Trader Joe’s on-the-go store replaces popular wine shop amid union fight

Trader Joe’s opened a grab-and-go store this week called Pronto in the footprint of its former wine shop in Union Square to mixed reviews from customers and backlash from former employees.

The new store is a “one-of-a-kind extension” of the Trader Joe’s location two doors down, spokesperson Nakia Rohde said. It carries many of the ready-made meals, snacks and drinks the grocery chain is known for without the more standard grocery items of its typical stores.

The wine shop closed abruptly in August 2022 to the dismay of staff and regular customers. At the time, Rohde told Gothamist that the decision was made because the store was “underperforming” and Trader Joe’s sought another location that would make better use of its only license to sell wine in New York state. But employees who were taking steps to unionize at the time said they suspected the decision was a response to their organizing efforts, and filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Some customers at Trader Joe’s this week, like Brooklynite Steve De Seve, said they missed the wine shop and didn’t understand the need for a separate location with fewer items.

“It’s terrible, because when I used to go into this Trader Joe’s, they had wine. And now they have no wine,” he said. “It’s strange, like when you make a photocopy and only some things come out … it’s next to Trader Joe’s, but it only has some of the things Trader Joe’s has. So this has no purpose. And then you go in and there’s only disappointment.”

Rohde, the company spokesperson, said the company was still “hoping to find a suitable location” to sell wine.

The NLRB filed a complaint in January alleging that Trader Joe’s engaged in unfair labor practices and demanded the company reopen the wine shop.

Trader Joe’s union organizers issued a statement this week that called the new shop a “giant slap in the face” and accused the company of working against the union.

Rodhe told Gothamist that all employees of the shuttered wine store were paid for all their scheduled hours and offered positions in other Trader Joe’s locations of their choice, including the Union Square location.

Customers outside of Pronto on Wednesday were still trying to figure out exactly what the store was. Several, like Mari Flamm, entered and left empty-handed before heading to the original store two doors down.

“I’m looking for groceries for tonight and I wasn’t looking for a go-meal,” she said. “I get it — it’s like, did it need its own store?”

Others, like Manhattan resident Maya Rawal, said they were happy to not have to stand in line to grab their favorite items.

“It was great because I come to Trader Joe’s all the time because I work down the street, just to get lunch or to get a snack or something, and I usually have to wait in a really long line because everyone’s getting their groceries,” Rawal said. “I just wandered in and it has everything I would normally get for a non-grocery run, just a couple snacks or whatever.”

Rodhe said the company has no plans to open any other Trader Joe’s Pronto markets in New York or elsewhere.

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