In West Anaheim, a mile-and-a-half stretch of Beach Boulevard is dotted with motels, mobile home parks, and some haggard-looking shopping plazas between Knott’s Berry Farm and Adventure City. With Buena Park revamping its slice of Highway-39 into an Entertainment Zone and Stanton readying a mixed-use development a little further west, Anaheim’s definitely feeling some fomo with only a newly opened car wash to boast about. Council members already passed a Beach Boulevard Specific Plan in November, but since then, two newly-seated representatives made a recent push for a Trader Joe’s to come to town.
Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu sent a Mar. 19 letter to Trader Joe’s president Bryan Palbaum inviting him to partner with the city. “We believe the Beach Boulevard corridor is an ideal location for a Trader Joe’s,” Sidhu wrote. “Ten years from now, Beach Boulevard will be one of the great economic pillars of our city and region.” The mayor boosted the pitch by noting the corridor’s proximity to the “Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Area,” only no such place exists, just the aforementioned Entertainment Zone where Porto’s, Rock and Brews and The Source make their home.
Co-signing the letter, councilman Jordan Brandman championed the idea of bringing a Trader Joe’s to District 2 during last year’s election. “Pay day lender stores and pawn shops should not be the view on our commute to work,” Brandman said in a campaign ad. “And wouldn’t it be nice not to have to drive all the way to Brea for a Trader Joe’s?” (Pro-tip: the Cerritos location is just a short hop on the 91 for West Anaheimers so save some gas, wontcha?)
Sidhu backed Brandman’s initiative during his State of the City speech earlier this month. “Whether it’s parks, landscaping, or bringing–say it with me Jordan–a Trader Joe’s to West Anaheim, the time to invest in District 2 is now, wouldn’t you agree?” a copy of Sidhu’s speech reads.
Or not! Sidhu and Brandman tried wooing the Trader Joe’s president to set up a location along Beach Boulevard in West Anaheim’s District 1, not District 2. And that area’s actual council representative, Denise Barnes, didn’t even appear invited to take part in the discussion.
What the Trader Joe’s council bros didn’t mention is that the highway is already home to a couple of grocery stores tellingly reflective of the majority demographics in the surrounding area. Near a main intersection, there’s a big Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market that always packs the parking lot across the street from the undeveloped “Sinkin’ Lincoln” plot where Tower Records used to be once upon a time in Anaheim. And then there’s Guadalajara Meat Market, a smaller specialty grocery store not far away.
Where would a Trader Joe’s fit, in more ways than one? The Beach Boulevard Specific Plan notes in its executive summary that the three-mile market area hosts a socio-economic demographic below the city and county average with a median household income of $72,500. Trader Joe’s typically opens new locations in areas with higher-than-average median incomes, generally in the six-figure range. The Register reported that the last Trader Joe’s to open in OC did so in San Juan Capistrano in 2017 after an eight-year hiatus. The previous locations were in Huntington Harbor and Aliso Viejo.
In the mayor’s pitch to the president, he also dug himself deeper than Sinkin’ Lincoln by touting Anaheim First in hyping demand. “Recently, our council announced a bold new plan to invest in Anaheim neighborhoods called Anaheim First, in which we’re seeking $250 million in new investment in our neighborhoods,” Sidhu wrote. “This neighborhood investment will be driven by robust outreach and dialog with our residents about what they see as adding to their quality of life. And in West Anaheim, our residents are telling us loud and clear that they want new higher end retail options including, very specifically, a Trader Joe’s.”
Only, council never announced any such initiative, just Sidhu in his State of the City address. When closely examined by the Weekly, an independently formed 30-member Anaheim First advisory committee that never came before council is shown to be stacked with residents whose political activities, endorsements and contributions favored resort-backed candidates like Sidhu. Without really being a city-sanctioned body, no archived audio or minutes of an advisory committee meeting exist where residents expressed a burning desire for a Trader Joe’s.
But that didn’t slow Sidhu’s roll in gushing up to Palbaum.
“We commit to you that attracting a Trader Joe’s is one of our top economic and neighborhood development priorities in West Anaheim,” Sidhu wrote. “Anaheim is proud of our ‘can do’ approach to economic development and business attraction, and we hope we can sit down with you soon to discuss how to make the West Anaheim Trader Joe’s a reality.”
Despite Sidhu’s best efforts, there’s a better chance of the grocery store’s beloved but disappeared banana waffles reappearing in the frozen food section than the chain coming to town anytime soon. “As we shared with the mayor’s office this week, at this time, Anaheim is not a part of our 2019 strategic real estate plan,” Kenya Friend-Daniel, public relations director for Trader Joe’s tells the Weekly. “However we review and update our plan annually and consider new locations we feel would be a great fit.”