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Could Collingswood Get a Trader Joe's?

Patch spoke with Mayor James Maley and representatives from the offbeat grocery store about what it would take to open a location in Collingswood.

With the news that the borough of Collingswood is taking steps to oust the owners of the barely operational National Food Market—and the promise from Mayor James Maley that another, food-related business waits in the wings—the enduring hope shared by many Patch readers was that a Trader Joe’s grocery store would somehow take its place.

Although that’s assuredly not going to happen (Maley has also expressly promised as much), it hasn’t stopped specialty shoppers from dreaming, or scheming, of a way to close the gap between the 08108 zip code and the next-closest Trader Joe’s locations in Marlton and Philadelphia.

The imminent closing of the Westmont Superfresh grocery store on Cuthbert Boulevard—could it be the next best spot?—has done nothing to dampen this enthusiasm.

Collingswood is a dry town, but apparently, the ability to retail alcohol isn’t an issue; Trader Joe’s just opened a store in Salt Lake City, UT, and the local branch in Marlton is dry too.

What’s more, Maley told Patch, he had been in negotiations with the company to bring a Trader Joe’s into Collingswood years ago, and for a number of reasons, it just didn’t work out.

Crunching the numbers

“They weren’t telling us no, but they stopped the process because they were focusing on development in the south,” Maley said. “The whole approval process for building a store was easier [there]. That’s where they were focused.

“Now that we’ve been in this economy, I haven’t pursued it in the last few years,” he said. “We’re trying to let the top settle on our local economy.”

Maley also pointed out that in order for a business like Trader Joe’s to come to Collingswood, developers must crunch some numbers to see whether the surrounding suburbs have sufficient means to support it.

“They evaluate who those people are, what their incomes are,” Maley said. “They can tell [from] where you live what you’re likely to buy, and see if there’s enough people to maintain it.”

Maley said part of the reason Collingswood hasn’t tried to recruit a Trader Joe’s again recently is because of the physical footprint the store requires, and the amount of redevelopment that could have been required to build a store here given the existing layout of the borough.

One plan would have involved relocating the police station and building a property that ran from the Hi-Speedline (where the Collingswood Farmers Market is held) right up to Haddon Avenue, complete with a parking deck.

“Any place we could put them would be a redevelopment project, which costs a lot more money [than building on a vacant property],” Maley said. “You have to buy property with existing buildings, and that throws the numbers off-kilter.”

But even that could change in the future, Maley said.

“Some of the chains, like Pottery Barn, are coming up with smaller footprint stores for downtowns,” he said.

'We grow slowly'

When you really want to know something, as they say, you’ve got to go to the horse’s mouth. Unfortunately, in this case, the horse is keeping mum.

“There’s no special algorithm that brings a Trader Joe’s to a particular area,” said the customer relations consultant who took a call from Patch.

“We definitely get customers calling and requesting,” she said, and pointed out that the company does have a location request form online. “Those [requests] do get tallied and sent to the real estate department.”

Hold on, though: Bringing a Trader Joe’s to your neighborhood isn’t just a matter of stuffing a ballot box.

“I think there’s a misconception that a certain number of email signatures or phone numbers” can make that happen, she said.

As the company is privately held, the agent said, “we grow slowly,” following a two-year plan—and there’s nothing on schedule in South Jersey in that current plan.

“I think it’s a very unique store,” she said. “It’s sort of unlike anything else. I think that in and of itself really drives the following.”

And just because there’s nothing on the table now, Maley said, doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be again. The recent shuttering of the Superfresh as well as the Lawnside Pathmark are indications that buying patterns are changing, he said.

“Those stores are only closing down because people aren’t going there,” Maley said. “Even though I know people are upset that it’s closing, it’s because people aren’t going there.

“We used to have a whole lot of video stores and record shops too,” he said.

