Development on the east side of downtown Minneapolis reaches a new stage with the arrival of Trader Joe's, the first grocery in the rapidly changing neighborhood.
"I'm super excited," said Karla Hanson, a Wells Fargo employee in Downtown East who was walking near the intersection of Chicago and Washington avenues on Tuesday afternoon. "I'm checking out the windows hoping to see when it will open."
The store will open Friday, July 20.
"We're very excited about being part of the energy of a downtown location," said Melissa Laufer, manager of the new store.
It will be the eighth Twin Cities location for California-based Trader Joe's. The 10,700-square-foot store includes a liquor store with a separate entrance and a partly covered parking lot with 72 spaces. Although it is a pay lot, Trader Joe's customers will get one hour free with validation in the store. Parking for more than one hour will be $20 with validation and $30 without.
The retailer is part of the East End mixed-use complex that also includes a recently opened Jimmy John's restaurant, a Starbucks that will open in the fall and 180 apartments. About 40 of the residences will be occupied by July.
Across the street is another new mixed-use project, called Ironclad. It will house the 150-room Moxy Minneapolis hotel, more than 160 apartments, and space for a restaurant and other retailers.
"Trader Joe's is a great sign that downtown's residential population is growing as robustly as it is," said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. "Fifteen to 18 years ago we were willing to offer supermarkets financial incentives and we couldn't get it done. Now you've got Lunds & Byerlys, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. It's a sign of health and strength."
Target's downtown store has a sizable grocery section and there are several dozen convenience stores for the downtown residential population of around 43,000.
David Livingston, a supermarket analyst in suburban Milwaukee, said the Twin Cities supermarket scene is very healthy and another new store is always a good sign.
According to market analysis done by Metro Market and Chain Store Guide in 2016, Trader Joe's has about 3 percent of the Twin Cities market share.
"Trader Joe's has the highest sales per square foot of any grocer in the U.S.," he said. "They can open fewer stores because their customers are willing to travel farther."
The Trader Joe's in Woodbury regularly draws customers from Eau Claire, Wis., and the Maple Grove location sees visitors from Duluth, Laufer said. "They come with their ice chests and frozen bags to stock up for a month," she said.
Trader Joe's has 477 stores in the U.S. in 41 states and the District of Columbia. In 2018 it will open nearly 15 stores. The company is tight-lipped about new stores but said it has no announcements of any additional Minnesota locations.
The new Minneapolis location is now accepting applications for employment of nearly 100 workers.
Cramer believes there may be room for more grocery options in downtown Minneapolis.
"As long as the residential population keeps expanding, I wouldn't be surprised to see another one in time," he said.