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Not your average Joe's

They came, they saw and some even bought.

Longtime Trader Joe's shoppers and dozens getting their first look at what the specialty grocer is all about lined up for Friday morning's opening at the Northgate Centre Marketplace in Medford.

"I've been waiting for years and years," said Cheri O'Connor of Central Point. "This is a happy moment."

O'Connor showed up with her friend Kim Backes of White City, who frequented Trader Joe's in Sacramento "20 or 25 years ago."

"We've been doing the online voting for them to come here for years," O'Connor said. "We always wrote in they needed to put a store in 97502."

Like the hundreds who poured through the doors, they were more than happy to have the Monrovia, Calif.-based chain with more than 380 stores in 34 states settle for west Medford's 97501 address.

Rick Alves of Cave Junction was among the long-suffering Trader Joe's fans who have waited for this day. He said he was surprised when he dropped by the shopping center after making an early-morning drop-off at the airport.

"I drove by at 5 and there was no one," he said. "So, I knew it was going to be easy."

Many of the first shoppers emerging from the 13,500-square-foot shop next to Petco passed up bargains, such as Trader Joe's $1.98 version of toasted oat cereal, waiting for another day.

Alves, however, had his TJ's reusable shopping bag stuffed with Kona coffee, orange muscat, ground cumin, crimini mushrooms, artisan bread and linguine.

"I do most of the cooking in our household. I was looking for specialty things today," said Alves, who figures he will make the 120-mile round-trip "once for sure and maybe twice a month."

The highly anticipated opening of Trader Joe's here was one of a dozen — ranging from Sleep Country, which also opened Friday, and Petco to Yogurt Hut and REI — during recent weeks at the shopping complex that originally was to be named Alba Village.

The project weathered a series of developers and economic setbacks before getting the go-ahead from the city in mid-2011, and developer Steve Morgan turned over the heavy lifting to Regency Centers Corp.

Among the early arrivals for the event was the 19-member Eagle Point High School jazz band led by director Jeremy Durst.

"You've heard that it's hard for jazz bands to play before noon, but we unloaded the bus and were ready to play at 7 a.m. on the dot," Durst said.

The revved-up assembly clapped their hands and shouted out requests.

"They've been talking up Trader Joe's for a million years," Durst said. "I told the kids it was huge that they got this opportunity; they've got a real fan base. This is the place you go for the one thing you want."

The one thing Theresa Reynoso of Medford had in mind was biscotti.

"I've been going to Trader Joe's in Portland or Eugene for the last 10 years," Reynoso said. "This is a big deal for them coming to our town. I wasn't going to come here really early, but I had time before I went to work, so why not?"

Linda Miner, who oversees the weight-management program at Ventana Wellness in Medford, said, "I'm not a longtime Trader Joe's shopper, but I'm actually excited they are coming to Medford. I'm doing a little research for my job. I'm looking for healthy options, and Trader Joe's tends to have healthy items."

Joe and Sharon Turley of Medford also came to check out the new arrival.

"We've never been there," Sharon Turley said on her way out the door. "It's beautiful, but we're going to wait until things slow down to shop."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com.

Courtney Thomas gets into the spirit of the moment as Trader Joe's opens for business. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell