The line to get in at Rockridge Trader Joe's on May 8 around 9:20 a.m.
The line to get into the Rockridge Trader Joe’s on May 8 around 9:20 a.m. The store says it’s about a 15-minute wait to get in at this point. Photo: Sarah Han

Update, May 27, 6:19 p.m.: The Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch feed is live once again. Moyer contacted Nosh tonight with the news that a neighbor on Oak Grove Avenue has taken over the project.

Update, May 27, 2:30 p.m.: Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch is currently on pause. The project’s creator, Adrian Moyer, told Nosh that on May 26, the location on College Avenue moved the line to the other side of the building so that it is no longer viewable from her apartment. Moyer has posted a message on her website asking others with a view of the line to pick up the project in her place: “If you live on Oak Grove, Miles, or College Ave., and can see any part of the new line from your home, contact me if you’re interested in volunteering ~2 minutes of your time each day.” Moyer told Nosh that the store had moved the line for two reasons: to provide shade for customers and to stop her project after receiving complaints from customers. Moyer asks those who “liked this feed and miss the old line position” to contact Trader Joe’s. Nosh has reached out for comment from Trader Joe’s.

Original story, May 8: Before the lockdown, Adrian Moyer said she and her husband shopped at the Rockridge Trader Joe’s every couple of days, sometimes just for one item. Living in an apartment building just across the way from the market, they could pop in and out whenever the mood struck, even if for just one random item. Of course, that’s all changed now.

“Now it’s a much more thought-through thing,” Moyer said. “It’s so much extra stress. When we see there’s no line, we’ll drop everything and run over.”

For Moyer, that’s easy enough. She can peek out her window, which looks into the back parking lot of the College Avenue location, where the socially distanced line snakes from the front of the store, and in the busiest times, spills out onto the sidewalk down Miles Avenue. According to a sign placed in the parking lot near the sidewall of the building, the wait is about 15 minutes at this point.

Since the pandemic started, Moyer, a freelance marketing consultant, has been working from home. But she admits she hasn’t been working much, by choice, these days, and so she has a lot more time on her hands. In late April, she started posting to Nextdoor the status of the Trader Joe’s line as seen from her window.

Several neighbors on the social network appreciated her posts, and some even started to private message her asking about the length of the queue. Eventually, someone suggested she set up a live feed during Trader Joe’s business hours using an old iPhone and live streaming video site Twitch. Another person suggested she link the project with a charitable cause. Moyer liked that idea and decided to set up a website for the feed where visitors could also donate to the Alameda County Community Food Bank via GoFundMe. And that’s how Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch came to be.

So far, Moyer has raised close to $700 for the Alameda County Community Food Bank through the site and hopes more visibility means more donations. Her goal is $3,000, but she’ll bump up that number if it continues to climb.

A screenshot of Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch.

Moyer said that when the pandemic started, looking out her window at the line was a source of stress, but since starting Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch, it’s become “a thing that raises money” for a good cause. “It’s now a fun project that I’m happy about,” Moyer said.

But not everyone is happy about Moyer’s project. When she initially floated the idea for the streaming feed on Nextdoor, a neighbor with privacy concerns spoke out against it. The child of attorneys, Moyer said she was extremely careful to ensure the feed was within the bounds of the law. Her website has a whole section on its privacy policy, explaining how the live stream adheres to U.S. and California guidelines about privacy in public places. The quality of the feed is purposefully low, Moyer said, so that details that might identify individuals are blurred. She’s made the quality even fuzzier by adding a layer of Scotch tape over the iPhone’s lens.

“I’ve had a couple of complaints to clean the lens,” Moyer said.

She believes her project is above board, and before she launched, Moyer contacted Trader Joe’s to tell them about it, along with her goal to raise money for the food bank. “If this is going to go as well as I want it to, TJ’s has to be in the know,” she explained. The branch manager she spoke to said he had already been informed of her project, and did not approve of it due to privacy concerns. (Nosh left a message with Trader Joe’s for comment, but had not heard a response at time of publication.)

Moyer said because she’s not breaking the law, she’ll continue Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch despite not having Trader Joe’s blessing. But, she said she would comply if the store were to officially tell her to stop.

“If TJ’s sends a cease and desist, I’ll turn it off,” Moyer said. In the meantime, she’s hoping to continue fundraising as much as possible. “If the donations were to stop, I wouldn’t prioritize [the feed.]”

Adrian Moyer's DIY set-up for Rockridge TJ's Line Watch.
An old iPhone sits on a Daiso penholder, propped up by old pill bottles, to capture the live stream of the Trader Joe’s line. Photo: Adrian Moyer

While Moyer tries to provide a daily live stream from her apartment during Trader Joe’s business hours, there have been some mishaps. For one, she has to wake up in time to set up the phone by opening time. (“I’m not a morning person, especially on weekends.”) She sets up the phone on a DIY camera rig made of a repurposed Daiso penholder and empty pill bottles, which stabilize the iPhone and act as a low-tech cooling system. Some days, the phone will stop recording because it will overheat. In that case, she can add ice cubes to the pill bottles to cool it down. Other times, the app will crash or her standard poodle puppy Perry will knock the phone over and she won’t realize it (Moyer’s set up a Google voice number that people can text when that happens).

“The main spotty part is the morning,” she said. “But anyway, morning is a really bad time to go.”

Moyer said she hasn’t been paying close enough attention to the feed, or officially tracking times, to give a definitive answer about best times to shop. Still, based on what she’s seen out her window, wait times have declined over the last few weeks, and there are even times of the day when there’s no line at all.

“It happens a lot more than people think,” Moyer said.

“The line gets really short at what was originally a peak time, between 6 and 7 p.m., when people used to be getting off work.”

“The line gets really short at what was originally a peak time, between 6 and 7 p.m., when people used to be getting off work,” Moyer said. “It used to be a hopping time, but people don’t realize it’s open longer.” (Trader Joe’s extended its hours to 8 p.m. last week.)

Otherwise, Moyer suggested avoiding Trader Joe’s in the mornings around opening and Friday afternoons and evenings, when people might be stocking up for the weekend.

Although Moyer is excited that people are using her website and making donations, she said it would be nice to transition the project to a more passive one that didn’t involve her so much, or one that she didn’t have to worry her dog would knock over. She points to, a now-closed website that crowdsources grocery store wait times, as an example that would take less effort, but Moyer said the crowdsourcing aspect makes it less reliable, too. (Moyer was unaware of the recently launched local version called

Moyer recently reached out to the people behind two other Trader Joe’s line watches in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. She said yesterday that she has been in touch with the latter, and is hoping to “talk shop.”

As Moyer gets deeper into the project, she said her mother is concerned for her safety and her husband is a little perplexed by her new obsession.

“My husband thinks it’s kind of weird,” she said. “I think he initially thought it was kind of silly… but he’s been changing his tune now that I’ve been covered in the media.”

Sarah Han was the editor of Nosh from 2017 to 2021. Previously, she worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In 2020, Sarah won SPJ NorCal's...