Friday, June 08, 2007

Calling Trader Joe's...

Trader Joe's in Troy? Not Yet
Developer courts grocery for growing downtown area, but upscale chain is not interested so far

From The Times Union

By Chris Churchill

TROY -- A Trader Joe's in downtown Troy? Developer Jeffrey Pfeil would like to see it, and so would some other people.

Pfeil has been unable to convince the upscale grocery chain that the Capital Region is a suitable market. But he is still trying to lure a small grocer to the Troy building he is redeveloping at Third and State streets.

That five-story structure, formerly home to Stanley's Department Store, will have apartments on the top floors and 7,500 square feet of retail space at ground level. Dubbed The Conservatory, the first residents will begin moving in this month. Retail space could be ready for occupancy within three months.

And a grocery could answer a frequent complaint among central Troy residents frustrated by a lack of easy food options.

It also could provide competition for a food co-op planned for Congress Street not far from Pfeil's building.

Pfeil, though, said he believes his building's grocery could complement a co-op. And at least one Troy resident involved in the co-op effort would welcome a commercial grocery -- especially if it is Trader Joe's.

"Everyone in Troy would love to have a Trader Joe's," said Kevin Blodgett. "So many people from here have called them."

California-based Trader Joe's is expanding rapidly on the East Coast. It has locations in metropolitan New York and Boston, as well as in Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

A Trader Joe's spokesperson declined to comment.

The business data site says the grocer is best known for its private-label health foods, organic produce and nutritional supplements. A typical store is 10,000 square feet.

"We talk to them regularly," Pfeil said. "But they haven't seen this market as one they're targeting yet."

The company apparently has few qualms about locating in New York's Manhattan or Westchester County, where incomes and population density can help ensure the profits. But Pfeil said he thinks the reluctance to come to upstate is due partly to New York's liquor laws, which would prevent the company from selling wine, including the popular Charles Shaw brand. Best known as "Two-Buck Chuck," the inexpensive wine is sold exclusively in Trader Joe's stores.

Pfeil's Troy location lacks parking, which might also give grocery owners pause. But he points out that urban grocery stores thrive in other parts of the country.

Pfeil, a principal in J.W. Pfeil & Co. Inc. in Saratoga Springs, is a real estate developer and leasing agent. He brought national retailers such as Eddie Bauer and Banana Republic to downtown Saratoga Springs, despite their initial reluctance.
Pfeil thinks they'll eventually come to downtown Troy, too, and doesn't exclude the possibility they'll occupy one of the spaces in his building.

"They'll do it someday," he said. "It's just a matter of when."