As Trader Joe's prepares for its Friday opening, I can almost taste the Two-Buck Chuck wine.
The specialty grocery store with a cult-like following will make its Central Florida debut Friday with a ceremonial lei-cutting at 8 a.m. Live music, food demonstrations and raffles are planned for the grand opening of the 12,500-square-foot store in Winter Park on North Orlando Avenue.
The Orlando Sentinel will be there Friday, so stay tuned for photos and videos from inside the store.
But in the meantime, I have to ask: What makes the California-based Trader Joe's so special? After all, it is just a grocery store, isn't it? And in Central Florida, we already have Publix, Chamberlin's Natural Food Market, Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, Sedanos Supermarket, Aldi, Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie and Albertsons.
Here's at least one example of what makes it different: Trader Joe's offers thousands of private-label, low-cost items that are free of preservatives and artificial food coloring.
Also, the loyal fan-base is unreal. Consider this: A store in Tampa on Dale Mabry Highway opened earlier this year to huge fanfare, including news helicopters hovering above and about 125 people lined up outside the doors before the official opening, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
However, large crowds celebrating the opening of a national chain isn't unheard-of in Central Florida. In July 2012, WaWa opened its first location near SeaWorld and hundreds showed up for the festivities.
I've only been to Trader Joe's one time, and that was several years ago in Athens, Ga. I recall buying a bottle of the Charles Shaw wine, which is commonly referred to as "Two-Buck Chuck". I'm not a wine connoisseur, but it isn't bad, and, although it's no longer $2 a bottle, it's a still a steal.
Before the big opening Friday, I had a chance to stroll over the work site. Crews were busy on Monday afternoon planting trees, sweeping the parking lot and preparing for the crowds. We'll be there early on Friday morning.
If you are planning on checking out Trader Joe's this weekend, expect congestion. Winter Park officials are warning motorists about back-ups along Orlando Avenue near Morse Boulevard.
A second Trader Joe's location will open later this year in the Dr. Phillips area.