More Thoughts on Trader Joe’s

Pre Application Meeting Takeaways

Last week’s Pre Application meeting with Trader Joe’s left us with more questions than answers. The overall vibe of the meeting was mixed. On one hand, Trader Joe’s fans expressed overall enthusiasm about the plan. On the other, there was a myriad of concerns expressed by attendees. Concerns fielded at the meeting included topics pertaining to the potential impact that a chain store, especially one of this size, will have on existing independent small businesses in the hood, traffic and parking, local hires, and the character of the neighborhood.

In response to the claim that the neighborhood desperately needs a market, some attendees were quick to remind us that Hayes Valley is nestled in between two existing Safeway stores (shown here on the map: items 1 & 2).

We also heard a cry that TJ’s is needed because one of our local markets, Nabila’s, only sells eggs for over $10; a recent visit to the store dispels this claim.

This brings us to a critical thought posed to us recently. Nabila’s, celebrating their 25th year in Hayes Valley, opened its doors in response to a community need. While their prices might be marginally higher because of its independent roots and smaller footprint, is it fair that a group of residents has now designated this store as a convenience/specialty shop versus an essential business that has been a staple in the neighborhood for 25 years? Long-term residents who have gotten to know this family run store are concerned about the impact a Trader Joe’s in Hayes Valley will have on little markets like Nabila’s and NicksThey are fearful of the potential of being driven out of business by a national chain with centralized purchasing. Along with other long-standing businesses, Nabila’s and Nick’s are at the very core of why a Formula Retail Ban was put into place: to protect them. Why are some of us making light of this very real possibility?

Those in support of a TJ’s in the neighborhood were quite insistent they will continue to support our small independent markets. Those who support local small business and the ban on formula retail said they were puzzled by this claim as it presents an unlikely expectation that one will pay Nabila’s a visit after picking up groceries at TJ’s.

The presence of a chain like TJ’s could profoundly alter the business landscape of Hayes Valley. Its presence is potentially detrimental for our small store operators and local entrepreneurs.

It’s worth pointing out that the positions of many speakers at last week’s meeting gave the illusion that TJ’s has already passed final inspections and is ready to open. This is not the case – we are at the beginning of a process that ought to value public sentiment not only by residents but also include small businesses that have shaped our business district and have made this neighborhood a desirable place for entities like Trader Joe’s to set up shop in the first place.

Some other feedback we received concentrates heavily on traffic and parking issues; we’re working on a follow up post to cover that. You can read part 2 here.