Why doesn’t Myrtle Beach, SC have a Trader Joe’s

Sheila Rudesill, left, and Linda Dolittle live in Myrtle Beach but shopped at Trader Joe's in Wilmington, North Carolina on February 10, 2022 as part of Senior Adventures in Learning and Travel.

Sheila Rudesill, left, and Linda Dolittle live in Myrtle Beach but shopped at Trader Joe’s in Wilmington, North Carolina on February 10, 2022 as part of Senior Adventures in Learning and Travel.

Myrtle Beach may seem like it has it all: amusement parks, beaches, more restaurants per capita than Paris, and so much more shopping than an area of ​​490,000 people would normally afford.

You know what Myrtle Beach doesn’t have?

Trader Joe’s. And yes, a lot of people are bitter about it.

The closest locations are in Mount Pleasant, outside Charleston, and Wilmington, North Carolina. Either is over 70 miles from Myrtle Beach proper. On a good day, it’s about an hour and a half drive each way.

A group, however, is unfazed by distance. Every few weeks, in fact, a dozen people travel to the Wilmington area for a day of learning, dining, and, more seriously, a trip to Trader Joe’s.

The group? Senior Adventures in Learning and Travelalso known as SEL.

SALT was created during the pandemic by Kelli Barker and Carole Osborne, who realized that many retirees had suddenly found themselves alone with little connection to the outside world.

“It’s a lot of isolation for older students,” Carole said, referring to “students” in the SALT program.

SALT offers cooking, art, history and more classes, restaurant trips and, yes, they go to Trader Joe’s quite regularly. However, Kelli and Carole are quick to point out that “going to TJ’s” is just one of the many things SALT does.

“We were made aware of the wonderful, wonderful, encouraging words they gave us that without SALT during the pandemic, they’re not sure what they would have done,” Kelli said. “We have been the longest link of any type of communication.”

Kofie Montgomery, center, walks out of the Pilot House restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she had lunch with 10 others as part of Senior Adventures in Learning and Travel. Next, the group went to the local Trader Joe’s to stock up on food from the popular grocery store. Chase Karacosta

SALT’s last trip to Trader Joe’s (and more) was last Thursday. Eleven people – nine students, Kelli and Carole – piled into a van heading north. It was a busy day: the group started by visiting a Buddhist monastery in Bolivia, North Carolina, before heading to the Pilot House restaurant in Wilmington for lunch and finally stopping at Trader Joe’s.

In the van, the group discussed keeping busy in retirement. Some of them talked about starting new businesses after quitting their traditional jobs, and they said how much they enjoyed SALT.

“When you retire, you need to have a goal you can work towards,” Sheila Rudesill said. “That’s a very important thing – try a lot of different things, and what you have to do is find the things that make you happy, that make you feel good.”

A love for Trader Joe’s

The group was full of grocery lovers. On the ride, they discussed what they liked about Wegmans, a chain whose closest location is in North Carolina, and Stew Leonard’s, which is exclusively in the Northeast.

Despite Trader Joe’s fame for selling “Two-Buck Chuck” wine (which is now, uh, $3.50 to $4, due to inflation), few people who go on a SALT trip actually buy alcohol.

“It’s the food they’re looking for,” Kelli said. “It’s their specialty, something they can’t get anywhere else.”

Sheila is the biggest Trader Joe’s fan in the group. One person in the van suggested that Sheila should teach a SALT course called “Sheila and the Things She Loves at Trader Joe’s”, while another said she would follow Sheila around the store to make sure get the best transportation.

These trips, in many ways, are about more than just learning and visiting Trader Joe’s. For some people, SALT is an important part of their social life. And many of them live alone, having lost their spouses and partners as they grow older. Those on Thursday’s trip were between 50 and 80 years old.

After filling up at the Pilot House restaurant in Wilmington at lunchtime, the group piled into the van, nicknamed “SALTY”, to head to Trader Joe’s. The jokes started flying.

“Alright Carole, you gotta give them a deadline,” Kelli said, noting Sheila was with them, who is likely to be in the store for over two hours.

Sheila protested, “I’m fine. I know exactly what I want. I will be very good.

Rina Klein, from behind, then called out the 10 most popular products at Trader Joe’s from an article she found online. The list included cookie butter (“It’s wonderful on apples,” Sheila noted), Bloody Mary salsa, cauliflower gnocchi, “Everything But Bagel” seasoning, and chicken à The mandarin.

“I’m glad we ate before TJ, because I would like to buy everything,” Rina said.

“You’re never supposed to go shopping hungry,” Susan Weisenburger said.

Easy to make and affordable food

The obsession with Trader Joe’s comes in part because of the quality of the food. However, it is also a matter of food accessibility and affordability.

Sheila said she loves to cook and even took cooking classes at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, but Trader Joe’s has plenty of healthy, high-quality frozen meals that are easy to prepare. And the prices are often much lower than similar offerings at other grocery stores.

“I like a meal, but I like it easy,” Sheila said. Two of her favorite dishes are Mandarin Orange Chicken and Vegetable Fried Rice. Although both options are something that can be microwaved, which isn’t usually a sign of quality, she said, “The food is good, and it’s not gigantic amounts.

When the group arrived at the grocery store, Kelli looked at Sheila and said, “Go ahead, Sheila, start early.”

The group zoomed into the store, grabbing baskets and filling them with frozen food, plants, cheese and more.

Susan bought a red-flowered begonia, among other things.

I never see them, but this is the second time at Trader Joe’s!” she said.

Returning to the van holding a bag full of goods, Linda Dolittle said: ‘I was only going to get one thing. It’s all Sheila’s fault. His embarrassment over his loot couldn’t be judged by anyone else there. She only had one bag, and it was by far the smallest of them all.

Ellen Jampole, left, and Sheila Rudesill move food the couple bought from Trader Joe’s in Wilmington, North Carolina, into a cooler for the ride back to Myrtle Beach. The couple went to the popular grocery store with nine others as part of Senior Adventures in Learning and Travel because Myrtle Beach doesn’t have Trader Joe’s. Chase Karacosta

Sheila, miraculously, wasn’t the last person to return to the van. However, she had three bags overflowing with food.

The last latecomer was Rina.

” I am sorry to have kept you waiting. I didn’t realize I wasn’t the last,” Rina shouted from across the parking lot as she sped towards the van.

“I’m just glad I wasn’t the last,” Sheila said.

As Kelli watched the passengers pile their goods into the van, she called it a “Trader Joe’s party.”

“It’s a packing party,” Ellen Jampole said.

On the way home, the group explained that they still wanted Myrtle Beach to have their own Trader Joe’s, even though their trips to Wilmington were a lot of fun.

There has been talk of starting a petition for the company to bring one to the Grand Strand. Rina said she asked her cashier what he knew about plans to bring one to Myrtle Beach. Although he couldn’t give her a definitive answer, he told her that the store gets quite a few visitors from Myrtle Beach and Jacksonville, North Carolina, who come to Wilmington exclusively to shop at Trader Joe’s. And it’s not like Myrtle Beach doesn’t have new grocery stores. New Publix and Food Lion stores are coming to the area all the time.

“I’m still excited! Rina opened up about the possibility that Myrtle Beach could one day have its own TJs.

In the meantime, the 70 miles of freeway between them and Trader Joe’s is just a small obstacle.

Chase Karacostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and throughout South Carolina for McClatchy. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in journalism and political communication. He started working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he was signed to three of the state’s largest print media outlets as well as the Texas Tribune covering state politics, environment, housing and the LGBTQ+ community.

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