NAPLES — The rumors are no longer rumors about Trader Joe’s coming to Florida.
“It’s absolutely true,” said Alison Mochizuki, a spokeswoman for the trendy grocery store chain.
The chain, with a cult-like following, will open its first Florida store in North Naples, at a former Borders bookstore at 10600 U.S. 41 North, in Granada Shoppes south of Immokalee Road. The 14,000-square-foot grocery store will open later this year. A lease was recently signed.
“There are a lot of foodies in the area,” Mochizuki said. “We consider ourselves a neighborhood grocery store and it seems like a wonderful neighborhood for us to be part of.”
Trader Joe’s, headquartered in Monrovia, Calif., carries the basics, along with exotic foods. Most of the store’s groceries – about 80 percent – are sold under the Trader Joe’s name. Some of the more popular items include a roasted seaweed snack, a truffle mousse pate made out of chicken and a frozen, ready-to-eat mandarin orange chicken dinner.
Store employees wear Hawaiian-themed shirts, as “traders on the culinary seas.”
The chain is also known for its bargain $2 Charles Shaw wine, which the local store will carry.
Trader Joe’s has 360 locations in 30 states. Another one will open Friday in Chicago.
Asked if there would be other locations in Florida, Mochizuki said she had no comment. “We don’t have anything else to announce right now,” she said.
Anything the grocer sells under its own label doesn’t have artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
“We cut out the middleman whenever possible and we buy direct,” Mochizuki said. “In order to keep our costs down, we don’t do branded television advertising. We don’t do the weekly newspaper advertising. So we do limited advertising.”
A few times a year, the grocer sends out its “Fearless Flyer” to residents near its stores. Each flyer highlights a selection of interesting products. The flyer has been described as a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad Magazine.
A story published in Fortune magazine more than a year ago made it appear that Trader Joe’s was unlikely to expand to Florida because the state is so far from its distribution centers. According to the story, insiders said it would be difficult for the company to efficiently get products to the state. Mochizuki had no comment about that.
Karen Polacek, who lives in Estero, said news of Trader Joe’s coming to Southwest Florida made her day on Wednesday.
“We shop at the Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis and also are fans of their counterpart Aldi’s - still hoping they will bring one of those to the area,” she said in an email.
She said Trader Joe’s will get an instant following from all the people who moved to the Southwest Florida from other areas where there are stores.
“They are usually small stores with great products. They package for both families, but also in a small quantity for one or two,” she said.
Jean Cochrane, an East Naples resident, said she’s eager for the store to open.
“I’m very happy,” she said. I’m from outside of Chicago and we love it. We like Aldi’s too.”
Cochrane said she’ll still shop at her nearby Publix because it’s so convenient, but she’ll go to Trader Joe’s for specialty items.
“They have such a variety and good products, very nice,” she said.
Now, the nearest stores are in Georgia.
Trader Joe’s Company started out as a chain of convenience stores in southern California, known as Pronto Markets, in 1958. In 1967, Pronto Markets became Trader Joe’s, which at first operated as small wine and cheese shops.
Over the last 40 years, Trader Joe’s has evolved and grown as a national grocer. It offers more than 2,000 unique grocery items under its label. The company does not sell its products online.
An opening date has not yet been set for the store in North Naples. Look for an announcement soon.