Tonawanda News — AMHERST — With a party atmosphere, ceremonial lei-cutting and even a band, Trader Joe’s opened with fanfare Friday morning on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst, bringing the grocery store with a cult following to Western New York for the first time.
For Melissa Foster, president of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society, this day was a long time coming.
Foster and KVIS worked for nearly three years to bring the store to Western New York with a campaign that featured everything from petitions to special events to public appearances by its mascot, a yarn-haired, green-eyed, stuffed mannequin dubbed “Kenmore Joe.”
Foster was in line with Joe himself early Friday, and they were among the first to enter. People were in line as early as 3 a.m., and by opening, the line stretched around the store.
“It was very exciting and it was very, very crowded,” said Foster, who said the Amherst location is a slightly smaller venue than other Trader’s Joes stores she’s visited. “It’s neat. It’s going to be hard for people to do really good shopping there unless they’re enormously patient. ... People who might not be as familiar (with Trader Joe’s) might want to wait a little, maybe a week.
“But every time you go in, it seems like you see something else, because they really utilize their shelf space well.”
The 12,000-square-foot store, located at 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., was announced in January, several months after its new location was teased by KVIS, who declared victory in its mission to bring the store to Western New York at large — if not Kenmore proper — in September 2012.
The first WNY location acknowledges local landmarks with hand-painted murals. Familiar sights such as as Niagara Falls, the Peace Bridge, the University at Buffalo campus and others adorn the walls. The store’s somewhat quirky and often organic offerings have acquired a following from shoppers willing to travel for their fix.