The Cult of Trader Joe’s: Strong Following In Spokane Fails to Attract Store

There are over 250 Trader Joes locations across the country, four more opening soon and 20 locations that are “coming soon.” Rumors of a Spokane location have floated around for the last three to four years, but, sadly, to many in the area, Spokane is not currently on the list of upcoming stores.

Spokane resident, Sarah Bain, has been actively trying to bring Traders Joes to Spokane for close to three years. Regularly writing letters by hand to the corporate headquarters before the website accepted emails, Bain at one point urged friends and family to write the store regularly requesting a Spokane store. She says interest in a location for Spokane is growing and over 30 folks have expressed interest in a “Trader Joes contingent of sorts.”

“I was talking to a lady on my corner, just last week; she had a Trader Joes’ bag and she said that they just got back. She said that they make trips specifically to Seattle to go to Trader Joes. Mostly people just want to know-are they coming or not?” says Bain.

While Trader Joes sells organic foods, according to Bain it is not accurate to equate it with Huckleberry’s Natural Market. Bain sees the closest comparison in Spokane to being the Cost Plus World Market on Division Street.

Trader Joes stores seem to be loved for their pre-packaged fresh and frozen gourmet meals, unique snack items and exotic wine collection-high quality items at good prices. Owned by a pair of billionaires from Germany, Trader Joes touts itself as “your neighborhood store.”

In July of 2006, the Spokesman-Review reported that Trader Joes, “is looking for property to open its first Eastern Washington store.” The store reportedly looked at three downtown sites as potential locations and visited Spokane in response to a formal pitch by the Downtown Spokane Partnership. Since then, Trader Joes appears to be no longer talking about Spokane.

Kaaren Bloom, another local Traders Joes activist, who, at one point, regularly checked in with stores on the west side of the state to see if there were Spokane plans says, “At one point about a year and half ago, they had Spokane on the map. They said, ‘yes, they are looking at locations right now in Spokane.’ And then a few months after that, they said, ‘it is temporarily on hold.'” Bloom has since then concluded, “that the whole thing that Trader Joes is coming to Spokane is an urban legend.” Plus her husband, has refused to continue inquiring at west side stores.

Sarah Bain’s informants seem to be on the same page as Bloom’s. Bain, however, is starting to believe that there is a conspiracy going on.

“Their latest story was that they were coming. What my neighbor Colleen said, was, ‘the cashier at the Trader Joes on Queen Anne told me was that it was really weird that they ususally say right away why they are not going to a city and what is stopping them. But no one is talking about Spokane.'”

Bain’s most recent information, that she admits is hard to know whether, “it is just gossip or not” said that, “there is some business in Spokane that is trying to keep Trader Joes out.” Exasperated, Bain, exclaims, “we are not talking about Wal-Mart!”

Whether it is the rumored 3-store minimum, the need to find an existing building that is 10,000 square feet or a corporate conspiracy, the Inland Northwest appears to be, at least in the short term, Trader Joes-less.

Bain adds, “The last time I was in Seattle at Trader Joes, I think I might have seen Sasquatch there.”

Rumored TJ sites:

Downtown YWCA
Excell Foods, South Perry
Kendall Yards
Main Floor of 809 West Main Condos
City Project, Main Floor of the Ridpath
Main Floor of the Morgan Lofts
Safeway on Third
“Somewhere in the Spokane Valley”
Manito Shopping Center
Lincoln Heights Shopping Center
Havermale Park Development

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