TYPros' Trader Joe's pop-up shop unique among efforts to attract popular retailers to Tulsa
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
2/06/13 at 7:31 AM
More than 200 Facebook pages are dedicated to begging Trader Joe's to put a grocery in particular cities, no matter how big or small.
From the 6,200 residents of Lionville, Pa., to Vallejo, Calif., where consumers see a Trader Joe's operating in a neighboring city 15 minutes away, the grocer known for cheap wines and delicious snack foods has people everywhere wishing for a location nearby.
So when Tulsa's Young Professionals floated the idea of starting a campaign to attract a national retailer to the often-overlooked area, it's no surprise that Trader Joe's was near the top of the civic group's list.
"I should say that I lived in a city with Trader Joe's, and the appeal is their price and their quality," said Brian Paschal, executive director of TYPros. "I've seen people debate the fact that we don't need another high-end grocery store, but their products are extremely competitive."
The campaign involves taking orders for Trader Joe's products online (to view the website, go to tulsaworld.com/bringittotulsa). TYPros members then will go to Trader Joe's in Kansas City, pick up the orders and bring the merchandise to Tulsa.
Social media campaigns have been known to sway restaurant chains and other retailers to locate in a particular city or keep a location slated for closure.
In 2011, a Facebook and Twitter campaign that had lasted nearly two years persuaded fast-food chain Taco Bueno to build a restaurant in Glenpool. It opened later that year.
Also in 2011, Hideaway Pizza was planning to move a restaurant on South Harvard Avenue to Tulsa Hills Shopping Center. South Tulsa residents intervened with emails, phone calls and letters. The enthusiasm was enough to commit Hideaway's corporate office to keep the Harvard location, at least while determining whether the competing restaurants could coexist.
Hideaway still maintains both locations.
Paschal said a Facebook and Twitter campaign might be merely white noise to Trader Joe's because so many similar efforts already exist. In fact, there is a Facebook page soliciting Trader Joe's to build in Tulsa that has more than 3,000 "likes."
Beside the Kansas City store, California-based Trader Joe's has several sites in the Dallas area, but it has yet to locate in Oklahoma, and its presence in the Midwest remains limited.
"There are hundreds of cities on Facebook, some as big as Tulsa or bigger, that have pages trying to get Trader Joe's to go there," Paschal said. "We wanted something different that would show Trader Joe's that there are enough fans here to support a store financially."
Other popular choices TYPros wanted to attract to Tulsa included clothing store H&M, Crate and Barrel, the Container Store, Nordstroms, REI, Urban Outfitters and Swedish furniture chain Ikea.
Trader Joe's got the nod because it's one of the few companies with a website soliciting new locations for stores, and the company could fill a need in downtown Tulsa, which has lacked grocery options for decades.
Some people point out that Oklahoma laws prohibiting alcohol sales in grocery stores might be a stumbling block for luring Trader Joe's, but Paschal said the campaign was intended to start a debate about those kinds of laws.
Trader Joe's does operate in a handful of states with liquor and wine laws similar to Oklahoma, such as Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Kentucky, but the chain's growth in those states has been recent and slower than elsewhere.
In just over a week, TYPros has taken nearly 200 orders for its Trader Joe's run, ranging from coffee to trail mix. The group is also considering purchasing some items to resell in Tulsa.
Orders through the TYPros website are due by noon Friday. The group cannot take orders for alcoholic beverages.
TYPros volunteers plan to drive to the store near Kansas City next week and purchase the goods and then distribute them Feb. 16 at GitWit Creative in the Brady District.
TYPros leaders have spoken with Trader Joe's officials, and the company seemed impressed with the effort, Paschal said.
Trader Joe's pop-up shop
Go to tulsaworld.com/bringittotulsa to see the product catalog and choose your items.
Open through noon Friday
Trader Joe's Pop-Up Shop
GitWit Creative, 11 E. Brady St.
4-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
Original Print Headline: Group gets creative to attract retail chain
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
This Trader Joe's store is in Riverside, Calif. Tulsa's Young Professionals is taking orders for items from the upscale grocery. TYPros members will buy the merchandise in Kansas City and distribute it at a Tulsa pop-up shop on Feb. 16. Bloomberg file