Trader Joe's opens Knoxville store


Rob Howard has never set foot inside a Trader Joe's, but he's looking forward to the experience.

The local Realtor is among more than 1,000 people who endorsed a social-media campaign to bring the store to Knoxville, and this week they get their wish.

The eclectic, California-based grocery chain today was scheduled to open its first local store, at 8001 Kingston Pike next to Toys "R" Us. At a sneak preview this week, store captain Aimee Pawelek said one thing that sets the store apart is the wide variety of items that are exclusive to the chain.

While the 10,000-square-foot location in West Knoxville will never be mistaken for the super-sized grocery behemoths that dot the retail landscape, it has carved out a reputation for offering unusual items.

Pawelek said 80 percent of its products — ranging from cans of sockeye salmon and crab meat to rolls of toilet paper — carry the Trader Joe's brand.

The store captain said one of her favorites is the frozen Gnocchi alla Sorrentina: "There's little pearls of mozzarella in it (that) just melt as you cook it," she said.

Knoxville is on a tear of late when it comes to new grocery chains. Florida-based Publix opened its first local store last week, a 56,000-square-foot location near the intersection of Pellissippi Parkway and Northshore Drive, while wholesale club Costco is planning to open its first local store near the intersection of Lovell Road and Kingston Pike in early November.

Meanwhile, Texas chain Whole Foods has said it will build a 35,000-square-foot store at Papermill Plaza, near the intersection of Papermill Road and Kingston Pike, its first in the Knoxville market.

Howard, the local Realtor, said he jumped on the Trader Joe's bandwagon after friends brought back items from stores in other cities.

"It wasn't like anything else that I'd ever had in Knoxville," he said. "Just the rich flavors and all that."

One of the chain's best-known products — Charles Shaw wine, also known as Two-Buck Chuck — won't be for sale because of a state law prohibiting wine sales in grocery stores. Beer will be sold, though.

At any rate, the store opening is a boost for Suburban Plaza, a shopping center that's owned by Nashville-based Baker Storey McDonald Properties.

That company bought the shopping center for $10 million in 2009 and has since launched a significant rehab of the property.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel



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