Popular niche grocer Trader Joe’s announced Wednesday it plans to open its next Florida location in St. Petersburg, just two months after confirming plans to open a store in Tampa.
The California-based company has signed a lease to build a 12,500-square-foot store north of downtown at the corner of Fourth Street and 28th Avenue North.
The announcement confirms rumors that have been floating around the city for the past month, fueled by the owners of the Ringside Café and Casita Taqueria saying the property they lease on Fourth Street North was being sold. Both are relocating — Ringside to downtown, replacing Club Detroit, and Casita Taqueria to a former gas station location on Central Avenue in the Grand Central District.
“We’re not losing those two good businesses, and we’re gaining a new one in the city,” said Dave Goodwin, head of the city’s Economic Development office.
Trader Joe’s enjoys an almost cult-like following among its fans, some of whom will happily make road trips to stock up on the store’s discount house brands of snacks, coffee, cereal and other items, including beers and wines. New store openings are highly anticipated and treated like closely guarded secrets by the company; the opening of a Trader Joe’s in Miami this month drew so many people that more than 50 cars were towed after customers parked in adjacent lots.
So, considering that the Trader Joe’s that opened in Sarasota last September is the closest one to St. Petersburg, Wednesday’s announcement is being cheered by Trader Joe’s fans and those excited about the buzz the store is expected to generate for the city.
“It’s a big deal. It’s Trader Joe’s,” Mayor Bill Foster said. “It’s the hottest commodity in affordable, healthy grocery retail.
“I think it says a lot about the fact that St. Petersburg is a city on the move, and certainly our economic and demographic numbers were the things that enticed Trader Joe’s to come.”
The St. Petersburg location will be the ninth Trader Joe’s in Floridascheduled to open in 2014, including locations ranging from Jacksonville Beach to Boca Raton. The Tampa store, which will be at 3803 W. Swann Ave., is also among those slated to open next year.
The small grocer fits with the direction of Fourth Street, which is bounded by neighborhoods on both sides and already boasts two Publix grocery stores nearby, along with a Fresh Market.
“It’s a great brand. It’s a wonderful opportunity to continue the redevelopment of our Fourth Street corridor,” said Chris Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.