whole Foods cannot possibly sell all its food. It’s a leader in offering its unused goods to people in need.

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fresh Market are longtime donors. Many smaller stores and restaurants participate too.

Right now, 40 Westport volunteers transport food to shelters, kitchens and pantries in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Over the past few years, more than 350 Westporters have helped.

Many bring their children on food rescue missions. “It’s an important lesson for our kids who otherwise are sheltered from the harsher side of life, and the struggles that many families go through every day,” Hallgarten — who started his career as a chef — says.

Ziggy Hallgarten — Simon’s son, an All-State soccer goalkeeper and current lacrosse player at Staples — and his younger brother Ollie are food rescuers.

Ollie Hallgarten, with a vehicle full of donated (“rescued”) food.

“It’s an easy way to give back to a large community at once,” Ziggy says. “With an hour’s worth of driving, you can change the lives of so many.”

On his first run with his dad 2 years ago, Ziggy was shocked to see some of his favorite foods — perfectly edible — about to be thrown away.

They filled the back of their station wagon, and drove “pounds and pounds of food” from a New Canaan grocery store to a Stamford homeless shelter.

“The locations of my deliveries changed during the couple of years I’ve been a food rescuer,” Ziggy says. “But the priceless smiles of the recipients when I’ve driven up with boxes of food never ceases to amaze me.”

He brought friends on runs too, showing them the feasibility — and ease — of saving otherwise wasted food.

Though Food Rescue US is a volunteer driven (ho ho) operation, there are of course administrative and other costs. So this year’s fundraiser — “Food for All 2017: An Evening to End Hunger” — is very important.

Set for next Wednesday (April 26, 6:30 p.m., The Loading Dock in Stamford), it features over 15 tasting plates from top Fairfield County chefs, along with beer, wine and craft cocktails. Every $1 donated helps cover 20 rescued meals.

Westport sponsors for Wednesday’s fundraiser include Whole Foods, Moffly Media, and the Elizabeth and Joseph Massoud Family Foundation. Fleishers Craft Kitchen and Whole Foods are among the participating food vendors.

“Hunger is an issue that can be fixed,” Simon Hallgarten says. “Food Rescue US’ goal of ending hunger in not a crazy pipe dream. It’s a reality — if we reach critical mass in the next decade.”

In Westport — thanks to so many restaurants, stores and volunteers — we’re almost there.

(For more information on the April 26 “Food for All” fundraiser, including tickets, click here.)