A biting wind Friday did not deter shoppers who reveled in the Hawaiian-inspired atmosphere at Libertyville's newest grocery store.
Trader Joe's, the California-based chain featuring festive decor and a variety of private label store brands, opened for business at 1600 S. Milwaukee Ave., nearly a year to the day of its announced intent to come to town.
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"You have to eat every day so why not make it special?" said Brent Fournier, a Lindenhurst resident who had business in town and stopped to see how this store compared to other Trader Joe's he had frequented.
The opening of the second Trader Joe's store in Lake County -- the other is in Lake Zurich -- marked the end of years of yearning for the community and the start of an expected boost in sales tax revenue.
A steady flow of early shoppers was greeted by leis and a musician playing steel drums as a welcome to the latest entree in an active grocery landscape.
Fournier, an unabashed fan, said his family has been waiting for the opening. He brought along his 7-year-old grandson, Nathan, to check the offerings.
"There's certain things here you can't get anywhere else. There is a pseudo-Caribbean feel, too, (and) everyone is in good spirits," he said.
The Trader Joe's is on the site that once housed a Frank's Nursery & Crafts and another grocery venture that failed in mid-construction and was demolished. Mariano's is across the street in Vernon Hills and Jewel-Osco is just to the north.
Trader Joe's arrival makes the market stronger, "which is good for all of us," Vernon Hills Village Manager John Kalmar said. Libertyville officials said it will be a complement to Jewel and Sunset Foods.
"I believe it can help generate business for many of our other village businesses from car dealers to restaurants by bringing people into town," Mayor Terry Weppler told the Daily Herald in an email.
At 12,400 square feet, Trader Joe's is about a fifth the size of nearby groceries. The emphasis is on a corner store-type feel, with large murals of local landmarks hand-painted by crew members and other touches. The store employs about 75, with about two-thirds hired locally.
"We try to compete with ourselves and get better every day and not worry about what the other guy is doing," store manager Scott Peddicord said. "We're going to embrace the community and hope they embrace us."
There is little doubt of that.
"Everyone is so excited," Barb Erickson, a Libertyville resident and owner of an auto business nearby, told Peddicord as she introduced herself and welcomed him to the neighborhood. She said Mariano's is her store of choice and Trader Joe's will be a complement.
Jon Hauptman, a partner with Willard Bishop Ltd., a supermarket industry analyst in Barrington, said it would be difficult to do all of your stock-up shopping at Trader Joe's, but the store brings something new, fun and unique to the mix and draws from a wide area.
About 80 percent of its 3,800 to 4,000 products are Trader Joe's own label. Dozens of new items introduced each week must pass a tasting panel to appeal to both "culinary adventurer and microwave aficionado," according to the company.
"Our goal is to be the first and favorite," said Adam Mutolo, regional vice president.