Ace was reported as one possible location in Clairemont Town Square.
  • Ace was reported as one possible location in Clairemont Town Square.
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On January 31, a lady walking her dog announced to me that "Trader Joe's is coming to Clairemont!" She said she knows someone that works for the Clairemont Town Square shopping center and that everything she's been told ahead of time by this person has panned out.

"Trader Joe's will go in where Ace Hardware is or Ross Dress for Less." She said it's happening in 2019.

"I'm shopping much less at Trader Joe's now, but would definitely give them my business if they had a location in Clairemont or Kearny Mesa."

"I'm shopping much less at Trader Joe's now, but would definitely give them my business if they had a location in Clairemont or Kearny Mesa."

To give this exchange context, it's important to understand that nearly every time a storefront becomes vacant in Clairemont, someone will ask: "How about a Trader Joe's?" And then when that doesn't happen: "I was hoping for a Trader Joe's!" It's sort of an inside joke in Clairemont, because this conversation has been going on for years.

In 2012, one of the first things the new Clairemont town council president did was to contact Trader Joe's. In 2015, residents participated in an email campaign that made enough noise to hit Trader Joe's corporate ears. At that time, a Trader Joe's representative told me they had heard Clairemont loud and clear and had plans to look at locations in Clairemont.

In February, a reliable source said Trader Joe's is now proactively looking at sites throughout Clairemont, making it likely they inquired at the Clairemont Town Square too.

It's equally possible a developer is planning something in the Clairemont Town Square (as has been rumored) and using Trader Joe's as a carrot in the hopes of not only getting Trader Joe's attention but sealing the deal on getting community approval.

Clairemont resident Kathy Dunn's father (Chuck Dunn) knew Joe Coulombe, founder of Trader Joe's. "My dad told me about how Joe took road trips to buy wine all over the west, and even to Europe, and sometimes bought a tanker truck full of wine that was rebottled under the Trader Joe's label, often from very well known wineries." Dunn said Coulombe used to attend her dad's enology club [study of wines) in Manhattan Beach to run blind tastings of his wines.

Dunn has shopped at Trader Joe's since the first one opened in Pasadena in 1967. "When I lived in University Heights, I was thrilled when one was put into the Uptown shopping center."

Now that Dunn is retired, she wants a Trader Joe's where she lives in Clairemont. She said driving to the other locations is getting more inconvenient with ongoing construction and traffic.

"I'm shopping much less at Trader Joe's now,but would definitely give them my business if they had a location in Clairemont or Kearny Mesa."

In a 2011 Los Angeles Times article Coulombe mentions the Claremont 120 miles north of San Diego that took twenty years of making noise before they finally got their Trader Joe's (in 2008).

Coulombe, who is turning 89 this year, sold Trader Joe's in 1979.

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GGibson2 Feb. 22, 2019 @ 1:46 p.m.

With Clairemont's long history in San Diego it would be great to see a Trader Joe's built in that community.


Visduh Feb. 23, 2019 @ 4:24 p.m.

Clairemont don't get no respect. Nothing new to report on that front. Maybe the parking in that center is too plentiful and convenient. (Ever notice how nasty the parking lots are at Trader Joe's? Whether it is Oceanside or Escondido or La Jolla Village or Encinitas, the lot always is small, cramped, and hard-to-access. I don't even try to get into and out of the lot at the store in Carlsbad--Bressi Ranch. Parking on the street behind the store is far easier.)


AlexClarke Feb. 24, 2019 @ 7:05 a.m.

Don't forget Trader Joe's in La Mesa. It is hard to get into, find a parking space and even harder to get out of.


SalULloyd Feb. 26, 2019 @ 9:53 a.m.

The one at Eastlake is horrendous! Especially with Ronnie's Sprouts there.


Ponzi Feb. 24, 2019 @ 8:06 a.m.

Trader Joe’s real estate agent: “How’s the parking lot?”

Land owner: “Terrible.”

Real estate agent: “Great, we’ll take it.”

Building smaller stores with small parking lots is part of the Trader Joe’s business model, it seems, a way to keep costs down and pass the savings on to customers.

According to several published reports, TJ’s small footprint — stores and parking lots — translates into to cheaper prices for consumers.

