Before the 8 a.m. grand opening of the new Trader Joe’s in Forest Hills, a line of eager customers wrapped so far around the block, both ends almost made contact.
The 17,000-square-foot store sits underneath a brand new apartment complex on Yellowstone Boulevard, just a block from Austin Street. It is the third location to open their doors in Queens — the other two are located in Long Island City and Rego Park.
“I have to tell you, our neighbors have been waiting for years,” the store’s Captain, Carlos Salazar, told QNS. “But I didn’t picture the line wrapping around the store the way it did.”
His team greeted the eager customers with colorful Hawaiian-style leis and festive live music as they filled up the store — and their shopping carts. The first 100 customers, who lined up bright and early, received a New York-themed reusable bag.
Less than an hour after opening, the line went from being outside the store to inside as customers waited to check out. Within several hours, hundreds of customers made their way through the store’s doors.
Salazar has been part of the Trader Joe’s family for 24 years, so this isn’t the first time he’s been part of a store opening. Nor is it his first time working as a captain – a role he has held for the past 11 years. But it’s the first time he helmed a new store opening and witnessed one with such a high turnout.
“It was not as busy as this, I’ll tell you that much,” Salazar recalled of the Union Square location in Manhattan when it opened 17 years ago.
The Far Rockaway native has worked at a slew of other locations, including Sixth Avenue in Chelsea, Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn and even the Hewlett location in Nassau County.
He says that approximately 70% of employees were hired from the local community as part of the company’s priority to facilitate a sense of community. That same mentality was applied to the store’s aesthetic. The comic book style art covering the walls reflects the history of Forest Hills.
“It’s a miracle because there’s space and we don’t have to drive,” said Rita Abishour, a long time Forest Hills resident who lives two blocks away from the new store.
Prior to the opening, she would drive to the Rego Park location at least once a week. She complained that due to its popularity, the store would be too cramped to shop comfortably.
“This is Trader Joe’s. It’s a different sound in the brain,” said Abishour. “This is heaven. This is amazing. You feel good here. Anxiety free, especially with everything happening in the world.”