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Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2007 10:00 pm

Lodi residents seem to want a Trader Joe's in town - in fact, they want one really badly.

Lodi residents have clamored for a Trader Joe's so they wouldn't have to leave town, and an informal poll on Lodinews.com indicates that they would rather have a Trader Joe's than other new businesses, even a large book store like Borders or Barnes and Noble.

"I drive to Stockton's TJ's to do much of my grocery shopping," Lodi resident Rosalie Taddei said in an e-mail to the News-Sentinel. "If there was one in Lodi, I would almost exclusively buy groceries there."

Trader Joe's has 132 locations in California, but No. 133 isn't headed for livable, lovable, Lodi anytime soon. However, a new store is planned for Templeton, a small town in San Luis Obispo County, and Irvine is set to get its third Trader Joe's.

The small grocery chain based in Monrovia has no plans, at least for the next two years, to open in Lodi, so residents will have to drive south to Pacific Avenue in Stockton or north to Elk Grove to satisfy their fix.

"Its a great store," Stockton resident Molly Fleming said as she was leaving Trader Joe's in Stockton with some coffee, spinach and French bread Sunday morning. "I think it would do well in Lodi, myself."

Fleming, whose stepmother lives in Lodi, said she enjoys the fresh produce, seasonings like garlic powder, the fresh lamb and salmon, salt-free food, and flowers.

Trader Joe's officials declined to state last week whether they ever plan to locate in Lodi, but they made it clear it is not within their two-year plan. Nor would they state why they won't locate in Lodi. City Manager Blair King said in September that Lodi doesn't have enough college graduates to satisfy Trader Joe's.

"We don't disclose what goes into our real estate practices," Trader Joe's spokeswoman Allison Mochizuki replied more than once in a phone interview last week.

Stockton resident Lynn Formby, who said she shops at the Pacific Avenue store at least once a day, was surprised to hear that Trader Joe's officials may believe that Lodi doesn't have enough college graduates to justify a store there.

"You're kidding," Formby said. " I hope Trader Joe's will re-think that."

After saying that Lodi is not in the company's two-year plan, Mochizuki was asked by a News-Sentinel reporter if that means that Lodi might be considered in three years or beyond that.

A Trader Joe's customer enters the Stockton store on Sunday morning. Lodi residents say they would love to have a Trader Joe's in Lodi, but there are no plans to build one in the near future. (Whitney Ramirez/News-Sentinel)

"I don't have a comment about that," she said.

Mochizuki was impressed, however, that Trader Joe's topped Lodinews.com's poll of readers.

"It is an honor to be wanted," she said.

Shoppers at the Stockton store said they enjoy European and Asian foods, olive oil, organic food, affordable prices and friendly employees. News-Sentinel readers offered similar comments when asked to submit e-mails about the store.

"Trader Joe's management has told us in the past that locals (from Stockton) tend to stop and buy a few quick items, whereas Lodi folks tend to fill carts with regular grocery shopping," Dale Miller said in an e-mail.

"Trader Joe's is favored because most of the food they sell is organic (no trans fats or artificial additives), and it's always fresh," Lodi resident J.D. Adams wrote. "They sell the only organic, fresh flour tortillas around. Their fresh salads, pasta, cheeses and hummus are wonderful."

Trader Joe's at a glance

• Began as a small chain of convenience stores called Pronto Market in 1958.
• Named changed to Trader Joe's in 1967.
• More than 250 stores in 20 states.
Source: Trader Joe's

Poll results: What's your top goal for Lodi in 2007?

Trader Joe's got the most votes in an informal poll by Lodinews.com. Here are the results, effective 4 p.m. Sunday:
Attraction: Trader Joe's
Votes: 383
Percent: 35

Attraction: Fun center (mini-golf, go-carts)
Votes: 245
Percent: 23

Attraction: Borders or Barnes and Noble bookstore
Votes: 224
Percent: 21

Attraction: More massage parlors
Votes: 163
Percent: 15

Attraction: Noah's Bagels downtown
Votes: 67
Percent: 6
Source: lodinews.com

Christine Maclean of Lodi added, "Nowadays, everyone is trying to eat better, even Lodians, and Trader Joe's provides healthy products at affordable prices. With its laid-back style (store clerks wearing Hawaiian shirts), killer wine selection and an excellent selection of naturally processed food, there is no excuse for Lodi not to have a Trader Joe's."

From Lisa Roldan: "I love Trader Joe's because their eggs are hormone-free and chickens are cage-free, and the price is better than any store. It is worth my drive from Lodi to Stockton."

Roldan also enjoys the Charles Shaw Merlot, also known as the "2 Buck Chuck." It's better than any other $2 bottle of wine from another store, she added. Other attractions include fresh turkeys and peanut butter dog biscuits, Roldan said.

Lodi resident Robin Knowlton said she enjoys the organic food, the peppermint bark at Christmas time, and flowers. And it doesn't feel like a chain store, she said.

And in Sonora, Jim Hildreth said residents there have asked for a Trader Joe's for several years to no avail. Sonora residents drive to Stockton or Modesto to shop in Trader Joe's, or even farther than that.

"Every visit to the Pleasanton Trader Joe's, I seem to run into someone from Sonora," Hildreth said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

First published: Monday, January 29, 2007

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