Ned Bulmash December 26, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Trader Joe's in C'wood? That would be fantastic if the powers that be could pull it off.
Liz Halvorsen December 26, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Oh yes, please!
TW December 26, 2012 at 02:54 PM
If a Trader Joe's come into the , their first choise would be in the Wegman's shopping center...
Collingswoodnative December 26, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Lack of parking, no Trader Joes. Build where the PD is? Colls PD will merge with Camden Metro soon, bet the mortgage money on that. "One plan would have involved relocating the police station and building a property that ran from the Hi-Speedline (where the Collingswood Farmers Market is held) right up to Haddon Avenue, complete with a parking deck." Hello???? How many existing tax paying buildings will be torn down in this adventure into Collingswood being a landlord? Why all the interest in the National building? The bank building up the street has been vacant for ten years or so, the facade is falling off. Yes the sign for DePace Sports Hall of Fame is back up......again.
John Daly December 26, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I think we should court McFarland's (there's one in Merchantville). They'd do a land-office business, and Colls could have a grocery store/butcher shop again!
Art Mercurio December 26, 2012 at 09:01 PM
When are we going to ditch the stone age dry town nonsense?
Becky Show Oehlers December 26, 2012 at 09:16 PM
We simply don't have enough parking for a Trader Joes. They won't look at us twice. We need to have a co-op market like Weavers Way in Chestnut Hill. That is completely viable in Collingswood and would be perfect in the National Food Market space. I hope they aren't too short-sighted about that space and thinking of turning into something too specific like a butcher. The elderly in the nearby apartments need a vital grocery market like a Weavers Way.
DR Marks December 26, 2012 at 10:46 PM
If indeed there is a food market "waiting in the wings," why is it that Mayor Maley seems to be the "point man" with eminent domain and Collingswood's credit reputation once again at risk. What happened to an arms length transaction between a willing buyer and seller at a fair market price? Is there a missing piece of this puzzle?
shayna collins December 27, 2012 at 01:49 AM
We need a grocery store that those of us who are older and without cars can get to for essential items, not a Trader Joe's type store. Wawa and Sara's are very limited in what they carry. Those who want Trader Joe's more than likely have the means of transportation to their other locations. Please think about those of us who struggle to reach a grocery store.
Becky Show Oehlers December 27, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Exactly Shayna, which is why a Weavers Way Co-op idea is so beautiful. Not only are you supporting local farmers and the good of the community, you are not only offering the regular foods you can get in a grocery store, but also more interesting food and brands that we want to see more of. You can eat well, shop well and be well with varied beautiful products. Please google Weavers Way in Chestnut Hill and inform yourself, Collingswood residents! We can do even better than a Trader Joes!
Lisa murphy December 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Collingswood would is lucky to have small town charm. With an excellent farmers market and a number of privately owned restraunts and shops, a trader joes would not be the right fit. A co-op would be. Diverse food, an emphasis on local and gourmet would fit with the foodie atmosphere. The Focus on developing community is an important foundation of co-op business, another great bonus for the town.
JBTreu December 27, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Becky, et al, I whole heartedly agree with the co-op idea.
Becky Show Oehlers December 27, 2012 at 04:14 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=BpG8wzx1qO0 For those of you who want to know more.
Jasomm December 28, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Space requirements for Trader Joes' was 50 parking spaces, 15000 SqFt. Last year, before the Ingerman deal was worked out I put together this mock up for a Trader Joes at the Lumber Yard Phase IV site.... It would have fit (additional parking could even been arranged with as agreement with Verizon, and there is also the lumberyard garage) https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B1M7ORw1X9nMU3A5eC1RcUt6bW8
Jasomm December 28, 2012 at 05:59 PM
on the food co-op...... Is the Sports Museum plan back on for the old TD Bank? because if not, I found this place in Middleburg, Virgina that would be a perfect re-use for that building as a Bank turned food Co-op... http://www.homefarmstore.com/HomeFarmStore/HFHome.html
Porterincollingswood December 28, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I can show you a former bank in Brooklyn that's home to a Trader Joe's. So how's THAT for irony? And, like the only other TJ's I ever visited, it has no parking to speak of.
trader joe's not that cheap December 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Trader Joe's is owned by the Albrecht family, which also runs ALDI at Collingswood Circle. Did you know that the items which are identical are priced much lower at ALDI?? Since Trader Joe's is moving in to a SuperFresh over in Philly, that also is going out of business, why doesn't TJ move into the SF here, which is going out of business, just like all SFs in this area.
Shirley December 29, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Very astute observation.
Mister Mike January 01, 2013 at 08:47 AM
No disrespect Shayna, take a taxi to go grocery shopping if you don't have a car. You have a long standing taxi company in town. Doesn't Collingswood have a Town Car like Haddon Twp and other surrounding towns that takes seniors to grocery stores on a regularly scheduled basis? If not, perhaps maybe Collingswood's senor citizens should push your Mayor Maley for 1 or 2!
Jon Law January 02, 2013 at 03:30 AM
Check out Mariposa Food Coop on Baltimore Ave in University City. Great idea for Collingswood and realistic.Trader Joe's is owned by ALDI and they have a store here already.
Will McGowan January 09, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Porter is correct; the Trader Joe's in Media, a town with a downtown similar to ours, has a TJ's "shoehorned" into an old parking lot with limited space. In addition, they also have an Iron Hill Brewery just a block away. For those who feel alcohol will decimate Collingswood, you can rest assure that Media, PA is no "Pottersville" and is not home to many liquor establishments; it just made sense so they went with it.
Katie April 03, 2013 at 11:32 PM
@ trader joes is not that cheap: The products are NOT the same as an Aldi store. They may be the same owners but the inventory at TJs is far superior to Aldi and appeals to a far different demographic. A typical TJs customer is not the same as a typical Aldi customer. Not favoring either one, I am just stating obvious shopping objectives and shopping experiences. As far as parking goes, how could it even be an issue, any trader joes I have ever been to ,up and down, the east coast has had a deplorable parking situation, so what's the big whoop?

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