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Posts Tagged ‘trader joe’s’

Photo: Trader Joe’s.
Each of the grocery chain’s 500-plus locations “has custom-made signage, created by staff artists,” says the Post.

They don’t get paid much, but it’s unusual for artists to have a steady gig with benefits. According to Kelsey Ables at the Washington Post, a lot depends on which of the independent Trader’s Joe’s markets you’re working at.

“Growing up,” Ables reports, “Zoe Terrell dreamed of becoming an artist — she sketched scenes from her local farmers market and even won drawing competitions in her native South Korea. But she eventually learned what many creative people know too well. ‘My dad was like, “Well, drawing is not going to feed you,” ‘ Terrell says.

“So she studied education in college and, after moving to the United States in 2008, taught Korean — that is, until a curious job listing caught her eye.

“An ocean away, Terrell called her dad with surprising news: ‘Hey, guess what, Dad? Now, drawing is going to feed me,’ she recalls with a laugh.

“Terrell is one of hundreds of sign artists employed by grocery store Trader Joe’s. You probably know the idiosyncratic chain for its eccentric snacks and peppy cashiers, but that festive atmosphere extends to the stores’ interior design, too: Each of the 500-plus outposts has custom, handmade signage, all created by staff artists. Your grocery store is their art gallery.

“As what Trader Joe’s calls a ‘crew member with sign making talent’ (we’ll just call them sign artists), Terrell, 40, spends much of her workday at the Athens, Ga., store wielding a paint pen in a backroom studio. She makes signs to promote products with puns like ‘Hot Grill Summer‘ and creative drawings such as the Powerpuff Girls reimagined as vegetables. She paints murals that represent the local area, University of Georgia sports teams or the surrounding rural landscape. Occasionally, she gets to incorporate Korean lettering into her work, such as when the store got a shipment of scallion pancakes known as ‘pajeon.’ That was a highlight for Terrell — Korean students told her that seeing the Hangul writing made them feel a little more at home.

“Terrell says that in her early days in the United States, she sorely missed Korean grocery stores, where employees knew her family and each store had its own character.

“ ‘Especially when I moved to the U.S., everything seemed like it had been kind of standardized. You go to Walmart in New York or you go to Walmart out in the boonies in Georgia, and they look exactly the same,’ she says. ‘Trader Joe’s is just throwing a totally different curveball.’ …

“Trader Joe’s calls itself a ‘national chain of neighborhood grocery stores.’ And everything seems to have a human touch: from sweeping murals of local landmarks, which can stay on view for years, all the way down to individual price tags telling you that clementines are $5.99 and ‘great for the road!’ But for the artists, the work isn’t just about selling produce or marketing the latest peppermint-coated, jalapeno-infused, almond-butter-filled whatever. It’s a way to channel their artistic energy in a world that doesn’t make being creative easy. While job postings list pay for sign artists starting as low as $14 an hour, for many, it’s the stable art job they never thought they’d have.

‘I always tell everybody, it’s probably the best entry-level artist position that has a steady paycheck, good benefits and everything,’ says Dan Kaufeldt, a 35-year-old sign artist in Sacramento, who has been with the company for 16 years.

“Kaufeldt’s store decor combines comic book energy with meticulous detailing. For Thanksgiving, he painted a smooth-looking Turkey named DJ Gravy Grav who mixes ‘All about that Baste’ on a turntable, while spring break this year inspired an image of a cartoon lemon, strawberry and potato going on a road trip in a bouncing, orange RV.

“For many Trader Joe’s sign artists, going all out is part of the fun. At one of the Philadelphia stores, McKinna Salinas, 25, is working on transforming the bathroom into a parody of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, inspired by works from the museum collection such as Severin Roesen’s ‘Flower Still Life With Bird’s Nest.’ In her version of Winslow Homer’s ‘The Life Line,’ a man is seen dangling above stormy seas — but instead of saving a woman, he’s saving a carrot. …

“Trader Joe’s rarely advertises. It doesn’t have coupons. It avoids the words ‘sale’ or ‘cheap.’ The atmosphere is deliberately friendly. …

“As for the signs, ‘the handcrafted quality emphasizes the personal relationship,’ says Mark Gardiner, a former marketing executive who worked at Trader Joe’s while researching his book Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s, which unpacks how the chain attracted a cultlike following. ‘It’s the graphic equivalent of that cheerful conversation that you’ll have with a total stranger that’s working there, who sees you buying dog food and asks you what kind of dog you have.’

“While working at the downtown Minneapolis Trader Joe’s, Georgia Gump took that idea to its extreme: The 25-year-old artist made a window mural featuring the neighborhood’s dogs. It was a big hit.

