A small crowd had already gathering outside Trader Joe's new Millburn at 8:45 am. The store wasn't to open for another 15 minutes, but people still pulled out the red carts, ready to head inside when the doors officially opened at 9 a.m.
That's when Linda Moffa, store captain, emerged with Mayor Sandra Haimoff to cut the official Trader Joe's lei to open the store. Then everyone poured through the doors, pushing the carts, as the staff stood inside clapping to welcome them.
Moffa, who comes from the Florham Park store, said she was constantly asked by customers there when Trader Joe's would open a store in Millburn.
"We just needed to secure the right location," she said. "The community has been very welcoming."
Trader Joe's wants their customers to have the full experience, Moffa said, and wants to provide the neighborhood store experience. There are representations of Millburn-Short Hills in the artwork on the walls and the names of each of the lines for the register. "I'm choosing Wyoming because I live near there," one customer said as he walked to the register.
Jennifer Foti, a South Orange resident and a Wyoming Elementary School teacher, said she was excited to have Trader Joe's close to her now. She can now stop at the store on her way home from school.
Haimoff not only cut the lei but was inside doing her regular grocery shopping.
"When others have moved out of here, people have said they wanted a food store here," she said. "I expect a great many people will come here."
It means some residents don't need to travel as far to grocery shop, she said. Haimoff also has had a message of living green, and she said Trader Joe's fits into her message and the lifestyle many people are choosing today.
Ralph Tanofsky, Millburn-Short Hills Chamber of Commerce president, said the store will fill an important niche for Millburn-Short Hills for a local, high-end grocery store. "The high-quality customer service here will be a perfect match for the expectations (of Millburn-Short Hills residents)," he said.
Karol McNulty, chamber executive director, said there is a welcoming feel in the store and a special energy. She also pointed out the store has reached out into Millburn-Short Hills and hired many locals to work in the store.
One question many have had about Trader Joe's is if they will be able to buy wine, like they can in Westfield. Moffa said she's not expecting to sell the famous Two Buck Chuck wine and others. The chain is only allowed two liquor licenses in New Jersey per state law. "We're just too close to Westfield," she said.
The Planning Board approved the application in May for Trader Joe's to open at the former Whole Foods store at 187 Millburn Ave. The store will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.