IN PRINT: Fresh Eyes: The last word (for now) on Trader Joe’s

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by Brad Krantz

There are two ways to look at Greensboro’s inability to score a Trader Joe’s.

The first way to look at this is macro.

No injuries, no loss of life and your grandparents didn’t have their nest eggs stolen by some scammer. Not having local availability to one particular brand of food retailing should never be considered a life-altering experience.

I’ve been to two Trader Joe’s in North Carolina. I’ll actually go out of my way… if possible… sometimes. There’s the one off of 15-501 in Chapel Hill, on the way back from RDU — because PTI is down to, I believe, 10 flights per week: five to LaGuardia and five to Atlanta.

And, a few weeks ago I went to the Trader Joe’s in the middle of Charlotte. I highly recommend the Trader Giotto’s Puttanesca Sauce for linguini. Best I’ve ever had.

Kind of a brilliantly designed idea for a grocery store, that Trader Joe’s: the basics, but shown as a cut above what you’d get at the traditional mass-marketed chains, with sometimes-but-not-always higher prices (sometimes lower) and gourmet, elitist, foodie-type goods presented in a less pretentious manner than Whole Foods. A great niche created! With more than 400 locations in every major metro area you can think of, including Winston-Salem, the sales per square foot at Trader Joe’s dwarf the rest of the industry.

Other national names long ago decided Greensboro wasn’t worthy: Don’t look for Nordstrom, Morton’s or Cheesecake Factory around here either. And you know what?  I’m just fine with that. If they don’t think we’re good enough for them, we can’t stop them!

A Trader Joe’s in Greensboro would have been nice, but the 20-mile drive won’t kill me if I absolutely, positively have to shop at Trader Joe’s.

The second way to look a this is from the psychological micro/metro standpoint.

Greensboro’s entire identity and self-esteem appear to have been tied up in this tug-of-war between developers and residents near the Friendly Center — for the past several years over, apparently the only place in Greensboro Trader Joe’s wanted to be. You can’t blame them for that. Yes, there are probably dozens of other tracts of land they could put a store, but why should they settle for anything less than their first choice? YOU want to be out on High Point Road these days? That stretch of pavement so bereft of life that upgrading name-change considerations included, “Bin Laden Boulevard” and “Heartbreak of Psoriasis Highway”?

Since it was recently revealed we were ready to throw a few billion at Boeing, and we’re dealing with that abject failure (Boeing decided to stay in the Seattle area for their project), I’m quite sure we’ll cope nicely with this debacle. But woe the local official who has to run for office soon having to defend themselves when confronted with the question: “Who lost Trader Joe’s?” Not unlike, “Who lost Crimea?” It was never ours to lose in the first place.

As for the local residents who refuse to move and point to a covenant written during the Hammurabi Administration that keeps their land safe for homeownership, as Ecclesiastes and the Byrds said: “A Time to Buy, A Time to Sell.” But what’s good for Trader Joe’s is good for homeowners. Why should THEY settle?

I’ll give you a good reason: cold, hard cash.

I like my house, but for the right price, I’m out of there even if the buyer is a utility wanting to turn the land into a combination leaky coal-ash storage pit/swim club. Sorry neighbors. It was nice. See you down the road for drinks at Trader Vic’s.  I simply refuse to lose sleep over not being four miles from Trader Joe’s. I’ll place this on that list of Things That Greensboro Doesn’t Have that seem like big deals but really aren’t. We must come to grips with the fact we’re not going to get a decent corned-beef sandwich here (please don’t bother to argue with that. It’s a simple fact. Trust me, I’ve been here since ’87). And they’re never, repeat NEVER, going to plow the side streets when it snows. And that’s just the way it is.

 

Brad Krantz is co-host of “The Brad & Britt Show” with Britt Whitmire, currenty airing on WBT 1110 AM from 6-9 p.m. weekdays. He lives in Greensboro.