Push on to get Trader Joe's in Richland

It's almost the stuff of urban legend -- a co-worker mentions making a trip to Portland or Seattle that includes a stop at Trader Joe's, and officemates flock with eager requests to bring specialty items back to the Tri-Cities.

The purveyor of low-cost organic goodies often is at the top of the list of retail outlets Tri-Citians say they would most like to see come to the area.

But so far, the pleas of Mid-Columbia residents to bring one of the popular grocery stores to Kennewick, Pasco or Richland have fallen on deaf ears at Trader Joe's corporate headquarters in California.

Company spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said a Tri-City location is not in the company's current two-year plan.

Local economic development officials are hoping to change that with a Facebook campaign designed to get as many Tri-Citians as possible to request a store in the hopes sheer volume might catch the retailer's attention.

The city of Richland on Friday posted a link on its Facebook page asking Trader Joe's fans to go to the company's website to submit a request to bring a store to the area.

Gary Ballew, Richland's business and economic development manager, said the city hasn't heard any specific interest from Trader Joe's, but started the campaign as part of an overall economic development strategy to attract the businesses that residents say will enhance their quality of life.

"People want choices," Ballew said.

And on a city survey that asked what choices Richland residents most desired, Trader Joe's was No. 1, he said.

Representatives for Trader Joe's did not respond to an interview request Friday, but previously have declined to disclose how they decide where to put new stores.

The city campaign isn't the first one attempting to use social media to catch Trader Joe's attention. Two other Facebook groups have sprung up -- "Trader Joe's Tri-Cities" with 1,417 members and "I Want a Trader Joe's in the Tri-Cities" with 1,570.

They hope to follow in the footsteps of a "Trader Joe's Spokane" Facebook group that had attracted more than 11,000 members by the time the company announced in November that it would open a store on the city's South Hill.

Mochizuki said the Facebook campaign wasn't a factor in the company's decision to open a Spokane store. She declined to comment on what factors are considered by the notoriously secretive German-owned company.

"It's really an honor to be wanted, but it doesn't go into our decision-making process," she said.

Tri-Citians remain hopeful nonetheless.

"Our community is big enough to seriously consider placing one here. ... I hope it works out, I love Trader Joe's!!" Facebook user Lisa Thompson wrote on the city's page.

w To submit a request, visit traderjoes.com, click on "Contact Trader Joe's," "Location Requests" and "Show Me the Form" then complete the request form.