If you ask anyone that frequents Trader Joe’s, they can probably spout for hours about the latest snacks they picked up, the newest spice blend they’re sprinkling on everything, or the new must-try ice cream from the frozen food aisle. For years, Black women had been having these conversations too…just not on a large platform. Two Black female Trader Joe’s lovers from Cleveland had an idea that changed all that.
Their names are Lauren (aka Lo), a 27-year-old human resources professional and Mercedes (aka Dee), a 34-year-old esthetician and mother. The Cleveland natives originally met on social media and later bonded at a dinner party Dee hosted.
“When I worked in retail, my job was right by Trader Joe’s. That was a frequent place I would go for inexpensive lunch,” Dee told ESSENCE of her initial love for the grocer. “I was always trying new things and that’s kind of how I fell in love with Trader Joe’s. And I just started cooking, and started my food blog Cornbread Fed. I love hosting people, which is how Lo and I met. It just kind of grew from there.”
As their friendship grew, Dee and Lo would bond about food and trade items after a Trader Joe’s haul. “Dee and I both followed social media pages dedicated to Trader Joe’s and I didn’t see a lot of brown hands on those posts,” Lo remembers. The idea to start a TJ’s page dedicated to Black girl’s began to dance in her head, and Dee was immediately on board. “I woke up in the morning and we had a conversation and it just went from there,” Lo said. “I just can’t believe how much it’s grown.”
When it comes to growth, the Black Girls In Trader Joe’s page is the movement we didn’t know we needed. In two weeks, the page pulled in an impressive 50,000. Dee and Lo were stunned at the numbers, even noticing an uptick of 5,000 new followers in one day. “[Building the brand] has been a baptism by fire,” says Dee. “We kept calling each other like, ‘are you seeing this?'” “It happened organically and that’s [thanks to] all of the Black women promoting something they believe in and love through word of mouth.”
The BGITJ Instagram page is not only dedicated to the store’s vast food selection, but also serves up mouthwatering recipes you can make with their unique ingredients. This milkshake using TJ’s purple yam ice cream and blueberry lavender almond milk is bound to be your favorite new summer treat.
Dee’s brioche french toast with garam masala peaches made us fall in love with breakfast again.
This is just some of the food inspo that can be found on this wildly popular page, which is still climbing in followers daily. While BGITJ currently exists as an Instagram-only platform, Dee and Lo are planning to expand their brand with an official blog and merchandise. “I think that it’s important that we are seen and we can recognize each other [in the store] whether it’s with a pin, button, or T-shirt,” says Dee. “We’ve been afforded that sense of community from social media, which is amazing because now we can be all over the country and still feel a sense of community.”
For now, they’re enjoying the community they’ve built – both with avid Trader Joe’s lovers and Black women who’ve never stepped foot in one. “I love getting those messages that say, ‘I was intimidated by Trader Joe’s because I thought it was going to be expensive.’ Girl, no! You can find some deals.”
Most importantly, Dee and Lo want to offer themselves as examples of Black professional women who took their passion and created something beautiful. “We’re women in Cleveland with lives and this is what we started,” says Dee. “We believe that you could start something too. Don’t let your creative ideas sit in silence. Turn the volume up.”
Scroll through the gallery for a list Dee and Lo’s favorite Trader Joe’s items.