Trader Joe's fans far and wide getting ready for June 17 opening

Chris Melsha, right, and Justin Lewis prepare signs Monday at the new Silverdale Trader Joe’s.  All Trader Joe’s signs and labels are handwritten. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Chris Melsha, right, and Justin Lewis prepare signs Monday at the new Silverdale Trader Joe’s. All Trader Joe’s signs and labels are handwritten.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Bernice Caldwell parked her car and walked up to the new Trader Joe’s storefront Monday. The new Silverdale location wasn’t open but that didn’t stop her from trying to get through the automatic doors that weren’t yet equipped to automatically open.

“I saw all the cars and I thought they were open,” said Caldwell, 96, of Bremerton. “I’ve never been to Trader Joe’s before. I thought I’d go and see it.”

Soon Caldwell will be able to shop at the California-based grocery store that she said some of her friends rave about as Trader Joe’s will open its Silverdale location at 8 a.m., Friday, June 17. The approximately 13,300-square-foot store is located at 9991 Mickelberry Road, formerly a Circuit City. Makani E, a Bremerton-based Hawaiian band will perform live tunes for the opening and the store’s demo station will be fixed for employees to provide food demonstrations throughout the day — and every day.

While Caldwell lives a short drive away from the store, others may not necessarily be close neighbors, but may come to shop.

“People do go to Kitsap Mall and the Silverdale area for items they can’t get on the Olympic Peninsula. I’m sure they would tie in a Trader Joe’s stop if they are familiar with the products,” said Russ Veenema, executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

The Silverdale location will be the 17th one in Washington and the only one on the peninsula.

Port Angeles is about 70 miles away from Silverdale and even farther is Forks, at about 125 miles away.

That 55-mile difference may not stop some Forks shoppers.

“There are certain things you can’t buy here,” said Mike Gurling, visitor center manager for the Forks Chamber of Commerce. Forks residents often make trips to shop in Silverdale and the new Trader Joe’s could be an additional draw, Gurling added.

Some are just used to having to log the miles in order shop at the nearest Trader Joe’s. Luba White, of Chico, has frequently shopped at other Trader Joe’s locations and is excited for the Silverdale one opening.

“I used to go to Tacoma, sometimes just for Trader Joe’s,” said White, adding that she and her friends would drive down together at least once a month but they haven’t made the trek in about four months because of high gas prices.

White enjoys shopping at Trader Joe’s because of its wide selection of cheeses and wines, but said she will opt out of going on the day it opens, figuring there will be a crowd. However, with her reusable Trader Joe’s shopping bag in the back of her car, she is ready.

“Opening day — I don’t go anywhere. I’m not that hungry,” added White.

The Silverdale location will offer the same items — including artisan breads, deli items and organic produce — as any of the other stores in the state, said John Alvey, captain (store manager).

Many residents have rolled into the parking lot yelling from their cars if the store is open. And, just as eager shoppers are anticipating the opening, so are employees.

“We’re really excited. The entire peninsula had been asking for us to come here,” Alvey said.

The company does not disclose the number of hired employees at its Trader Joe’s locations, their salaries or benefits, but more than 80 percent of the employees at the Silverdale location are local hires, said Alison Mochizuki, spokeswoman for the company. There are more than 350 Trader Joe’s stores in 29 states.

While employees continue to stock shelves, paint murals incorporating local scenes such as the Olympic Mountains and organize for opening day, residents from a few blocks away to those in Forks will have to wait one week longer.

“It’s got good stuff,” said Tom Huffman, of Bremerton. “And it’s the convenience of having one here.”

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