A Trader Joe’s with good parking?


Not likely. Parking woes seem to be a trademark of Trader Joe’s grocery stores and we’ll have to wait to see if that will be true of our new store in Montrose.

I sat down recently with Mike Morgan, vice president of the Montrose/Verdugo City/Sparr Heights Neighborhood Association, to find out what the latest word is on our newest addition. I want to highlight this connection the developer forged with the community. Trader Joe’s began working with the neighborhood as a starting point to make sure its proposals matched the community’s vision as opposed to other recent high-profile developments where the design was rammed down our throats.

Morgan warned me that this is tentative, so take what I say here as proposed (save for the fact that Trader Joe’s has inked a 10-year lease with Glendale guaranteeing a reliable income for the city). Most of you have already read that it will be situated on the old Ford lot on Honolulu Avenue, across from the library. The building will be on the west, with a landscaped parking lot to the east. Entry to the lot will be at the intersection with Orangedale Avenue, and a stop sign will be added to that intersection to ease access to the lot. The building itself will be one story and 12,000 square feet – approximately the size of the store in La Cañada Flintridge. (The La Crescenta TJ’s is 7,000 square feet.)

The design of the building is an interesting story,in that Montrose’s own John Drayman had a strong hand in helping the architect match the flavor of Montrose. The inspiration was the old Verdugo City Fowler Building – a gorgeous brick building that was at La Crescenta Avenue and Honolulu until the ‘71 earthquake – and the old Montrose Pharmacy which was at the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Honolulu Avenue.

The new TJ’s will be brick façade with a rounded corner entryway (featuring a coffee area for those who like to check out a book at the library across the street and leisurely read with a cup of coffee). Simulated second-story windows with awnings hide rooftop equipment, and give it a 1920s “Main Street” flavor. An antique blade sign will hang off the front, and I assume it will incorporate neon lighting. The loading dock on the west end will be completely enclosed so that delivery trucks disappear inside rather than unloading in the parking lot like the current local TJ’s. The building has a high “green” rating incorporating resource savings such as a landscape watering system using reclaimed water from the store’s refrigeration.

But is it a good match for Montrose? Montrose is our best feature and should be treated with the utmost care. I think it will complement the Shopping Park, adding that west anchor business that will invigorate that end of Montrose. I have been opposed to chain stores in Montrose, seeing it as a last refuge for the Mom-and-Pops. Yet Trader Joe’s just seems to fit. It has a flavor that isn’t like other chains. It’s casual and quirky, and the company takes great pains to individualize each store. TJ’s hires locally and seems to hire people with great social skills. If you’re looking for someone behind the counter that remembers your name, as we enjoy in other Montrose businesses, then TJ’s fits the bill.

And don’t forget that Trader Joe’s has a history here: The La Crescenta store is the second Trader Joe’s ever, being behind that same screwed-up parking lot since the ‘60s. (Will that TJ’s close? No, according to TJ’s officials. There’s plenty of business here for all.)

So, what about that parking? The Montrose TJ’s will have 65 spots. They’ve promised to be a good neighbor and share the parking with surrounding businesses. Well, nice guys finish last, and I predict the Trader Joe’s parking curse will hold true with this one as well.

But that’s OK. TJ’s is worth waiting for a spot.