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The seventy-four miles between me and pure bliss

When I expressed my interest in Colby to my friends and family as a high schooler, they mostly cautioned me about Maine’s brutal winters, the athlete-dominated social scene, and the tendency to feel trapped at a remote school. While all of those things have taken some getting used to, no one prepared me for my biggest adjustment thus far: the fact that the nearest Trader Joe’s is seventy-four miles away. 

As much as I’ve enjoyed my time at Colby, I can’t help but reminisce about all the days I spent blissfully perusing the pristine aisles of my local TJ’s in Westfield, NJ. While convenient, especially because of weekend shuttle transportation, Waterville’s very own Walmart Superstore just doesn’t hit the spot. No one does it quite like Joe.  

Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe recognized an opportunity to appeal to avid travelers and well-educated consumers when he opened the first store in Pasadena in 1967. While Trader Joe’s initial success was largely due to its extensive selection of discount alcohol, the store gained popularity when it started appealing to California’s health food culture and introduced its first private-label products. 

Coulombe agreed to expand the business to Southern California, but it wasn’t until he sold the company and stepped down as chief executive in 1988 that the chain took the U.S. by storm. Despite the brand’s expansion, all Trader Joe’s locations honor the island vibe of the original store, which featured parts of a ship and rowboat. 

I’m not sure if it’s the chipper employees, general aesthetic and cleanliness of the stores, amazing selection of obscure snacks, or affordable and consistently good produce that I love most about TJ’s.

As someone who experiences decision fatigue and has struggled with an eating disorder, I typically find grocery shopping extremely stressful. That said, I’ve never left Trader Joe’s in a bad mood (except for when they’re out of the Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend).

While Trader Joe’s has always had a cult following, its popularity among younger generations has skyrocketed in recent years with the rise of grocery hauls and “what I eat in a day” videos on TikTok. One of the creators behind the recent Trader Joe’s hype is Bria Lemirande (@brialem), a 23-year-old TikToker whose cowboy caviar recipe went viral last summer. 

Lemirande’s recommendations rarely disappoint. She got me hooked on Crunchy Curls and Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips and helped me upgrade my oatmeal game with the addition of some Unsalted Dry Toasted Sliced Almonds and jarred Peach Halves. 

If I’m being completely honest, the main reason I plan on bringing a car to campus next year is so I can zip on over to the Trader Joe’s in Portland whenever I need a little pick-me-up. Until then, I would like to thank my dear mother for feeding my addiction by shipping me some of my favorite snacks when my inventory is running low. 

As a longtime Trader Joe’s enthusiast, I feel obligated to give the Colby community some recommendations. Divided by ‘sweets’ and ‘snickity-snacks,’ below are the items that earned Joe Coulumbe his very own granite face on my personal Mount Rushmore:

Sweets­: Glazed Sour Cream Donuts, Gluten Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins, Soft Strawberry Licorice Twists, Mini Milk Chocolate Peanutbutter Cups, Peppermint Pretzel Slims, Milk/Dark Chocolate Mini Pretzels

Snickity Snacks: Soft & Juicy Mango, Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks, World’s Puffiest White Cheddar Corn Puffs, Plantain Chips, “This Strawberry Walks Into a Bar” Cereal Bars.


~ Claire Campbell `26

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