We’re hungry for eateries, grocers
BY CATHY JETT
Susan Wolff has been a fan of Trader Joe’s ever since her brother took her to one in California years ago.
The Stafford County woman has made a point of shopping at the quirky specialty grocery chain whenever possible, and said she’d love to see one open in the Fredericksburg area.
“Wegmans would not suffer, especially if TJ was off Route 610,” she wrote in an email submission to The Free Lance-Star’s annual Wish List.
She wasn’t alone.
“T.J.’s,” as the Monrovia, Calif.-based chain is affectionately called, once again topped the Wish List of retailers and restaurants that nearly 200 readers said they’d like to see open in this area in 2013. The top five choices in an online poll on fredericksburg.com also included, in order, Cheesecake Factory, Harris Teeter, Whole Foods and P.F. Chang’s.
Several readers said they regularly drive to either Northern Virginia or Richmond to shop at Trader Joe’s, which is known for its low-cost, yuppie-friendly staples such as organic blue agave sweetener, and exotic yet affordable luxuries. Double creme brie with truffles, anyone?
Michele Roshioru, for example, shops at the Trader Joe’s near Dulles Airport and the one next to Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, every other month or so, even though it’s inconvenient for her.
“My family tries to eat all natural, and we love Trader Joe’s and their prices,” she wrote. “There have been many articles about Stafford County being in the top 10 of the richest counties in the country, but we still don’t have a Trader Joe’s.”
Sue Hopwood had another reason for wanting to see a T.J.’s open here. The company was recently ranked 24th on glassdoor.com’s fifth annual Employees’ Choice Awards, a list of the 50 Best Places to Work.
“I think adding retailers who would, in turn, provide better job opportunities for the people in our area is a great way to compile our wish list,” she said.
Some of the other companies who made glassdoor.com’s list included an Apple store and REI, with tied for ninth place in the Wish List poll.
While Trader Joe’s has consistently headed the Wish List since it was launched in 2003, the likelihood that one will open here is apparently slim. Company officials are notoriously tight-lipped about disclosing any sites has under consideration, and none of the dozen Trader Joe’s stores under construction and listed as “coming soon” on the company’s website are in Virginia.
The Fredericksburg area also has enough stores selling groceries to give any competitor pause, even if its demographics were attractive, according to Jeffrey Metzger, publisher of the grocery industry trade publication Food World.
He said that Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods stores in the Washington metro area do best inside the beltway, where income and education levels are higher than in surrounding areas.
While Stafford had the seventh highest median household income of any county in the United States, according to Census Bureau data from 2010, it also had one of the smallest populations of the top 15. Population density is one of the factors that companies such as Trader Joe’s and Cheesecake Factory consider when scouting locations.
Perhaps this area will have better luck attracting one of the many other suggestions submitted by nearly 200 readers. The list included 60 specific retailers and restaurants, as well two requests for a sit-down restaurant on U.S. 17 in Stafford and one for a Kroger in the Massaponax or Thornburg areas of Spotsylvania County. There was even a request for a zoo.
A number of the requests have appeared on previous lists. Donna Catarevas, for example, once again asked for a La Madeleine French Country Cafe, adding that her biggest wish is that the restaurants that are already here would “TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!!!!!”
Other requests were new to the Wish List. Ben Rhines sang the praises of Q Barbeque, which has one location each in Glen Allen, Midlothian and Richmond.
“Our son lives in Richmond and got us hooked on it,” he said in an email. “We think it is the best barbeque we have ever had.”
A couple of people even said they either didn’t want to see any more retail businesses open or suggested that some of the vacant store fronts in the area could be turned into office space for telecommuters.
“Who could actually buy stuff when jobs are needed first & foremost?” Hopwood wrote. ” there has to be SOME way to make things more effective other than just sticking in another store that is destined to fail because people struggle just to afford shopping at it.”