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story.lead_photo.caption Sean Clancy, Paper Trails columnist

Katie Clifford's persistence just might be paying off.

About once a month for the past three years, Clifford, who lives in North Little Rock, has filled out the "Request a TJ's in My City" page at the website of California-based grocery chain Trader Joe's, asking for a store in central Arkansas.

The grocer even replied, she says.

"I was always told that we weren't in their two-year plan just yet but to keep submitting the form because they pay attention to those."

She was also hitting up store managers whenever she shopped at Trader Joe's locations in Dallas or the one near Memphis to let them know of her quest.

"I always asked them to put in a good word for me," she says.

Hers was not the only voice crying out in the grocery wilderness. The "Bring Trader Joe's to Little Rock" Facebook page has more than 6,000 followers.

Last week, the Rock City Eats blog reported that Trader Joe's was planning to open a location here, sending fans into levels of hysteria not seen since the great Krispy Kreme Announcement of 2003, when the doughnut chain said it was opening a store in Little Rock.

A Trader Joe's spokesman confirmed that the grocer is looking at property in Little Rock, but offered no specific plans or locations.

Clifford, a 34-year-old network marketer, grew up in Wisconsin and attended college in Sherman, Texas. While she was in school, her father worked in California, and that's where she found Trader Joe's. It was love at first shop.

Trader Joe's is known for its quirky approach to business. It mostly sells products under its own label, has fewer choices than a regular supermarket and doesn't accept coupons.

"They create a lot of their own products, so they have certain things that I like that I can't find anywhere else," she says. "And they're not super expensive."

The in-store experience is a bit like being at a co-op, she adds.

"There are not a lot of aisles, and they're easier to navigate than a regular grocery store. The shelves aren't that tall, and they always have lots of samples."

The first Trader Joe's, named for founder Joe Coulombe, opened in 1967 in Pasadena, Calif. The company is now a subsidiary of the German grocery chain Aldi Nord, and there are about 475 Trader Joe's nationwide, compared with more than 2,700 Kroger stores, more than 3,500 Walmart Supercenters and almost 700 Walmart Neighborhood Markets.

The closest Trader Joe's is in Germantown, Tenn. It opened in 2018, about four years after it was first announced.

Even with nothing firm from the company concerning a Little Rock opening, Clifford is optimistic.

"I feel good," she says. "I think they know how much people here want them, and there are a lot of us loyal Trader Joe fans."


SundayMonday on 05/19/2019

CORRECTION: Grocery chain Trader Joe's does advertise its products. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.

Print Headline: PAPER TRAILS: Fan goes on with wooing Trader Joe's


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