“But for Gump, who left the store in May, the early excitement of working at Trader Joe’s faded fast. That particular Minneapolis store is now trying to unionize for better wages and benefits (a store in Hadley, Mass., became the first Trader Joe’s to unionize last month), and Gump says it has been plagued by bad management. Gump hit a breaking point after breezing through the installation of an elaborate, handcrafted Christmas village.

“ ‘At first I was really excited that I did it in less than two hours,’ Gump says. ‘Then, it hit me that installing this piece of art cost the company less than $30.’ …

“Some artists have used the job as a jumping-off point. Gump now does sign commissions and pet portraiture around town. Salinas recently made a piece for NASA that will be featured on a satellite. Terrell says, ‘Trader Joe’s became my self advertisement.’ “

More at the Post, here.

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You may recall a post I wrote about the Daily Table, which takes produce that would’ve been wasted and uses it to provide good meals at low cost.

Jennifer Medina writes at the NY Times that Imperfect Produce, a San Francisco Bay Area start-up, has also “been selling what it calls ‘cosmetically challenged’ fruit and vegetables. …

“Imperfect Produce delivers boxes of ugly fruit and vegetables to people’s doorsteps in the Bay Area. A large box of mixed produce — 17 to 20 pounds of fruits and vegetables, with five to eight types of items, depending on what is in season — costs $18, for example; a small box of fruit (10 to 15 pounds) costs $12 a week. [Chief supply officer Ron] Clark primarily relies on buying produce directly from California farmers …

“Ben Simon, the chief executive, and Ben Chesler, the chief operating officer, began their work on food waste as college students, when they saw trays of food from the campus cafeterias thrown out each night. Mr. Chesler and Mr. Simon created Food Recovery Network, which now has more than 100 colleges donating uneaten food to soup kitchens. …

“The pair met Mr. Clark, who had spent more than a decade working to bring produce that would have otherwise gone to waste to food banks across California. Using his relationship with suppliers, the three have created a business that has attracted attention from many of the tech luminaries in the region, including the design firm Ideo, which receives its own drop-off each week.” More here.

Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times  
Imperfect Produce, a San Francisco Bay Area start-up, specializes in produce that is misshapen or cosmetically deficient but otherwise perfectly edible. 

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I love the idea of making use of perfectly good food that otherwise would be thrown out. Despite initial skepticism from the neighborhood where the Daily Table grocery was to open, customers are really grateful for the access and the low prices.

Taryn Luna the Boston Globe quotes the founder: ” ‘Our job at Daily Table is to provide healthy meals that are no more expensive than what people are already buying,’ said Doug Rauch, the founder of Daily Table and former president of Trader Joe’s. ‘We’re trying to reach a segment of the population that is hard to reach. It’s the working poor who are out buying food, but who can’t afford the food they should be eating.’ …

“Rauch has built relationships with suppliers to divert garbage-bound products to his shelves. He’s careful to point out that it doesn’t mean the food is ‘bad,’ expired, or unsafe to eat.

“A vendor at Haymarket, for example, donated a couple hundred pounds of summer squash he intended to throw away after the food didn’t sell. Daily Table expects to sell it for 59 cents a pound. Rauch said he has also purchased vegetables that grocery stores reject because of blemishes or other cosmetic problems that don’t affect the quality of the product.”

The Globe’s Yvonne Abraham visited after the opening: “They can’t keep the cucumber-pear-mint smoothies and salisbury steak on the shelves at Daily Table. The food emporium in Dorchester’s Four Corners has been slammed in its first week, with 300 customers a day, and three times more locals than expected signing up for free memberships.

“Everybody who works at the store — the managers wheeling out food, the white-coated kitchen staff making carrot soup behind the big picture window, the cashiers in bright T-shirts — looks exhausted, and happy.”

From the Daily Table website: “Daily Table is a not-for-profit retail store that offers our community a variety of tasty, convenient and affordable foods that will help you feel and be your best; food that will keep you moving forward, not hold you back.  We provide both ‘grab-n-go’ ready to eat meals, and a selection of produce, bread, dairy and grocery items all at prices that will put a smile on your face, and designed to fit within every budget.  Many of our items are prepared fresh daily in our own kitchen onsite. …

“There are plans to open additional stores in both the greater Boston area and additional cities across the country.

“Working together we can help reduce both the effects of poor eating habits caused by challenging economics, and the impact that wasted food and its precious resources has on our environment.”

More here.

Photo: Daily Table
Opening day in Dorchester, June 4, 2015.

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