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updated: 4/28/2010 2:41 PM

Libertyville turns to Facebook to woo Trader Joe's

Company says village isn't 'in our two-year plan'

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  • Customers shop in the Algonquin Trader Joe's store. Libertyville is looking into the possibilities of getting a store.

      Customers shop in the Algonquin Trader Joe's store. Libertyville is looking into the possibilities of getting a store.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Times are tough, but it isn't new taxes or budget cuts that Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler hears about most from residents.

No, it is a certain grocery chain known for reasonable prices, tasty store brands and organic products, among other attributes, that keeps coming up.

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Trader Joe's, with its Hawaiian shirt-clad staff, island mentality and laid back chic has become the target of Libertyville's affection.

"Since my election, the question I have heard more than any other (including `Why are my taxes so high?') is `Why don't we have a Trader Joe's in Libertyville?'" Weppler wrote last month in a love letter of sorts to the California-based company.

In his correspondence with the company, Weppler said the village had several locations to offer and that Libertyville exceeded the company's population density, average income and other requirements.

He added that building in Libertyville would be profitable for the company and make him a hero in town. Though persuasive, it apparently isn't enough as the village isn't on Trader Joe's short-term radar.

"I kind of got a Dear John letter from them," Weppler said.

Meanwhile, the quest has taken on an electronic life of its own.

After reading a published report in which Weppler mentioned local interest in the store, Libertyville resident Ellen Jennings just over a week ago created a Facebook page to bring a Trader Joe's to town. As of Wednesday, the membership was 1,380.

Jennings said she has heard friends and colleagues speak of its wonders and has shopped there a few times herself. But the drive to the closest location in Lake Zurich or Glenview is inconvenient for regular shopping, she added.

With mayoral support, an available spot to build at the former Frank's Nursery & Crafts site on Milwaukee Avenue, and a passionate potential customer base, Jennings figured it was an idea whose time had come.

The swift and passionate responses startled her.

"Who knew?" she said in an e-mail. "I was just the spark that started this fire."

But it likely is for naught.

"It's really an honor and it's nice to have people want us but the wooing doesn't go into our decision making process," said Alison Mochizuki, director of public relations. "Libertyville is not in our two-year plan at this time."

Trader Joe's is a privately held company and doesn't comment on the number of similar requests or other aspects of siting new locations, although Mochizuki said there are no Chicago area stores planned this year.

"They get a lot of letters," from interested communities, observed Bill Bishop, a food retailing expert at Willard Bishop Consulting in Barrington.

"Part of their secret to success is judicious growth so they won't, if you will, cannibalize their business." The company's website lists 16 locations in Chicago and the suburbs.

But the company checks ZIP codes of its customers, Bishop added, and the electronic campaign could be persuasive.

"It's kind of fun and speaks to the community," he said.

Weppler said he'll keep the company updated.

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