The wait ended Friday for foodies throughout the Pikes Peak region.

Ultra-popular specialty grocer Trader Joe’s – whose gourmet foods, one-of-a-kind items, low prices and clever marketing have inspired what experts call a cult-like following – opened its first Colorado Springs store at 8 a.m. Friday, welcoming an enthusiastic crowd of more than 200 people who lined up starting about 4:30 a.m.

The California-based chain with the tropical theme had bypassed Colorado for years, but expanded to the Denver area in February. The next month, it announced it would open at the University Village Colorado shopping center, northwest of Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road, in the Springs.

The store’s opening Friday came amid cool and occasionally rainy weather that might have dampened the early morning turnout by shoppers, but not their enthusiasm.

Longtime friends Lois Sprague, Shelly Worscheck, Kristy Simons and Debbie Allen left their Woodland Park homes around 5 a.m., arrived at the store a half-hour later and were among the first in line. They snapped selfies in front of the store – something they do when they visit Trader Joe’s locations around the country.

“We’re Trader Joe’s cult followers,” Sprague said. “They have their own brands that are so funky and different. And their prices are so reasonable. And it’s healthy. Healthier stuff.”

Several people said they had champed at the bit for years for Trader Joe’s – having shopped in the chain’s locations in other states and lugged home large supplies of products they knew they couldn’t get in the Springs.

“I don’t have to drive to Santa Fe anymore to get Trader Joe’s goods,” said Bonnie Thompson of Colorado Springs. “They have genuinely good prices on things for quality products.”

In addition to Trader Joe’s veterans, there were Trader Joe’s virgins. Debbie Brown said she had never been to Trader Joe’s, …read more