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Trader Joe’s opens new South Bend location

| Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Despite the 6:30 a.m. wake-up call, energy was high for the opening of a new grocery store in South Bend: Trader Joe’s.

In the early hours of Friday morning, South Bend residents and tri-campus students began trickling into a freshly-paved parking lot off Howard Street. A line formed many hours before the scheduled opening and slowly grew in size. As the 8 a.m. ceremonial ribbon cutting drew closer, the Notre Dame Glee Club provided live music for the eager crowd.

All this fanfare celebrated the grand opening of the first-ever Trader Joe’s store in South Bend and the fourth in the state of Indiana.

Just three blocks south of the Eddy Street Commons and less than a mile from the heart of the University’s campus, the franchise finds itself in a convenient location for both local residents and tri-campus students, according to store manager John McCall.

Evan McKenna | The Observer
Store associates and patrons stand outside of the new Trader Joe’s location in South Bend, located on Howard St., following its grand opening ceremony on Friday.

“It’s perfect for students,” McCall said. “If you’re on a budget, or if you’re studying all day, you’ve got class, you’ve got clubs — it’s really quick, easy stuff that you can make, but it also doesn’t have any of the junk: no GMOs, no artificial flavors, no dyes.” 

Although McCall assumes the typical responsibilities of a store manager, his official name tag says “Captain,” which matches the chain’s nautical theme. The remaining staff follows suit — assistant managers are called “mates“ and employees are “crew members.”

But, in line with the chain’s approach of giving each store a distinct local feel, the new location also features a hearty helping of South Bend flair. The walls are adorned with murals depicting certain city landmarks and scenes of the University’s campus, and select items are promoted as Notre Dame tailgating necessities.

For many in attendance, Friday’s opening was the culmination of years of anticipation. Over the course of the past decade, South Bend residents wrote letters, sent emails and created a Facebook page advocating for a Trader Joe’s location to be opened in the city, according to McCall. He said the community’s campaign eventually prompted the company to begin looking into a South Bend location.

“Finally we found that perfect location right near Notre Dame, right near the walkable and bikeable community,” he said. “We think it’s going to work out great.” 

And given its proximity to student housing options such as The Foundry, the location has been especially popular among off-campus students.

Amanda Kabous, a Notre Dame junior living off campus near the Eddy Street Commons, said she appreciates the short walk and the store’s affordable products.

“It’s a great alternative to stores like Fresh Thyme and Whole Foods, which have more expensive options,” Kabous said. “Trader Joe’s is a lot more affordable, especially for college students, and so convenient because it’s right off campus and just down the block.” 

Other students said the city of South Bend should do more to invest in its local businesses, rather than bringing in large chains like Trader Joe’s. Lilly Witte, a Notre Dame senior, said she hopes the store’s opening doesn’t divert the community’s attention from locally-sourced options.

“People are very excited to see Trader Joe’s come in, and I understand the convenience of it. And it’s definitely a cheaper option for some students, so it’s very understandable,” Witte said. “But I hope that the excitement for a national chain doesn’t remove people’s excitement for supporting their local businesses and farmers’ markets, because I think that Notre Dame already can be very removed from the South Bend community.”

Witte is an employee at the Purple Porch, a food co-op located near downtown South Bend. Like other co-ops, Witte explained, the Purple Porch is owned by people in the surrounding area. Any local resident and customer of the co-op can buy a stake in the company, allowing Purple Porch to invest in local commerce — the store sells food from over 100 local and regional producers, including farms, restaurants and small businesses, according to their website.

In response to the growing popularity of corporate chains, Witte urged tri-campus students to consider the impact of their consumer choices on the local community.

“Don’t forget about where you live and the people that are surrounding you,” she said. “I think you have a lot to say with where you spend your money and where you choose to put your resources towards… I think if you have the money and the resources to do so, you should think about putting them towards a place where it’s local and regional, and where you can talk to the farmer who grows your food.”

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About Evan McKenna

Evan is a senior at Notre Dame from Morristown, Tennessee majoring in psychology and English with a concentration in creative writing. He is currently serving as the Managing Editor of The Observer, and believes in the immutable power of a well-placed em dash. Reach him at [email protected] or @evanjmckenna on Twitter.

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