By Michael Regan
Niagara Gazette — Despite tenacious efforts by the Kenmore Village Improvement Society to bring Trader Joe's to the heart of its downtown, the widely popular chain grocery store will instead open in Amherst.
The company, which has already been operating on the West Coast for decades, announced Monday it will launch its newest location at 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., though a spokesperson for Trader Joe's wouldn't comment on when precisely it would open.
A member of the Amherst Planning Department, Gary Black, said the store would encompass 12,000 square feet and be attached to a Barnes and Nobles, which is located near the big box retailer Target in Amherst's commercial corridor.
Melissa Foster, of the KVIS, said after members of her group began studying the layout of the village in 2009, when they began a fevered pitch to bring Trader Joe's to the area. Those initiatives included flooding the company's corporate headquarters with hundreds of postcards and creating a Facebook fan page and a life-sized dummy monikered "Kenmore Joe." The group also took several trips to the Rochester area to view a Trader Joe's there.
Foster said she first learned in September of the company's decision to open a location in Amherst and despite the disappointing news she feels that her organization played a part in bringing it to Western New York.
"We knew that it wasn't going to be Kenmore and even though that's the case we still hold hope for the future," she said. "But we're delighted that they're going to come to the area nonetheless."
The store will feature a festive ambience with cedar walls, Hawaiian elements and other locally significant decor, according to a statement issued by the chain.
Trader Joe's began in California in the late 1950s and has since spread across the country in recent years to 385 stores in 35 states. The grocery chain sells domestic and imported delicacies as well as more than 1,000 items created by the company itself.
Foster hopes that "Kenmore Joe will be the first customer" at the future store in Amherst, while she said there's still hope that a second location will continue to be an option in the village, which she contends is in close proximity to college populations as well as residential neighborhoods.
"There are many areas where they could have gone and they could still open another location," Foster said. "I think that they're going to have such an overwhelming response and the Kenmore area could be a place they could draw from."