PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s first Trader Joe’s store has opened with a ceremonial lei cutting and a line of people waiting to get inside.
Trader Joe’s has nearly 350 stores in more than two dozen states, but the Portland store is the first to open in northern New England.
On Friday, people lined up to get inside an hour before the 8 a.m. opening.
Trader Joe’s has a large following of fans who like the chain’s extensive offerings of private-label brands, discount prices and offbeat atmosphere. Its employees wear Hawaiian shirts, and instead of a ribbon-cutting the store opened with the cutting of a lei. The first customers got free leis.
A Facebook page called “Bring Trader Joe’s to Portland, Maine!!!” had more than 4,000 fans on it. Perhaps more important was a decision in 2007, when Whole Foods Market Inc. bought Wild Oats Market Inc. The Federal Trade Commission challenged the $565 million deal, arguing that it would create a natural-food monopoly.
Whole Foods and the FTC settled the question by having Whole Foods sell some of its stores and to sell leases and assets of the 19 Wild Oats stores it had closed, including the one in Portland. According to an economics blog on the Christian Science Monitor website, “Trader Joe’s didn’t see a reason to enter the Portland market until the FTC offered to seize some property from rival grocer Whole Foods and sell it to Trader Joe’s at below-market price.”