TAMPA, Fla. (TBO.com) - A woman rolled into the parking lot of the new Trader Joe’s Wednesday afternoon, spotted someone she thought was an employee, and yelled a question out her car window.

“Do you know what time the store opens Friday?” she said.

Told by a reporter it opens at 8 a.m., she clutched her hands to her chest, beamed and let out an “I can’t wait.”

Such is the anticipation surrounding the opening of Trader Joe’s’ first Tampa Bay-area store Friday morning. Trader Joe’s has a loyal following that loves its collection of gourmet, organic and oddball groceries. Few other stores are likely to carry shrimp corn dogs, for example.

Aimee Pawelek, store manager — or store “captain” in Trader Joe’s speak — on Wednesday gave The Tampa Tribune an advance tour of the new store, at 3808 W. Swann Ave. in south Tampa. The company is planning its second local store in St. Petersburg.

The Tampa store, which will be open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, shoots for a comfy nautical feel, with cedar planks covering the walls, wooden cash register stands and a Gaspar’s Galley in the store’s rear, where people can try samples of the store’s various coffees and entrees. The opening free samples are Mandarin orange chicken and Japanese-style fried rice.

Photo Credit TBO.com

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