For many South Florida foodies, Friday's grand opening of a Trader Joe's store in Pinecrest came as an answer to years' worth of waiting.
"I almost cried when I walked in," said Micheline Cacciatore, who grew up going to Trader Joe's stores in Massachusetts and moved to South Florida three years ago. "It feels like I can call Miami home now."
The Pinecrest store at 9205 S. Dixie Hwy., in Miami-Dade County, is the first in South Florida for the California-based grocery chain. The company plans to open four more stores in Palm Beach County next year. They'll debut in Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington.
So far, none have been announced for Broward County.
"They should open one in Broward, I think they would be very successful," Pembroke Pines resident Sharon Maxwell said. She said she likes Trader Joe's for its organic selections, but the store in Pinecrest and the ones coming up in the county up north are still too far from her home to make regular trips.
Still, she plans on checking out the new store next week.
"I knew [Friday] would be too crazy," she said.
Hundreds of people walked through Trader Joe's doors Friday donning colorful leis given out by the staff as they entered the tropical-themed store. Shoppers walked up and down packed aisles, filling up shopping carts with items such as $3.99 frozen meatless meatballs, $2.69 quinoa and black bean-infused tortilla chips, and $4.99 La Finca Malbec wine.
About 80 percent of Trader Joe's products bear the company's private label, said Jodi McCullough, the store's manager, or in the company's lingo "captain." Employees are known as "crew members."
Trader Joe's history dates back to 1958, when it opened its first store in the Los Angeles area. It now has about 400 stores in 35 states. Over the years, it has created a cult-like following, with fans campaigning for the chain to come into their neighborhood.
Miami resident Karen Shane said the new store is long overdue.
"I've been emailing Trader Joe's for probably 8-to-10 years, asking them to come down to Florida," Shane said.
"And it finally happened."
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If you go:
9205 S. Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest
Open 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information, call (305) 661-1432 or visit http://www.traderjoes.com
Trader Joe's opening in Palm Beach County in 2014:
Palm Beach Gardens
Boca Raton ___