For Tampa's hard core fans of Trader Joe's, the treks to Sarasota are over. At 8 a.m. Friday, Trader Joe's brings its quirky brand of grocery shopping to South Tampa.
With some fanfare, but not too much, Trader Joe's takes over the former Shapes fitness center at 3808 Swann Ave., west of Dale Mabry Highway.
"We cut the cord of a giant lei," says Trader Joe
's spokeswoman Rachel Broderick.
And, the shopping begins.
Store manager Aimee Pawelek and Regional VP Kent Smathers will be on hand for the lei-cutting.
Expect to get a flower necklace handed to you from Trader Joe's sales crew. They'll stand out from the crowd in loud Hawaiian shirts. A day of festive celebration is planned with food demonstrations, live music, a balloon artist and more.
Copies of Trader Joe's irreverent newsletter, "Fearless Flyer" will soon arrive in area resident mailboxes.
The much-anticipated opening day is bally-hooed on Facebook pages, blogs and media outlets. It was the source of rumor and speculation nearly a year ago when Shapes closed its gym in July.
Trader Joe's doesn't release figures on job hires, but Broderick says 70 percent of the jobs were filled with local residents.
Cap Dale Mabry LLC, a Greenville, S.C. development company and affiliate of Centennial American Properties
, bought the site in August 2013 for about $2.7 million, according to Hillsborough County records. Barry Byrd Architecture of Knoxville, Tenn. did the design.
The decor mixes cedar-covered walls with Hawaiian tiki-style features. Colorful murals throughout the store honor Tampa Bay history including Plant Hall, Hillsborough River State Park, Ybor City and Clearwater Beach.
The former gym was expanded slightly to about 12,300 square feet. Trees were added to the landscaping to buffer the adjacent parking lot from nearby homes. Centennial American Properties also got variances to install three Trader Joe's signs.
The California-based grocery store that morphed into Trader Joe's was founded in the late 1950s. It adopted the Trader Joe's name in 1967.
Shoppers are attracted to the off-beat, eclectic and ever-changing products that fill Trader Joe's shelves. As many as 3,000 items bear Trader Joe's brand name including Trader Joe's salsas, fried rice and marinara sauces. As many as a dozen new items are added to shelves weekly.
Ruggedly Adventurous Cowboy Bark, Tandoori Naan, Collier's Welsh Cheddar Cheese, Kenya AA Coffee and Palak Paneer are among products listed on the company website. But there is also Trader Joe's Raw Pignolias (pine nuts), Grass Fed Wagyu Beef Burgers and Chocolate Chip Scone Mix. And the now-Three-Buck Chuck Wine (pay more if you like) is ready for a party.
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Rachel Broderick, Trader Joe's