by Kylene GilbertAs the Champaign-Urbana weather becomes cooler and the leaves change colors, I find my thoughts turning to the impending winter. My thin California blood begins to chill and I involuntarily shiver.
I force my mind to focus on a happy place; a place where Hawaiian print shirts are worn with abandon, fresh tropical flowers bloom, tiki torches and grass huts are common, and the frozen food aisle is extensively stocked with yummy, easily-prepared, healthy, affordable delicacies (Chile Lime Chicken Burgers, Lobster Ravioli, and Chocolate Croissants, anyone?). Okay, so my dream isn’t of a Caribbean cruise, but the delightfully quirky grocery store , Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that really is (gasp) fun to shop. And it’s not just a great environment. Everything carrying the Trader Joe’s label is made without artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, is free of genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), has no added trans-fats, and contains no MSG. Trader Joe’s also has an extensive selection of gluten-free, organic, and vegetarian/vegan foods. Along with kitchen staples, there is a plethora of ever changing specialty, kid-friendly, and gourmet choices. And have I mentioned affordable?
After filling a shopping cart with all-natural cereal, organic yogurt, whole grain baking mix, fair trade coffee, fruit leathers, sourdough bread, and cold-pressed olive oil, there is money left in the grocery budget. Enough for a couple bottles of Charles Shaw wine and dark chocolate covered espresso beans as a reward for finally getting to the dirty dishes and thinking about conquering “Mount Dirty Laundry” (yes, even the thought deserves a prize).
Upon moving to Champaign I struggled to find healthier, readily available options for my growing family that fit my budget. I missed Trader Joe’s. While rumors of Trader Joe’s opening in Champaign-Urbana have been plentiful, they have proven to be unfounded.
In June of 2012, two other local moms (Jaimee Gleisner of Urbana and Robyn Stone of Tuscola) and I decided we’d had enough. We wanted to do something organized, researched, and effective that would cause Trader Joe’s to take notice and convince their headquarters that they need to open a store in Central Illinois. So the community led campaign called Trader Joe’s 4 C-U was born.
In our ample spare time (ahem), we have created a petition, Facebook page, blog, and Twitter feed. We researched other similar movements across the county and talked with those involved to see what successfully grabs Trader Joe’s attention. We worked to get four local Trader Joe’s-loving developers to partner with us and received a proposal from each, outlining potential locations for a Central Illinois Trader Joe’s.
We’re now after more official support from city leaders and county organizations, and want to reach more people with what we’re doing. We have amassed over 3000 signatures on our petition, but want 2000 more to make a significant impact on the Trader Joe’s parent corporation. An entire package of our materials will be submitted like a business proposal to Trader Joe’s in late fall, demonstrating our community’s seriousness and urging Trader Joe’s corporate to open a store here.
If you are not yet a Trader Joe’s fan, imagine this: A parent discovers they are out of milk and eggs and have to lug (um, escort) all their children to the store. Then imagine a place that has a mini-shopping cart per child, a prize for each for finding a hidden animal, and stickers cheerfully passed out at the checkout. Picture a place where you are greeted with a smile, and you know that every item you purchase has none of the unnatural ingredients in many mainstream food items today. Envision the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you can afford to buy good, wholesome, tasty products without having to go to four or more different stores to find them.
Trader Joe’s provides all these benefits and more. So please join us! Sign our petition, read our blog, tell your friends, and participate in our community-led campaign to bring healthy, reasonably priced, delightful Trader Joe’s foods to Central Illinois!
Kylene Gilbert is a Champaign mom of four. She is an avid jogger and drinks a lot of coffee (see aforementioned number of kids). Her hobbies include mopping the floor, picking up dirty socks, and occasionally bathing her children. Wait, those aren’t hobbies? Then nevermind. She manages the Trader Joe’s 4 C-U blog at www.TraderJoes4CU.wordpress.com.