UPDATED — The day that some thought might never happen in Wichita finally is here.
“Captain” Chris Evans, the store’s manager, says there has been “nonstop excitement from the entire community.”
“We’ve gotten high fives and hugs.”
One woman who met him at a restaurant requested a selfie with him she was so excited.
“It’s been a long, fun process,” Evans says of getting the 11,000-square-foot store open.
It’s almost hard to believe it’s the same space where Fresh Market once was.
It’s a bright white, spacious interior with traditional grocery aisles starting with produce on the far right of the store. There’s a frozen section, a bakery, a floral area and one for prepared salads. Evans says there are daily deliveries for all the fresh food and flowers.
The one thing the store won’t have, due to Kansas law, is the inexpensive wine for which it is known. Evans says it would be great if the law changes to allow it at some point.
Throughout the store, there are lots of Wichita and Kansas touches.
There are murals all over featuring Wichita’s old City Hall, the Orpheum, Union Station, Cessna, sunflowers, bison and a western meadowlark, the state bird.
Evans says the store wanted to represent the Air Capital and surrounding areas. There are propellers at display stands near the check-out lanes.
For anyone who hasn’t been to a Trader Joe’s, Evans says the California chain is known for “wow” service and products at reasonable prices.
“We truly try to first bring in wow products — a lot of things you can’t find elsewhere,” he says. “We do scour the entire world for different items.”
For instance, Trader Joe’s is known for its prepared Indian meals.
One of Evans’ favorite products through the years has been frozen breaded chicken tenderloins, which he says he’s often eaten three times a week. He also likes the frozen mac-n-cheese, which he says is made with four kinds of cheese and tastes like it was homemade.
Evans says he thinks “people will be very pleasantly surprised” on the prices they find.
“We have fun with it, too, and that’s how it should be.”
The company hired about 80 people locally.
“We have an amazing crew here,” Evans says.
Hours will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
On Friday, there will be face painters, a plywood cutout for pictures, an outdoor pumpkin patch and lots of treats throughout the store, including the chain’s signature mandarin orange chicken and jasmine rice.
Every day, the store will hide a miniature version of its mascot, Tyson the Bison, for kids to find and get an organic sucker in return.
Evans says the store also partners with local food banks. He says 80 percent of items it can’t sell but that are still edible get donated to local groups.
Lots of people have been stopping by the front doors to the store before opening day, and Evans and employees have been giving them products to sample. He says he expected a line out the door on Friday morning with eager shoppers, and he says he and his staff are just as happy to receive them.
“We are just truly excited to be here.”