November 18, 2010 in Business

Trader Joe’s picks South Hill site

Specialty chain plans 12,000-square-foot store
By The Spokesman-Review
 


(Full-size photo)

Branching out

The first Trader Joe’s opened in 1967 in Pasadena, Calif. The chain opened its first location outside of California in 1993 and now has more than 350 stores in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

Trader Joe’s, the nationwide chain that’s created a legion of food-loving fans, announced it will open its first Spokane store next year.

The Southern California-based company confirmed Wednesday it will lease a 12,000-square-foot building on Spokane’s South Hill. That building will be constructed at the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center, at 29th Avenue and Regal Street, next to the existing Hogan’s Restaurant.

The specialty grocery chain has considered opening a Spokane store for several years. Earlier this year it started looking seriously at Spokane’s South Hill, said Jeff Ottmar, who works for a Spokane company that represented property owner Lincoln Heights Center LLC.

Alison Mochizuki, director of national public relations for Trader Joe’s, said the company will announce later when it will open and how many workers it plans to hire.

She said Trader Joe’s doesn’t disclose how it selects its store sites.

“However, we think Spokane is a great area for our store because there are a lot of foodies in this wonderful neighborhood,” she said.

Fans of Trader Joe’s have been clamoring for a Spokane store for more than a year. A Facebook page called Trader Joe’s Spokane, established to try to lure the chain here, has grown from a few thousand fans to more than 11,000 in recent months.

Ottmar said the company, which has more than 350 stores nationwide, has developed a cult following. “Having them here will be pretty cool,” he said.

Its products have earned a diehard loyalty among foodies and bargain hunters. Once famous for introducing Charles Shaw wine, commonly called “two-buck Chuck” for its small price tag, the store also sells organic products and domestic and imported foods including distinctive deli items and snack mixes.

Ottmar said one of the attractions of the Lincoln Heights location was the absence of another food market in that retail center.

Supermarkets typically have agreements with property owners to keep out competitors in the same shopping centers.

“So, not having any other grocery stores at Lincoln Heights essentially helped Trader Joe’s focus on Lincoln Heights,” Ottmar said.

Chris Bornhoft, a development coordinator for Vandervert Developments, the manager of Lincoln Heights Shopping Center, said it might take six to eight months to build the store. Dick Vandervert, owner of Vandervert Properties, is also one of the partners of Lincoln Heights Center LLC.

Terms of the Trader Joe’s lease won’t be disclosed, Bornhoft said.

Trader Joe’s stores are relatively small; Mochizuki said the company fills buildings that range from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet. Most large markets carry 40,000 or more items; Trader Joe’s stores sell about 2,000 or so.

Mochizuki said Trader Joe’s introduces about a dozen new items every week, often going straight to food producers, cutting out the middleman. Trader Joe’s might take out preservatives or coloring agents, re-label the item under its own label and sell it at a discount, she said.

Bornhoft said construction permits have not yet been filed. He noted that the Lincoln Heights shopping center should provide ample parking for the new store, despite its anticipated popularity. The city requires at least one parking space per 1,000 square feet of retail space, and the center has well over that even after factoring in the additional Trader Joe’s space, he said.

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