Local News

Aloha, Trader Joes!

By October 27, 2010

Jeff Greathouse, manager of the new store, said preparing for Fridays all-day gala is like planning a wedding we dont want to forget any little detail. But we have the people, we have the product, and were going to be set for all the fun once customers start entering the store.

Greathouse confirmed that upwards of 2,500 people turned in job applications 2,500 was when we stopped counting. … At a certain point, we just needed to get down to interviewing. Weve had more people come in; I dont know what the total number would be at this point.

He said about 60 people were hired, and several other Trader Joes employees transferred to the Davis store from other locations.

Greathouse has been with the company for 17 years, including a year at the Folsom store, and six years at the East Sacramento store. Trader Joes likes to decorate its store with murals that reflect the local landscape, and the new Davis store is no exception there are paintings on the walls that depict the Varsity Theatre, Central Park, bicyclists and a red double-decker Unitrans bus.

And above the wine department? A mural showing the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, of course reflecting the Mondavi familys prominent role in making California wine famous worldwide, and its long-standing support of the arts and UC Davis.

A long saga

Trader Joes has, indeed, traveled a long and winding road to reach this point. Rumors about the specialty grocer opening a store here began surfacing about 10 years ago. As far back as 2003, The Davis Enterprise carried a story with the headline Davis on a short list for Trader Joes, quoting a company spokesman who confirmed that several sites were under consideration.

Real estate managers from the company visited Davis several times, sizing up possible locations including the Davis Manor Shopping Center in East Davis and the Westlake Shopping Center in West Davis.

Trader Joes finally signed a lease in 2005 for space in the proposed Covell Village project. But that plan went up in smoke when Davis voters resoundingly rejected the development at the ballot box.

In 2006, Trader Joes focused on a site in University Mall, on Russell Boulevard adjacent to the UCD campus. Centro Properties, the malls owner, applied for a building permit, which was approved, and Trader Joes issued a news release saying it intended to open a store in University Mall by 2008.

But the building the retailer had in mind was occupied by Radiological Associates of Sacramento, which was not keen on moving. Centro eventually went to court, seeking to cancel its lease with RAS, but the case was thrown out by a judge.

Things began to shift last fall, when RAS lost its contract to provide services to the Sutter Health system, including Sutter Davis Hospital. That left the RAS office in Davis with very little business.

In November 2009, Centro Properties submitted building permit plans to the city for demolition of the 5,524-square-foot building that had been occupied by RAS, and construction of a new 12,880-square-foot building for the specialty grocer. A few weeks later, the RAS office in University Mall quietly closed. And last spring, the new building began to rise on the site at Russell Boulevard and Sycamore Lane.

A boost to sales

City officials are happy that the long-sought store is finally opening. Ken Hiatt, assistant city manager, said the city has been actively working on this since 2006 but then added, Certainly, the communitys efforts to attract Trader Joes to Davis date back much farther, probably into the early 1990s.

Hiatt believes the popular specialty grocer will be a boost for the citys economy.

The more significant economic benefit will be the indirect sales derived from a destination retailer like Trader Joes, Hiatt said. Trader Joes has a strong following locally and in the region. This will keep people in town and attract new shoppers that will increase sales at other businesses in the University Mall shopping center and the community. This effect will be even greater with the addition of Forever 21 at the mall next spring.

The clothing retailer will occupy the former Gottschalks department store site.

Trader Joes which has more than 340 stores in 25 states has achieved popularity by sticking with a successful business plan. As described in a Fortune Magazine article in August, the grocer operates relatively small stores with a carefully curated selection of items. Typical grocery stores can carry 50,000 stock-keeping units (or SKUs); Trader Joes sells about 4,000 SKUs (mostly the Trader Joes brand) and fewer SKUs means a simpler operation involving less overhead and less off-site warehouse space.

Trader Joes stores also typically generate a high volume of customer traffic creating lots of sales in a compact retail space, allowing the company to get bulk discounts from suppliers. Fortune estimated that a typical Trader Joes location sells twice as much merchandise per square foot as a competing specialty grocer like Whole Foods.

Trending smaller

The new Trader Joes in Davis also appears to be part of a trend toward smaller neighborhood grocery stores. The enormous 130,000-square-foot Target store that opened in Davis in 2009 includes about 13,000 square feet of grocery aisles, geared toward convenience shopping.

The Westlake IGA Market with about 11,400 square feet opened in West Davis in January. And next spring, Grocery Outlet plans to open a 12,000-square-foot store in the Davis Manor shopping center.

Katherine Hess, community development administrator with the city of Davis, said, Overall trends in the grocery industry appear to include a mix of discount, experience and smaller niche/neighborhood grocery stores. Davis planning policies call for neighborhood grocery stores that accommodate convenient daily shopping, encourage walking and bicycling, and provide a hub for the neighborhood.

Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com



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