At 7:55 a.m. Friday, the ceremonial lei across the entrance to the new Capitol Hill Trader Joe’s (750 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) was cut, and Captain (store manager) Tom Senior let the waiting crowd of neighbors through the doors and down the escalators into the 13,000 square foot grocery store. Trader Joe’s is the first business to have its grand opening in the Hine School development.
Customers were ecstatic. “Trader Joe’s will add affordable shopping, which is very much lacking in the neighborhood,” said Athena, who together with her roommate Jenny had gotten up early and walked the few blocks from their home to take a look at the store. “It’s clean, well-organized, friendly shopping.” She said that she was likely to buy most if not all of her groceries at Trader Joe’s, including her fruits and vegetables.
Isla Beth, who together with her mother Mary-Kate stopped in to check out the store early Friday morning, was more concerned with the absence of mini shopping-carts at the store. “It’s a big thing,” said Mary-Kate. Store Captain Tom Senior had assured her they were coming to the Capitol Hill location but had only been delayed, knowledge that came as a great relief to little Isla Beth.
To Mary-Kate, the new location was also a relief. “I think just the proximity to our house, not having to go across town or into Virginia is incredible,” Mary-Kate said. She said that the family of four was likely to buy all their staples at the new location, noting especially the grass-fed beef and produce.
The store was busy following the opening, with many local business owners and neighborhood residents, many of the latter sporting leis, milling throughout. Olympic decathlon Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton was spotted posing with fans, as was Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6-D), who could be seen joking with constituents in the ‘Sweets and Treats’ aisle.
Store Captain Tom Senior was delighted with the turnout. Senior has been with Trader Joe’s for 11 years. He was previously Captain during the opening of the U and 14th Street NW location, where he worked for three years.
Senior said that he lived in Capitol Hill ten years ago, and the neighborhood has changed significantly.
“What we can give to historic Eastern Market is being a great neighbor, and that’s our goal,” Senior said. “It’s an honor to be here.”
Senior said that the store’s crew is locally-based. He said 160 crew members were hired for the location, not including management and transferred staff, and that 80 percent of the crew walk to work.
Grand opening festivities continue throughout the day and the weekend. Senior says there will be face painting for the kids later in the day, music throughout the weekend, food and wine demos starting at about 10 a.m. and “lots of jovial conversations about food.”
Local bluegrass group the Capitol Hillbillies entertained shoppers in the entrance, complete with their upright piano and washboard, and Trader Joe’s employee Gary Griffin performed rock n roll covers on guitar at the store level.
Griffin, who is a crew member at the Clarendon Trader Joe’s as well as part of a husband-wife group called ‘G 2 the G’, said Senior had asked him if he’d like to perform at the opening, and he agreed.
In between songs Griffin welcomed the crowd, at one point asking, “Who’s ready for some Trader Joe’s? Looks like a lot of you,” before starting into REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes,” an apt tune for the occasion, as he sung to the crowd, “I will be here when you’re ready to roll with the changes.”
“You know, you got to roll with the changes.”
Trader Joe’s is located at 750 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, near the corner of Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The store is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Parking is available in the underground lot with entrance on C Street SE, near to the intersection with Eighth Street. Grand opening festivities continue throughout the weekend.