Trader Joe’s Wine Shop in Union Square closed its doors on Thursday after 15 years in business with no prior warning to customers and little notice given to crew members about the closure.
Brown butcher paper covered the storefront windows, and a note was taped to the front door -- the only notice customers received about the closure.
“Effective Thursday, August 11 our NYC Wine Shop in Union Square will be closed,” the note read. “It is now time for us to explore another location that will allow us to optimize the potential of our one and only license to sell wine in the state of New York.”
The note went on to say crew members would be paid for all shifts scheduled through Sunday, August 28th.
The wine store was Trader Joe’s only one in New York since state law prohibits corporations from owning or operating more than one wine or liquor store.
Trader Joe’s Wine Shop was known for its wide selection of cheap wines and had a loyal customer base. Outside the front doors on Thursday, confused customers like Jaquana Cornelius, stopped in their tracks when they saw the covered windows and wondered what happened.
“So they're just moving locations? I'm so confused right now, what's going on?” she asked the others gathered around the notice. “I’m pissed, I don't understand how it could just be gone, this is so random ... it can't have been because business was bad.”
“I am so bummed,” Arthur Souza, another customer, said. He had commuted 30 minutes from Hell’s Kitchen only to find out the store was shut down. “I used to come here and buy a lot of wines, like 20 bottles, and drink them for several months. So I’m gonna have to find a Plan B now.”
Olivia Villeco, another patron, was headed to the store to pick up wine after work when she realized the shop was closed.
“It says they’re exploring another location, but who knows when that’ll be,” she said. “I came here probably last week and I didn’t know anything about it. I’m curious to know what was going on behind the scenes.”
Some outside the store speculated on what might have happened for the store to shut down so abruptly.
“Why didn’t they find a new location before they shut it down? I guess they got forced to shut down,” Count-Sebastian Cherry, a Brooklynite who visits the store when he’s in the area, said. “Maybe the rent was too much.”
But the lease hadn’t changed, according to a spokesperson for NYU, which owns the building.
"There's been no change in NYU's lease with Trader Joe's, and it has several more years to run. The closure of the wine shop is a decision Trader Joe's made independently and internally,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman told Gothamist.
Meanwhile, Kasim Taylor, a stock manager at Union Square Wines and Liquor, stood outside shepherding disappointed customers to the wine store around the corner, handing out fliers that read, “Flash sale, 10% off on all regularly priced still wines.”
“So right now we’re basically taking advantage and sending all the customers to our store right now,” Taylor said.
Back at the Union Square Wine and Liquor store, Villeco found herself browsing the shelves for a quality, affordable wine like the ones she bought at Trader Joe’s.
“I was looking for Chianti’s over there, cause there’s a good $5.99 one I like at Trader Joe’s … I was looking over there and I see nothing under $30,” she said.
She ultimately found a wine at the store, settling on a $10 bottle of Montepulciano.
Trader Joe’s employees received a similar note to the one taped to the store in their emails at midnight the night before, thanking them for “making the most of the limited space we had available.” It went on to state they would talk to each crew member individually about “the opportunity to transfer to another Trader Joe’s store in New York City.”
A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s did not elaborate on the abrupt closure, and pointed Gothamist to the same statement posted to the front doors of the now-closed Union Square wine shop.