By Tim Pallesen and Steve Plunkett
Don’t fret, Delray Beach. You are going to get your very own Trader Joe’s after all.
City officials began to worry after the California-based specialty grocer announced early last month that it will open a store on South Federal Highway in Boca Raton next year.
Boca Raton officials and residents greeted the food store — known for a $2.99 bottle of wine dubbed “Two Buck Chuck” and employees wearing Hawaiian shirts — with open arms.
“Welcome, Trader Joe’s, to the city of Boca Raton,” CRA Chairwoman Constance Scott said after the agency voted 5-0 on July 18 to formally approve the retailer.
Trader Joe‘s first opened in 1958, and is said to enjoy a near cult-like following. It sells a mix of gourmet, organic, vegetarian and imported foods, mostly as private label products, along with milk, eggs and other basics, all at low prices.
Employees refer to themselves as “crew members” and “traders of the culinary high seas.” The walls are cedar-covered and adorned with local artwork.
Delray Beach officials had been planning for a Trader Joe’s to help anchor Delray Place, a new shopping center on Federal Highway and Linton Boulevard, but worried they had lost their bid when the company announced its Boca Raton location first.
“It’s never been a situation of either Delray or Boca,” company attorney Jeffrey Lynne said. “A lot of people had their ego and pride hurt that Delray Beach was not announced first.”
But the company waited until July 23 to formally announce it was opening a 10,000-square-foot store in the “Village by the Sea.”
The Boca Raton location at 855 S. Federal Highway received quick zoning approval largely because no nearby homeowners objected.
But the Delray Beach site was delayed for 18 months after a dozen homeowners in the adjacent Tropic Isle neighborhood raised concerns.
Delray Beach commissioners finally gave zoning and site plan approval for Delray Place after concessions satisfied all the homeowners except Nancy Schnabel, whose home will have the center on two sides.
“My home will have the look and feel of a prison,” Schnabel told commissioners.
“I would hate to be those people,” said Commissioner Shelly Petrolia, who cast the lone vote against Delray Place.
Other speakers at the July 9 hearing applauded the $30 million Delray Place as a catalyst for redevelopment along South Federal Highway.
“This is a fabulous opportunity for South Federal to get a gateway,” Tropic Isle homeowners president Kelli Freeman said.
“This area of Federal Highway desperately needs a catalyst,” Mayor Cary Glickstein agreed. “We need to get something going in that part of the city.”
The major difference between the two Trader Joe’s sites will be size. Boca Raton’s store at 855 S. Federal Highway will be larger, at 12,000 square feet.
The Delray Beach location, scheduled to open in October 2014, will be the fourth new Trader Joe’s coming to Florida next year.
Dan Moffett contributed to this story.