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Trader Joe’s considers Spokane

Tue., July 25, 2006

Trader Joe’s — a specialty grocer selling value-priced kosher, organic and vegetarian foods and general merchandise — is looking for property to open its first Eastern Washington store.

Sources say that representatives of Trader Joe’s Co. Inc. came through the area in June, looking at several downtown locations.

Sites visited include City Place, a 56-condo project in the former Executive Court in the Ridpath Hotel, Havermale Park, a mixed-use development in eastern downtown, and the Top of China Buffet site at 202 W. Third.

Dave Black, CEO for Tomlinson Black Commercial and a partner in the City Place project, said Trader Joe’s officials told him that the company wants to open a single store in the Downtown area.

“I don’t think that they’ve made a decision (on the site) and I don’t think they’ve signed a deal yet,” Black said.

Alison Mochizuki, director of national publicity for the Monrovia-Calif.-based Trader Joe’s, said the company isn’t ready to comment about whether it’s opening a Spokane store or provide information about a possible location.

Trader Joe’s has a dozen stores in Western Washington, but so far none in the eastern part of the state or in North Idaho. The stores feature a creative mix of about 2,000 private-label products, including instant green tea, limited edition Peaberry coffee from Tanzania and “the world’s largest cashews.” Goods include frozen foods, baked goods, vitamin supplements and other general merchandise.

According to Hoover’s, which researches companies and industries, Trader Joe’s has 250 stores averaging about 10,000 square feet and concentrated in 21 states, mostly on the east and west coasts. The company is owned by German billionaires Karl and Theo Albrecht.

Rob Brewster, developer of Havermale Park, confirmed the Trader Joe’s visit, but said representatives preferred another site.

The Top of China Buffet location is owned by developer Harlan Douglass, but is under a long-term lease with local businessman Cyrus Vaughn, founder and former owner of Cyrus O’Leary’s. Vaughn’s office didn’t return voice messages asking for comment.

Company reps came to the area after Black and Marty Dickinson, president of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, traveled to the International Council of Shopping Centers convention, in May, and pitched the area to Trader Joe’s officials.

“They were very receptive and I think they’ve made a decision to come to Spokane,” Black said.

Black said City Place has secured about 40 non-tenant parking spaces and has access to more. He’d hoped to locate Trader Joe’s in the building, but said his group is considering a health club if Trader Joe’s doesn’t work out.

“I’d like to have somebody in there by the end of the year because that’s when the condos are going to be done,” Black said.


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