Loyal fans of Trader Joe's have been waiting five long years to be able to shop at a store closer than Glendale or Madison.
The wait may soon be over, as Trader Joe's seeks to build a third Wisconsin store in Brookfield, as part of the Underwood Crossing complex where a Target store is under construction at 12821 W. Blue Mound Rd. The site is near Brookfield borders with Wauwatosa and Elm Grove.
The California-based grocery chain — which has a cult-like fan base and employees dressed in hawaiian shirts — is known for its private label specialty products and wines. It's owned by the same German family that owns the Aldi discount grocery chain.
Trader Joe's says its specialty products don't directly compete with other grocers, which in the Brookfield area include Fresh Market at Brookfield Square mall, Sendiks, Grasch Foods and Roundy's Metro Market. The new Target store at Underwood Crossing also plans to have a grocery section.
Ryan Cos. of Minneapolis, Minn., is developing Underwood Crossing on the approximately 20-acre site that formerly housed the Quebecor World printing plant which closed in 2006.
"We are excited about moving forward with Trader Joe's," said Tony Barranco, retail development director for Ryan Cos. "We’ve got an agreement with Trader Joe's to join the Underwood Crossing project. We are going to be talking to the city about getting some approvals that we need."
Underwood Crossing was approved in July to include a 140,000-square-foot Target store, an 18,000-square-foot junior anchor store and three smaller buildings totaling 16,200 square feet that would be constructed closest to Blue Mound Road.
A city staff report says Ryan Cos. has secured a soft goods retailer for the junior anchor but it needs 5,950 more square feet than the 18,000. Barranco said he could not disclose the potential tenant. It would be built immediately adjacent and connected to the Target.
As for the three smaller buildings, the city in October approved a 4,000-square-foot PNC Bank as the first. Trader Joe's would be the second, located on the northeast corner of the complex. The third could be more retail or a restaurant.
Mayor Steve Ponto said he was excited Trader Joe's wanted to be in Brookfield.
"I know it has a very loyal following, including in my own family," he said, adding his relatives drive to Glendale to get the store's unique brands. "It's a great addition to the tremendous shopping opportunities that exist in Brookfield."
The mayor said he did not believe Trader Joe's would push existing grocers out of business.
"It amazes me how many successful grocery stores or food-based stores that we have in Brookfield and it just seems like they just want to keep coming," he said.
Grocery industry analyst David Livingston of Waukesha said Trader Joe's — or Whole Foods if it would decide to build a second store on Milwaukee's west side — will steal sales from other Brookfield grocers. But because it doesn't carry the volume others do and its items are unique, there should be room for all, he said.
"Will they close anybody up? I don’t think so," Livingston said.
The Trader's Joe's proposal will be on Monday's Brookfield Plan Commission agenda to authorize a public hearing on amending the complex approval for the additional square footage and other possible changes involving lighting and signage.
Trader Joe's, founded in 1958, operates more than 350 stores in 31 states, including about six in the Chicago area. Both Wisconsin stores — at Bayshore Town Center in Glendale and in Madison — opened in fall 2006.
If approved by the city, Trader Joe's could be open next fall, if not earlier, with the goal to open about the same time as Target and PNC Bank.