The quest for cauliflower gnocchi, Unexpected Cheddar, and reasonably priced frozen food has reached new heights, as longtime campaigners — backed by City Council Member Erik Bottcher — invite Trader Joe’s to Hell’s Kitchen in a Valentine’s Day press conference.

The campaign, entitled “Be Our Valentine, Trader Joe’s”, will be launched at 12pm on Monday at Hell’s Kitchen Park with Bottcher and community advocates unveiling a giant Valentine to the national grocer and making their case for a TJ’s in the neighborhood. 

“Everybody here wants it, but not everyone knows how to get it to happen,” says resident Anne Davis, organizer of neighborhood Facebook group “We Need a Trader Joe’s or Aldi in Hell’s Kitchen”, which has recently ramped up its search for a local venue. Davis has been petitioning Trader Joe’s executives for several years, eventually connecting with Bottcher who “took it and ran, and got in touch with a regional manager at TJ’s” to further negotiations. 

Recently proposed locations include the closed Lucky Strike on W42nd and 12th Ave, the former Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine on 10th Ave bw W27/38th St, Lee’s Art Shop (which closed in 2016) on W57th bw 7th/Broadway, the site of closed Housing Works on 9th Ave bw W49/50th, the former location of Treehaus on Theater Row (which has recently had Nicol Squash move into part of the space), as well as new construction just north of Port Authority at 308 W43rd St and 450 11th Ave by the Javits Center near Hudson Yards. “There are new high-rise buildings going up every day in Hell’s Kitchen that have available floor space retail,” says Davis. Trader Joe’s requires at least 15,000 square feet of usable space as well as facilities for cold storage and capacity for truck loading. 

The theoretical Trader Joe’s could join other big-box retailers like Target, which opened on 10th Ave and W44th St in October 2020 and the Nordstrom NYC Flagship stores on W57th and Bway, which opened in October 2019. “You know, whoever is handling real estate at Target is doing it right — Target is grabbing up every inch of retail space there is in the city,” says Davis. And while appealing to the popular grocery brand may seem a reach, it’s been done before — after several years of petitioning for a TJ’s to appear on the Upper East Side, a new location opened at E59th and 1st Ave in November 2021

While the campaign is well underway, there may be some hills yet to climb for HK TJ fans. Hell’s Kitchen organizer and activist Marisa Redanty has been calling Trader Joe’s executives for the last five years, asking for a location in places like the Gotham West Market, now home to several small restaurants. Redanty notes that past replies from TJ’s were that rents were too high in the area — “despite NYC locations in places like the Upper West Side and Union Square,” counters Redanty. “The corporate higher-ups who make these decisions don’t live in NYC. But maybe that has changed,” she adds, noting that there is now a corporate office in Manhattan.

Redanty is also enthusiastic about Council Member Bottcher’s recent involvement, saying “I love this Valentine thing that Erik is doing, I’m with it 100%. We may have a better chance now.” 

Davis agrees that Bottcher’s involvement could push the campaign to new heights, adding that “Erik told us that Trader Joe’s told them it was the first time that an elected council member came to them to ask for a location.” 

“I’m hoping this press conference on Monday shows Trader Joe’s that there’s a whole community out there, there are thousands of us out here that are in need of a Trader Joe’s,” says Davis. “We want to get TJs to commit to a space and a lease — everybody will be thrilled. It’s like when Target committed to 10th Ave — it took some time for the store to actually open, but the promise of it made people willing to wait.” 

If Monday’s press conference can push TJ’s executives to see the value of a long-awaited Hell’s Kitchen location, it’s clear that neighbors will rejoice. After all, as Davis says — “Everybody hates Food Emporium.”

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  1. Food Emporium is lost in the 70s and it was horrible how one of their employees was decapitated by an illegal elevator in one of their stores. I would be happy to never shop there again.

  2. This is great – just a reminder/notice that Hell’s Kitchen Park is currently mislabeled on Google Maps as Lorraine Hansberry Park, so if people are searching for it they may not be able to find it.

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