History and Nostalgia at Trader Joe’s

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I’ve had a lot of Trader Joe’s experiences of late.To much local fanfare, a new store opened in Winter Park, Florida, not far (well, 40 miles) from where I live. The very fact that 40 miles seems a traversable distance to shop for groceries says something about the allure of Trader Joe’s. My friends and I made a pilgrimage there the first weekend the store opened. More on that later.

These photos show the Trader Joe’s store in Arlington, Massachusetts, near my own hometown of Lexington. TJ is doing a good job here calling upon local identity to make this store distinctive. This strategy is not unique to TJ; even McDonald’s tries to personalize its stores and dilute their homogeneity with a local aesthetic (photos of skydivers in DeLand, Florida, for example, a skydiving center). But TJ does this localism particularly well, blending its signature quirky, bright aesthetic with irreverent historical puns.
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We can enjoy shopping at this chain but still feel a little like it’s not a chain and like the items there are chosen particularly for us. This is not just any store; it is a “revolutionary” shopping experience. Paintings of cows and farms remind us, nostalgically, of a pastoral history. A revolutionary era patriot fleeing on horseback (Paul Revere?) hoists a reusable shopping bag. IMG_1115

Pictures of local icons, historical and architectural, build on town pride.
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This is not just shopping; it is a shopping experience,relying on a sense of shared history and identity. It’d be interesting to know how important these strategies are to buyers. have buyer feedback on that.

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Paddington for Sale

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I took these photos at Paddington Station in London. I was excited to go to Paddington, partly because it was the way to get to Oxford and partly because, I had grown up loving the Paddington tales and their stories of the bear left at the station with the note around his neck: “Please look after this bear.” Stories of Paddington were part of the fantasy of London, and England, for me as a child: elevenses, tea, imposing train stations, strangers who acted proper but had great heart, always willing to look after the bear. So finally getting to Paddington almost forty years later was fun on many levels and also evoked a nostalgia for childhood. I was not surprised to find a Paddington Bear store at the station, because of course, in our consumer world, what other way would there be to commemorate the intersection of literature and reality? I didn’t shop at the store. Perhaps I should have.

Platform 9 3/4. And Some Things For Sale.

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These photos are self-explanatory: snapped at King’s Cross Station in London, at the spot commemorating the mythical Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter fame.
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Here, visitors can stand in line to get their photo taken pushing a trunk on a luggage cart through the wall (stuffed owl in place), as a helper pulls back their scarves to suggest the effects of racing full-tilt into wall, and to make the scene look more realistic for photographs. Of course, even writing about making entry on Platform 9 3/4 “more realistic” seems odd.In any case, a long line (or queue) of people awaited their opportunities to try their luck at the wall and take the photo.
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Conveniently located right next to the “platform” entry is the Harry Potter Shop.
Now I can’t believe I didn’t go into the shop, but I didn’t. At the time, I was happy enough to watch people file up to pose with the cart and participate in our shared fantasy of making Harry Potter’s world come to life. And I was pretty sure I knew what was in the shop. . . wands, posters, clothing. Lots of things nobody needs but that can help them temporarily participate in the shared fantasy of making Harry Potter’s world come to life.

This experience offers fans ways to get closer to the Harry Potter stories. We know we can’t make them real, but we can try: we can enjoy the fun of a gimmick like the trunk-in-wall designed to bring the fantasy in the everyday, or we can become consumers of products that bring us closer to Harry’s world. Consumer-fans can, like Harry, buy a wand, or a book, or a scarf; the act of buying fuels imagined access to the world of wizards and muggles.