Like most good stories, it started with a tip. And this time, the tip we received in November 2012 was from an unimpeachable source. Our problem was that the source had to remain anonymous. Thus began, in earnest, Boise Weekly's reporting on Trader Joe's.
BW had been down this road before: Rumors about the purveyors of Two Buck Chuck coming to Idaho have been floating around Boise for the better part of a decade. But this time was different: Confidentiality agreements were being passed around among public planners and private developers, meaning Trader Joe's and their representatives were serious this time--but it also meant that individuals were legally bound not to speak.
When BW first printed our story (BW, News, "Can You Keep a Secret?" Dec. 5, 2012), more than a few naysayers--and yes, that included other media outlets--pushed back, saying their sources were telling them otherwise. Things got more interesting when the following week (BW, News, "Can You Still Keep a Secret?" Dec. 12, 2012), we reported that Trader Joe's had secured, through the Idaho Secretary of State's Office, incorporation to do business in Idaho.
Architectural renderings followed, triggering a Boise Planning and Zoning hearing, where commissioners approved designs for a new retail development at Capitol Boulevard and Front Street. But everyone was still tight-lipped.
That is, until March 21, when Mayor Dave Bieter, anxious to share some good news with a gathering of the Boise Young Professionals, said Trader Joe's was indeed coming to Boise.
"That's a done deal," Bieter told an appreciative audience.
Bieter's spokesman, Adam Park, told BW that city officials had reached out to Trader Joe's numerous times over the years.
"But we were usually told that Boise was probably too far away from their supply corridor," said Park. "But when they opened a store in Bend, Ore., we were encouraged. We knew this was something people were anxious to see, and now, it's a reality."
In particular, city planners are happy that Trader Joe's, along with other small retailers--expected to include a sandwich and/or coffee shop--will be sprouting from what is currently a 1.7-acre gravel parking lot, framed by Capitol Boulevard, Front, Sixth and Broad streets.
"We have too many surface parking lots in the downtown area," said Park. "Rather than going wide, we want to build up, and the first place we should look at are those lots. That's what Whole Foods did and that's what Trader Joe's will do."
And while a Trader Joe's spokesperson confirmed that a 13,000-square-foot store would indeed open in downtown Boise in 2014, their proposed developer still has a bit of work to do at the Capitol and Front lot.
"We still own the land," Scott Schoenherr, partner at Rafanelli and Nahas Real Estate, told BW. "But Hawkins Companies [a Boise-based retail developer] is under contract to buy it. We haven't closed on the sale because Hawkins is still performing its due diligence."
But Schoenherr is as happy as anyone about the Trader Joe's announcement.
"Trader Joe's would be great in Boise. We tried to build something on that lot but we just couldn't make financial sense out of it," said Schoenherr. "But I think their plans look great."
Park told BW that development at one of the busiest intersections in Idaho is in sync with the Bieter administration's plans for greater downtown density.
"Prior to the Eighth and Main tower going up, the mayor was always asked when the hole was going to be filled. But the other question he often got was, 'When is Trader Joe's coming to Boise?'" said Park. "We couldn't be more pleased."