NYC’S Trader Joe’s Wine Store closed

The Trader Joe’s wine store in Manhattan.
Photo: Bill Tompkins/Getty Images

On August 11, Trader Joe’s abruptly closed its famous New York wine store. The company posted a note on the door of the East 14th Street outlet notifying customers of the closure, noting that it intended to ‘explore an alternate location’ and employees will be paid for shifts until August 28 and will have the option to transfer.

The suddenness of the closure immediately raised questions. Why close a busy store in a good location? This particular branch has a lot of fans, some of whom go out of their way to shop there. A Grub Street friend drives from his apartment in the South Bronx to buy wine there.

In the days following the announcement of the closure, however, more information came out (as well as a number of rumors). Here’s what you need to know:

The employees were trying to unionize.
Workers tell the Huffington Post they were just days away from going public with their union campaign. An employee named Robert (Rab) Bradlea told reporter Dave Jamieson that the closure took him completely by surprise and that he thought the company “hoped it would deter other workers”. Former employee Jonathan Reuning speculated that the shutdown was to “totally stop the union effort before it could begin”. (Bradlea and Reuning were both involved.) Anthony Small, who supported the union, told the Huffington Post that the abrupt closure “doesn’t make good business sense.”

Other Trader Joe’s also unionized.
As the Huffington Post notes, Trader Joe’s did not close the two stores in Hadley, Massachusetts and Minneapolis that voted to join Trader Joe’s United. Bradlea argues that closing the wine store is less disruptive than closing a grocery store and that Trader Joe’s is concerned about unionization at its other New York locations. Had the store not closed, the article adds, employees believe the union vote would have been successful.

Could Trader Joe’s want a bigger store?
On Reddit, some users wondered if the store’s owner, New York University, played a role in the closure. Some ended up talking about how stupid they think New York’s liquor laws are, while others threw in possible neighborhoods where the wine store could reopen.

Trader Joe’s now joins Starbucks, Chipotle, Amy’s and countless other companies accused of closing stores due to unionization efforts.
Since the pandemic, a wave of union organizing has hit these big companies, all of which have struggled with organizing drives. Starbucks and Workers United employees have accused the chain of closing stores in retaliation for union organizing drives. Frozen food company Amy’s recently closed a plant in San Jose, Calif.; its interim CEO pinned the decision on economic issues, including inflation, but employees pushed back on the claim. After the factory was suddenly closed, around 30 workers protested, alleging mistreatment and sharing that they had tried to unionize a month before the factory closed. In July, Chipotle United filed a complaint with the NLRB after Chipotle closed a site in Augusta, Maine, where workers were trying to organize.

Luz W. German