The soon-to-open Trader Joe’s in The Woodlands will sell only one ketchup.

But the store also stocks chile-spiced dried mango, a packaged item accurately named “Nothing But Flattened Bananas” and a variety of frozen pizzas imported from Italy. Starting Friday, the Houston area will have its first Trader Joe’s and along with it the experience of hunting for the out-of-the-ordinary.

The 13,500-square-foot store at 10868 Kuykendahl has a fraction of the items found in a big supermarket, but does offer a trove of gourmet and organic items, often value priced. For example, a 15-ounce box of toasted whole grain oats cereal is $1.99.


The store’s grand opening is Friday, 8 a.m. The Woodlands store and one opening in Fort Worth the same day will be the first two Trader Joe’s in Texas.

The store will carry milk, eggs, shampoo, toilet paper, pet food, flowers, packaged goods, prepared foods and sushi. The bakery will offer artisan breads, bagels, muffins and more. More than 80 percent of the items are private label.

Trader Joe’s has no loyalty cards, coupons or sales, said Josh Leto, The Woodlands store captain — company parlance for manager — but there are values. For example, 16-ounce bags of pasta imported from Italy are 99 cents, and the chain’s Charles Shaw wine, a.k.a. “Two-Buck Chuck” is $2.99.

Other unusual store items include herb popcorn, a wasabi seaweed snack, a dessert topping called Cookie Butter and, when in season, Brussels sprouts on the stalk.

Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s will open two more Houston area stores this year, in the Memorial area at 1440 S. Voss and in the Montrose area at 2922 S. Shepherd in the renovated Alabama Theater.

The Montrose store opens Sept. 21, and the Memorial store will open in the fourth quarter of the year, Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said.

There are also plans for stores in San Antonio, Dallas, Plano and Austin.

Consumers tend to trust Trader Joe’s, said Kit Yarrow, professor of business and psychology at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. They have confidence in Trader Joe’s taste and are satisfied with fewer options, she said. “When fewer choices are available, more people buy the same thing, which means the store gets a better price from the manufacturer. That compounds the trust because the grocer can offer comparatively low prices.”

Consumers are increasingly adventurous and crave new options, she said, and the retailer continually brings in new kinds of products.

“The long-term impact of any Trader Joe’s store will be limited to the trade area in which it’s located,” said Kenneth Katz, a principal at Houston-based Baker Katz, a commercial retail brokerage firm, “but in the short term they are likely to pull customers from a larger area.” He speculated Trader Joe’s will open more locations in Houston beyond the three announced.

The company has no other store announcements at this time, Mochizuki said.

“Overall, they don’t shake up the market much” — not one the size of Houston’s, said David Livingston, a grocery analyst with Waukesha, Wis.-based DJL Research. They’ll have some impact on the one or two closest upscale and/or natural foods grocery stores, Livingston added.

“There is a growing interest in natural and organic food in Houston, and we are excited to welcome other retailers,” said Whole Foods Market spokeswoman Mary Langdon. “We have found that in other markets, both companies can thrive in the same neighborhood.”

Whole Foods stores, she added, have “?‘Low Price, Great Quality’ signs which highlight everyday items that our buyers have been able to negotiate special low prices on.” Its private label Three Wishes wines are $2.99, she noted.

Trader Joe’s began in 1958 as convenience stores in southern California called Pronto Markets. In 1967 the name became Trader Joe’s and more focus was put on wine and cheese. There are now more than 370 stores.