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The Anti-Wal-Mart: No Protests Here — Trader Joe’s Expands In Florida — This Time In The Pundit’s Back Yard – And The Welcome Is Warm

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, July 22, 2013

You know when a retailer has achieved truly great status? It is when the whole big deal is a12,500 square-foot store and yet the politicians in town start giving themselves high-fives when the retailer announces it is opening in their town.

A retailer just announced a new location a stone’s throw from Pundit headquarters, and the headline reads:

Boca Takes a Victory Lap After Landing Trader Joe’s

Boca Raton's City Council met in a special session Thursday with a single mission worth delaying vacation for: Bringing Trader Joe's to town.

The 12,500 square-foot specialty food store is part of the "East City Center" the City Council approved unanimously Thursday with all due haste. It had been on the agenda for last week's meeting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, but proper notice hadn't been given for that to happen.

So a special session was called before the City Council went on its month-long summer break. And rare applause broke out after the vote.

"Welcome Trader Joe's to the city of Boca Raton," said Constance Scott, chairwoman of the CRA.

For proponents of Boca's push for more downtown housing, landing the new high-end market is proof the city is going in the right direction. No corporate incentives were given for Trader Joe's to come here.

"This is going to be an amazing complement to what we have been trying to achieve in our downtown," Scott said. "It's going to be a big piece to that important puzzle."

Right now, the California-based grocery with a cult-like following has just three other Florida locations. The chain has also announced plans to open stores in Palm Beach Gardens, Pinecrest in Miami-Dade and Winter Park in Central Florida. Another possible store is rumored for Delray Beach.

Mayor Susan Whelchel asked the architect on the project: Why Boca Raton?

Marc Wiener, the project architect, said he had a statement to read on behalf of the developer to the CRA that addressed that very question: "If it were not for your stewardship of our downtown and the momentum you have created through the quality multifamily residential projects which have been approved during the last couple of years, we would not have been able to attract Trader Joe's to locate in downtown Boca Raton."

Higher-rising buildings and rental units of smaller sizes have consumed many hours of the CRA's meetings, with some saying dense housing is going to spoil what makes Boca special. Others, however, have said bringing more residents downtown is how it will become a thriving place.

Thursday, however, there was no sign of any rancor. Gabriel Banfi, a resident of Boca for the past 21 years, was among the few members of the public at Thursday's session and said he was excited about the coming of Trader Joe's.

"To shop there is sort of an adventure," he said. "You find excellent things you don't find in other stores."

Boca Raton is a city of transplants, so many residents have experience with Trader Joe’s from Boston, New York or elsewhere. They have missed that experience. As Trader Joe’s rolls out across Florida (as is its corporate cousin, Aldi), we suspect Publix will regret not seizing these market positions.

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