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Trader Joe’s makes it easier to shop with the tots

Parents and caretakers of young children may have been alarmed recently when they noticed the old reliable kid-occupying coloring station at Claremont’s Trader Joe’s was gone. Fear not, busy folks: the store hasn’t abandoned you in your efforts to get a little shopping done with the wee ones in tow.

Trader Joe’s simply swapped out the old art station and display wall with the city’s newest Little Free Library, this one focused exclusively on children’s fare.

To those unfamiliar, the Little Free Library concept is simple: people donate books at the LFL kiosk, and readers take them. The little libraries have been multiplying in recent years, with several in Claremont, across the country and even around the globe.

Jocelyn Bocking, 36, is an original crew member at the Claremont Trader Joe’s, hired prior to its 2008 opening, and with fellow employee Jose Gayton, was the driving force behind the project. The Trader Joe’s library is unique in that it’s only stocked with books for newborns through middle school.

As the library’s steward she helps filter donations to be sure they’re age appropriate. Books for newborns through middle school age kids are the focus; Think board books on up to the Harry Potter series.

“Probably not Twilight,” Ms. Bocking said. “That’s probably where I would draw the pop culture line!”

Donating is simple. Just bring age appropriate books to the front desk, located behind the library, and while you’re there, maybe pick a book up for a little one in your life.

Ms. Bocking has lived in Claremont for nearly a decade. Her husband, Trevor, is a lifelong resident. They have two daughters, Beatrice, 4, and Parker, 12. Ms. Bocking is a “mate” in Trader Joe’s nautical parlance, which means she’s a member of the management team. There’s another team of managers called “merchants.” The store employs about 70 people.

Claremont’s Trader Joe’s is the first in the 488-store chain to install a Little Free Library on premises, which makes Ms. Bocking understandably proud.

“One of the sweetest things was on the first day a mom with a baby walked over there and grabbed one of the board books and was like, ‘Oh, you can hold this while we’re shopping!’” Ms. Bocking said. “And it was one of [her daughter] Beatrice’s first books. That was when I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is going to be a good fit.’”

The impetus came from Ms. Bocking’s desire for a greener approach both at work and in her life.  Coincidentally, Trader Joe’s has over the last couple of years been making great strides in sustainability by reducing plastic waste, among other measures, she said.

“It’s so noticeable in our produce section, where we used to sell tomatoes where you had to buy two, and they were in a little plastic box,” Ms. Bocking said. “Now we’ve moved on to eliminating the plastic box. Even down to the store level we’re trying to find ways to be more sustainable.”

A few months ago, Ms. Bocking began thinking about all those coloring pages the store had been printing up, displaying and then adding to the landfill when they were taken down. She thought about something that might replace that activity, still community minded and kid friendly, but with less of a carbon footprint.

The Little Free Library was a natural fit.

“Kids are really receptive to the idea of sustainability and being environmentally aware,” Ms. Bocking said. “They are very accepting of it. They are like, ‘Yeah, we don’t want to waste.’ We’ve had a bunch of happy campers so far. The transition has been smooth sailing.”

Her passion project for the last couple years has been community engagement.

“That ties into the nonprofit giving that we do [at Trader Joe’s] and the different kinds of community events that we have,” Ms. Bocking said. “I really enjoy it. It’s fun to see people that you recognize from the store outside the walls of the store, because then you can see that Trader Joe’s really does impact the community. Just getting the response from people, ‘Oh, that’s my Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s!’ I just don’t think you get that at Target.”

One of her favorite times of year for spreading the gospel of Trader Joe’s is right about now, when students start arriving at the Claremont Colleges.

“Because I love seeing the parents that are coming from all over the place,” she said. “From different states, sure, but even from different parts of the world. I hand them a map and say, ‘Look, if you just have your kid get a bike and go right up to Foothill, we’re going to take care of them.’ And their faces just light up. They go, ‘Ah, there’s a Trader Joe’s!’ I think that’s special too.”

For more information on the Little Free Library go to littlefreelibrary.org.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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