“Trader Joe’s sells twice as much per square foot as Whole Foods,” the investment firm JLL reports. “Trader Joe’s sells a whopping $1,734 per square foot…In comparison, Whole Foods sells $930 per square foot.”


Visduh Feb. 24, 2019 @ 9:52 a.m.

Very interesting stats, Ponz. That's a measurement of efficiency of the building itself. The parking is another matter entirely, and more space and easier access would make the experience more inviting. Do ya' think that might bring in more customers and with more frequency? I do. I forgot that the worst of their parking lots that I've ever experienced is at the Scripps Ranch TJ's, just off Mira Mesa Blvd. Driving in there can be scary. And scary isn't encouraging trade. Well, we cannot argue with success, can we?


Ponzi Feb. 24, 2019 @ 10:06 a.m.

I worked in the IT department of Costco for several years. Things I learned are they will never have a "10 items or less lane." There's a lot of science in retail site location analysis. Costco doesn't want a huge parking lot either. Parking is an expense tied to the buildings. If you want a Home Depot sized parking lot you will pay for it in the square footage rate.

If you want something bad enough at Trader Joe's or Costco, you'll go. You might just go at non-rush times like at opening or before closing to avoid the crazy crowds.


Visduh Feb. 24, 2019 @ 5:52 p.m.

Odd you should mention that, because a very long time ago I was in a Price Club store trying to buy a single item, a heavy-duty 3/8 inch Skil electric drill. I had to wait for two customers with full carts (and $100-plus totals) ahead of me. So, I asked the cashier why they didn't have an express or quick check out lane. Her (non)answer was that it was a warehouse, not a store (?) and that warehouses didn't have such things. IOW she had no idea why. But making it easy to run in and grab a few items and scoot out the door isn't what they want. No, once you are in there, you might as well cruise the aisles and pick up several this's and that's that you had no intention to look at, much less buy. Oh yeah, they are very clever operators, and that's the reason for their success.


SalULloyd Feb. 26, 2019 @ 9:55 a.m.

WF is is pretty tight per sq ft, can barely walk around in there with people trying to avoid you at the same time. But they are more expensive.


Ponzi Feb. 24, 2019 @ 10:13 a.m.

One more thing. Trader Joe's employees are the highest paid in grocery retail. They require a college degree (that goes back to Joe Coulombe) and many earn $58,000 a year and many have worked there for decades.

Ever notice how fast you can check out at Trader Joe's? They keep the lanes and merchandise moving. Line forming? Ring the bell and add a new checkout lane.

The cashiers at Von's and Albertson's would not have a chance at auditioning for a job at Trader Joe's. They are just to slow and union-like. When ever I have the displeasure of needing something at Vonbertson's, it takes me 5 minutes to find my stuff and 10 or more minutes to checkout. The opposite is true of Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's moves more people through their stores so the parking lot is always in a state of turnover.


Visduh Feb. 24, 2019 @ 6:23 p.m.

I love it! "Vonbertson's" Maybe they'll call themselves that, and you can claim to have coined the name and get a big payoff. (Or more likely, not.)


dwbat Feb. 25, 2019 @ 8:16 a.m.

Actually it's SafeVonbertson's. ;-)


AlexClarke Feb. 25, 2019 @ 7:01 a.m.

$58k may sound like a lot of money but it does not go very far in San Diego. Requiring a college degree seems like a bit much but what do I know.


Visduh Feb. 27, 2019 @ 11:05 a.m.

While I don't know details, I doubt that the unionized supers, which are now Von's, Ralphs, Albertson's, Stater Brothers and Food for Less, pay that much to a full time worker on the floor. Then we can only speculate what the non-union supers such as Sprouts, Grocery Outlet, Smart & Final, etc. pay. It's surely going to be less than the unionized operations.


dwbat March 2, 2019 @ 9:53 a.m.

The Smart & Final in North Park has constant turnover.


AlexClarke Feb. 25, 2019 @ 7:03 a.m.

Ponzi: Don't blame the union it is management that hires the employees. It is the management that sets the bar. The union only provides contract negotiations. Like the San Diego Water Department it is management that creates the problems not having a contract.


