Trader Joe's adds to lure of Omaha -
Published Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 12:01 am / Updated at 10:03 am
Trader Joe's adds to lure of Omaha

Property developer Trenton Magid used to drive to the Kansas City area several times a year to shop at stores and eat at restaurants Omaha didn't have. Nowadays, he has less reason to leave the city, and Magid expects to see a lot of Missouri plates in Nebraska when Trader Joe's opens its first store within hundreds of miles at One Pacific Place later this year.

“The places I used to go, we have them here now,” said the president of Coldwell Banker Commercial World Group.

Trader Joe's, a grocery chain based in Monrovia, Calif., announced Wednesday that it will open a 13,000-square-foot store sometime this year at the shopping center near 103rd and Pacific Streets.

The food store, popular for its constantly changing inventory and array of imported items, will be the first in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and the Dakotas. The company has several stores in the St. Louis area but none around Kansas City. The twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul also have stores.

The imminent arrival of Trader Joe's is the latest in a string of big national “gets” that includes J. Crew, Anthropologie, Apple, Urban Outfitters, Pottery Barn and numerous restaurant chains.

Landing a big retail name takes years of work, said Wendy Chapman of Red Development, which owns Village Pointe and Shadow Lake Towne Center.

Chapman, who previously worked for One Pacific Place, was instrumental in bringing big-name retailers such as Anthropologie, Coach, Apple and J. Crew to town.

“Anthropologie took me 2 years and actually was alive and dead three or four times,” she said. “When you're going after one of those brands you have to really be persistent.”

Chapman and Magid agreed that landing Trader Joe's helps raise Omaha's national profile among other prominent chains.

Whether that will influence other niche retailers such as Crate & Barrel, H&M and Restoration Hardware to eventually open stores here is unknown. Companies are notoriously close-mouthed when it comes to identifying potential locations, and leasing agents don't talk about potential “gets” in fear of scuttling the deal.

Still, Magid said Omaha's successes bode well for the future.

The retail industry is pretty small, so when people hear that their friendly competitors are doing well, or other sectors are doing well, they want to come,” he said.

That's good news to people still waiting for the arrival of smaller clothing or home-decor boutiques or for large department stores such as Nordstrom's and Macy's.

Tamie Osterloh, senior leasing associate at Red Development, said Trader Joe's coming to Omaha ahead of Kansas City also won't hurt.

“I think that speaks volumes for Omaha,” she said. “I think it's a turning point, and that's certainly how I will market it going forward.”

Trader Joe's is likely to draw customers from surrounding states.

Des Moines resident Carol Hendrick said she would drive 21/2 hours to shop at the food store.

“Absolutely we'd go to Omaha to shop at Trader Joe's, and I really can't think of too many other stores that I'd say that about. It would be a fun road trip,” Hendrick said.

Chapman said Omaha hit the radar screen of more national chains when it reached the point of 1 million people within 50 miles.

Magid pointed to this weekend's Berkshire Hathaway meeting as another factor in Omaha's favor in that it exposes the city to a broad audience of influential people.

“People with millions of dollars aren't just consumers, they're decision makers,” he said. “And when they see what Omaha has to offer, see Trader Joe's or Anthropologie, they wonder why their store's not here.”

For One Pacific Place, which has seen the closings of Talbots Petite, Crabtree & Evelyn, J. Jill and Allen Edmonds since the beginning of 2009, the arrival not only fills vacant space, it provides buzz and the promise of additional visitors to the center.

“This is the beginning of a resurgence,” Magid said. “The location has always been really good. I think this is a godsend for One Pacific Place.”

Jay Lerner of the Lerner Co., the local manager of the shopping center, said the store is a good addition for the shopping center and the city. One Pacific Place is owned by Cole Real Estate Investments of Phoenix, whose officials did not immediately return phone calls.

Lindsey Zoucha, manager of One Pacific Place's L'Occitane, an international chain of natural beauty products, was pleased to hear the official announcement of Trader Joe's arrival.

“I think it's going to be a great asset,” she said. “I think there's a lot of midtown Omaha that will really appreciate it.”

Zoucha said she expects to see a boost at her store when Trader Joe's opens. “Any additional foot traffic definitely will help our business.”

Apart from its immediate effect on One Pacific Place, Trader Joe's also provides an impetus to the retail landscape metrowide, Chapman said.

Magid agreed.

“I think the most significant thing is it further shows that Omaha has a strong economy, and Trader Joe's will do incredibly well here,” he said.

Roxanne Wach of Omaha, one of more than 1,400 people who joined a Facebook “Bring Trader Joe's to Omaha, Nebraska” group, was excited Wednesday to hear the chain was coming to town.

“I'm a foodie, and I like that they get different things than you can't get anywhere else.”

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