Some Hawaiian-themed excitement in the midst of a hard winter arrived in Libertyville Monday with news that the long-sought Trader Joe's grocery store will open Feb. 21.
"We are excited to be part of the wonderful Libertyville community and look forward to being a positive addition for years to come," Alison Mochizuki, director of public relations, told the Daily Herald in an email.
The California-based chain known for its store brands and neighborhood atmosphere pleasantly shocked village officials and residents 11 months ago with the announcement it would build a 12,500-square-foot store at 1600 Milwaukee Ave. This will be the chain's second store in Lake County; it also operates in Lake Zurich. Two weeks ago, plans were announced for a new store in Schaumburg.
"People are calling about it left and right," said Heather Rowe, Libertyville's economic development coordinator. "The interest level is amazing."
On Monday, the company began accepting applications for employees, known as crew members, at the Libertyville store and will continue to do so until 6 p.m. Saturday.
The company would not say how many will be hired but noted Hawaiian-shirt wearing employees consider themselves to be "traders on the culinary high seas" who contribute to the lighthearted atmosphere.
"It's just a fun place to shop," said Ellen Jennings, a readers' adviser at the Cook Park Library in Libertyville. Jennings started a "Bring Trader Joe's to Libertyville" Facebook page about four years ago and has been looking forward to the opening.
She, like other afficionados, raves about the friendly staff and eclectic collection of products.
"It will probably surprise and delight a number of the residents," said Jim Hertel, managing partner with Willard Bishop Ltd., a supermarket industry analyst in Barrington.
He cited the natural and organic selections, quality frozen prepared foods and staff camaraderie as popular features.
"There are brands and varieties people haven't seen before," he said.
The company offers 3,000 items under the Trader Joe's private label and introduces about a dozen new items a week. The chain touts the quality, flavor and attractive pricing of its products.
Trader Joe's is located just south of a Jewel store and across the street from a Mariano's in Vernon Hills. However, it's not trying to compete head to head, Hertel explained, as it has a more limited assortment of goods.
"It won't take enough (sales) from any individual retailer that they'll probably feel it," he said.
The store at Milwaukee Avenue and Artaius Parkway is on a 3-acre site where a Frank's Nursery & Crafts stood for years. Another supermarket venture erected the steel structure of a building there, but it was demolished in 2010 and the site cleared because of various issues.
The development by Paragon Real Estate LLC of Oak Brook also features an 8,100-square-foot multi-tenant building, which includes Sherwin Williams as a tenant.