Trader Joe’s abruptly closes its only New York wine store

When Nesh Patel first moved to New York City three years ago, shopping for groceries and a few bottles of wine at Trader Joe’s in Union Square was a ritual.

An offer at the time allowed shoppers to mix and match six bottles and get a discount off the full price. “That’s what made it super affordable,” he recalled.

But last week, he walked by the store and was surprised to see that it had closed: “It came out of nowhere,” he said, calling it something of an “institution” for the area. “It’s kind of unbelievable that he’s gone.”

Trader Joe’s only wine store in upstate New York closed without notice last week, sending some shoppers at the grocery chain with a cult following into a tailspin.

“We have been operating our little wine shop in the Union Square neighborhood for over 15 years, and we thank you for your business and support over the years,” read a posted sign. Theories abounded about the reason for the closure: the impacts of the pandemic, the end of a lease, a new location.

The sign read: “It’s time we explore another location that allows us to maximize the potential of our only license to sell wine in New York State.”

The company said it planned to “deliver an even better wine shop experience” to New York customers, adding that on-site staff members would be paid through August 28 and would be presented with opportunities to relocate to New York. another store in New York City.

A Trader Joe’s spokesperson declined to specify what the store’s next iteration would look like.

The Trader Joe’s store and its adjacent wine shop on Union Square were among the cheapest options for both food and alcohol in a city neighborhood that includes a mix of NYU dorms and luxury apartment buildings. .

The store opened to much fanfare in 2006, the first of many to come when the California-based chain, known for its quirky own-brand products and sweet offerings, expanded into the New York City market. The wine shop soon became a staple for an affluent residential area where it made more of a splash than the typical wine and spirits store.

In addition to customers creating recipes and pairings from the store’s creative food options, devotees of the so-called $2 Chuck (a bottle of wine from the store’s Charles Shaw line that costs about $2, depending on where you live) and other options went there for their offers.

Trader Joe’s typically offers wines from the California wine country, but also from New Zealand, Italy, France, and beyond. Many are private label.

On many weeknights, the line to the two stores could be seen stretching out into Union Square Park or wrapping around the building in that bustling corner of Manhattan.

Mr Patel, 28, who works in private equity, said he now shops at wine stores with more selection, but there is still a “nostalgia factor”.

Due to New York’s alcohol sales rules, the chain could only hold a license for one wine shop in the city, and chose a building directly next to the Trader Joe’s grocery store there.

Still, many customers lamented that, without warning, they were suddenly unable to stock up on some of their favorite mixes.

Trader Joe’s is based in California, where most grocery stores can sell beer, wine, and spirits. Regulations vary from state to state, with some allowing supermarkets to sell wine and beer. But in New York, grocery stores can only sell beer, and chains like Trader Joe’s can only have one location, usually a separate one, for wine or liquor sales.

Whole Foods in New York City similarly has a wine store, adjacent to its Columbus Circle location on the Upper West Side, also located separately from the grocery operation.

Though the notice posted at the Union Square store implied that Trader Joe’s would soon have a new wine location in town, that didn’t make devotees feel much better this week: A TikTok video showing the closed door was set up. , sadly, to the tune of “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.

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