SalULloyd Feb. 26, 2019 @ 9:57 a.m.

A BA??? I doubt that. Their checkout lanes are terrible--hardly any space.


dwbat Feb. 24, 2019 @ 1:39 p.m.

Parking at the Hillcrest Trader Joe's is bad, too. They have to compete with Ralphs and dozens of other businesses for parking spaces.


dwbat Feb. 28, 2019 @ 5:18 p.m.

No, I don't. Trader Joe's is next to Ralphs, not Whole Foods.


monaghan Feb. 25, 2019 @ 9:02 p.m.

If people in Clairemont want a Trader Joe's, I hope they get one, but not where the ACE hardware is in Clairemont Square! That would be an unfortunate tradeoff of the necessities of life for frozen lemon cheesecake and chocolate-covered almonds! Personally, I have never been drawn to TJ's -- not even for the famous Two Buck Chuck red wine which probably came in that tanker truck described in the story. As for Costco consumer strategy: no one ever gets out of there for under $100, but now they will help you take heavy stuff to your car if you ask. And in the relentless march toward full automation, both Costco and Von's recently have put in DIY checkout stations.


Ponzi Feb. 25, 2019 @ 10:17 p.m.

Interesting. First, which Costco is deploying check-check-out?

Secondly, Vons and Albertson’s have been employing self-check-out for years. And they have been in use in many North County locations for years. However, Walmart, Ralph’s, Albertson’s and Von’s in East and South county locations were pulled years ago due to “customer satisfaction issues.” AKA pilferage, shoplifting, label sapping and scanning-bypass activity. Ever wonder why Alberton’s and Von’s are so expensive? You are paying for their passive reaction to shoplifting. I was at a store where a man waked out the store door with a 24-pack of beer, the employees witnessed it and did not do anything. “Because of liability.”


monaghan Feb. 25, 2019 @ 11:07 p.m.

Costco Morena Blvd. is using DIY checkout stations.


dwbat Feb. 26, 2019 @ 9:58 a.m.

Shoplifters at Smart & FInal in North Park can also walk out, and not be stopped. I've seen it more than once. Sometimes they have a security guard on duty, but not sure what he actually does.


SalULloyd Feb. 26, 2019 @ 10:20 a.m.

Prop 67 banning plastic bags doesn't help. My sister works at the Vons at Palm Promenade. She's seen people walk out with beers since the bag ban.


Visduh March 2, 2019 @ 7:37 a.m.

Self-checkout makes me crazy. The equipment has so many "safeguards" built in to it that it is almost impossible to avoid doing something that locks the process. Then the attendant has to come over and enter a 12-digit code into the unit to unlock it. At Home Depot, that huge store will usually have only one staffed checkout open. The justification for it is that the store can operate more efficiently if it can put its payroll elsewhere. But clever rip-off artists can steal them blind with all the tricks that Ponzi lists above. It is a sad commentary that such a corporation finds it cheaper--or so they think--to absorb shoplifting rather than to have a tighter method of checkout. There was a reason that supermarkets and those with supermarket-style checkout did it the way they did. It worked and was the only way to avoid just letting the "customers" walk out the door unchallenged. I do find it surprising the Costco is doing it, even with their exit security checks. Maybe it doesn't represent a decision to adopt self-checkout, but rather a test.


Ponzi March 2, 2019 @ 9:05 a.m.

I have to check out the Morena location to see the Costco self-checkout.

When you think about it, self-check out may actually work for Costco better than its competitors. Because everyone that shops at Costco is a card-carrying member and have pre-agreed to have their cart inspected on exit.

Stores where any random person can come in a "scan their stuff" don't have the loyalty and traceability of customers that a membership stores have.


Visduh March 3, 2019 @ 9:11 a.m.

Good points all. Actually, I don't think there's any reason that a retail store cannot legally check a customer at the door when he/she is exiting. That would not allow a search of the person, but a good eyeballing can be a fine deterrent for shoplifters. The reason few do that is the negative vibe it sends to its customers.

I'd guess that the stores that don't react at all when someone rips them off are well known to shoplifters, and are thus heavily victimized. Word gets around, oh boy!


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