Trader Joe’s only wine store in New York City closed abruptly on Thursday, Aug. 11.
After having been open at 138 East 14th St. in Union Square for 15 years, managers at Trader Joe’s Wine Shop, store #541, sent out an email to store employees—its “Crew Members”—to say that the space they had been operating in was too small, and that management had decided to “optimize the potential of our one and only license to sell wine in the state of New York” by moving the wine shop to another location.
Management promises that employees will be paid their regular salaries through Aug. 28, based on the days they were scheduled to work: “During this time, we will be working with the Mates, Merchant, and the Crew, and will talk individually with each of you about the opportunity to transfer to another Trader Joe’s store in New York City,” management’s email stated. “We will be getting in touch with each of you soon, but if you have questions, please feel free to contact [us].”
Questions are still swirling about whether the wine shop’s closing was in response to any unionization attempts among employees.
One Trader Joe’s employee claims Crew Members were on the verge of asking for a vote to unionize. But since the store had already become less profitable since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and was having to regulate the sale of its alcohol because it was in a building owned by New York University (which has underage college students they didn’t want frequenting the wine store), the TJ’s employee claims management jumped at the opportunity to quickly close the store and move its wine operations to another space.
“They claimed it was because the wine store has been losing money since the pandemic started,” another Trader Joe’s employee told the AmNews.
“Either way, it’s an example of the company not even considering the employees in their decisions because they were not warned until 12:01 midnight.”
The midnight emailing of management’s announcement that the store was closing took both patrons and employees by surprise: some employees had not checked their email before showing up for work the next day and only found out about the situation when they arrived to start their shift.