Why is the Foggy Bottom Trader Joe’s Asking For Our Zip Codes? Could Plans for an Expansion be in the Works?

I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from folks along the lines of what @MuddyMaeSuggins wrote me last week:

@PoPville Trader Joes in FBottom has started asking customers for their zip during check out. Never used to. mayB plans 4 new one?”

Back in June ’10 we discussed some scuttlebutt that Trader Joe’s was considering a 14th and U St, NW location. At the time some other media outlets inquired with the Trader Joe’s PR department and Trader Joe’s denied any expansion plans in DC. Nevertheless, I’ve been consistently hearing that Trader Joe’s is indeed interested in a U St, NW location. I think it’s gonna be in one of those huge projects planned for 13th or 14th and U St, NW? But who knows it could be a different neighborhood all together or it could be nowhere.

But first people want to know – why is Trader Joe’s Foggy Bottom location now asking for people’s zip codes? Could this be an indicator that they may be considering another DC location?

If I were betting man, I’d say TJ is def. going to expand in DC. It’s just a matter of when and where not if? I think the ball is rolling. It has a long journey but I think it’s started. I’d guess we won’t see a new one before a minimum of 5 years. Or whenever those major construction projects are completed along U St, NW. Or maybe the skeptics are right – maybe they’ve no intention to expand at all.

Of course the skeptics also doubted that a Ray’s the Steaks type joint from Michael Landrum would be coming to Mt Vernon Square.

Fine I’ll hedge my bets a little bit – put me down for a $100 that we’ll see a Trader Joe’s on U St, NW within the next 10 years.

104 Comment

  • Well….according to a friend who works at Trader Joe’s, they only open a limited amount of new stores each year. According to her, it is doubtful that the DC will get another Trader Joe’s anytime in the next year or so, which is really too bad, because I’d love to have one in Columbia Heights….

  • everybody put 20011 as their zip code! thanks!

  • When I was in TJ’s last week, the person working the register said they were asking for zip codes for this exact purpose, to tell where the most customers were coming from to determine where to open a new location. While yes, this says nothing about the timeline of it … at least they’re considering it?

  • people here get way too ecxited by these little thing… glad to see some people living the simple life!

    • Hey, when you come from a place that has decent, quality supermarkets that aren’t 20 miles away, and you discover how dismal your options are here, it’s definitely a cause for excitement!

      • Where in DC do you live that the only decent grocery store is 20 miles away!?

        • if you live in the Delusional neighborhood, you’re about that far. googlemap it to be sure.

          fyi, 5 dc metro area miles =25 American Standard Miles. by contrast 5 NYC miles= 100 American Standard Miles.

        • Y’all must be really new around here. It wasn’t too long ago that all you had to choose from was crappy Safeways and even crappier Giants.

          • I don’t actually have a choice in my neighborhood, unless I want to travel three or more miles (without a car) for groceries….

            Hooray, Northeast!

  • Last time I was there I asked about the U st rumors and was told the locaion fell through. My guess is they’re scouting based on customers.

    Even though it’s illegal to take alcohol across the state lines my guess is the most profitable would be somewhere closer to MD, like Ft Totten. Easy to drive to from MD without getting into dowtown traffic. And no I dont live at Ft Totten. It is just where I would put it from a profits perspective.

    • What? Illegal for who to take alcohol across state lines?

        • http://dpw.dc.gov/DC/ABRA/About+ABRA/Frequently+Asked+Questions/Importing+Alcoholic+Beverages#1

          How much alcohol may a person transport across DC’s border?

          An individual who does not have an Import Permit may transport one case of beer or wine or one quart of spirits into the District for personal use.

          • Isnt that a violation of federal law?

          • Notice the use of the word import in that sentence. I’m taking about alcohol exports into MD and VA.

            “MYTH: An individual can visit another state or country and bring any wine they want back into Maryland for personal consumption.
            FACT: Under Maryland law, consumers are ONLY allowed to legally bring one quart of wine into the state at a time and not more than two quarts during any one calendar month or one gallon if coming from overseas for personal use.”

            “The transportation or importation into every State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.”
            -US Constitution, XXI Amendment, Section 2

            It depends on state and county laws. The internet is TL; so I DR. If you’re that curious look it up.

            Generally the cops are not sitting on state and county lines with checkpoints. Just because people rarely get caught doesn’t mean it’s legal.

    • +1. I live hear Fort Totten. A location by the metro here would be great. But The TJ location is too complicated to get to, and I can’t imagine too many people around here going out of their way to get there, so they probably aren’t even looking at Ft. Totten b/c I can’t imagine too many of us go out there. But I would def shop there if they came. We need better grocery stores in the area.

    • yes! Fort Totten!

  • From your zip and cc# they can find your address and telephone number, so it could be as simple as a for marketing purposes, maybe they’re going to start mailing the Fearless Flyer

  • I was shopping at the Trader Joe’s in Alexandria and Bailey’s Crossroads last week and they ask for my zipcode at both location. They are asking for zipcodes at all their stores in the region. Trader Joe’s had discussions with JBG for their 14th and R site but they wanted more dedicated parking then the project could provide.

    • These demands for so much dedicated parking show that they do not have a clear understanding of the market. Nearly every new development overbuilds parking capacity for the residential side, so there’s no reason that overcapacity could not be shared with retail. DCUSA and just about every large apartment or condo building built in the last decade are good examples of that.

      • the fact that their foggy bottom store is packed 100% of the time, and the parking lot is typically full, definitely show that they don’t understand their market. obviously they are complete idiots who don’t understand how to run a grocery store, considering that their outlet in dc is one of the highest grossing retail spaces in the country. if only they had brilliant executives like safeway they would be installing massive 40,000 square foot produce sections in transitional neighborhoods and filling those produce sections with overpriced rotting veggies. sigh.

        • Eric – not to rehash old skirmishes, but I’ve seen more rotting produce (or purchased it only to have it rot overnight) from trader joe’s than I ever have any other store in my lifetime. The only thing that comes close is Peapod.

        • Simmer down, Eric my boy.

      • I hope that no grocery store ever opens without appropriate parking. When that happens the anti-car extremists in this city will have won. I want to be able to drive to the grocery store so I can get however much I want and not have to worry about carrying it 1 block, 2 blocks, or 10 blocks home.

        I’ve lived somewhere that grocery stores didnt have parking – it was hell.

        • but if a grocery store is built w/o parking, you will still have many place with parking.

          and it might even be less crowded.

    • I think their requirements for dedicated parking are very limiting. If they plop one down in an area that already gets a lot of foot traffic they’ll get a ton of business with or without parking.

    • That’s what the rumor is about every large space. The same thing was said about the space in View14 (that’s now going to be a “martial arts academy”…). Given the small number of spots at the Foggy Bottom location, I doubt the veracity of these rumors.

  • The next Trader Joes in the area will be in Clarendon. A U Street location would be sweet.

    • Clarendon already has a Whole Foods! That’s not fair for them to get a Trader Joe’s too… Columbia Heights needs it more!

      • It’s only natural for one to go in in Clarendon or the P/14th area to directly compete. Go Google the story on the TJ’s/Whole Foods spat in Portland, ME. The Federal Trade Commission basically begged TJ’s to move into a vacant supermarket location across from Whole Foods to create a more competitive environment.

  • I love Trader Joe’s, but that Foggy Bottom location is such a clusterf**k on the weekends that I’ve stopped going there. It’s a bit of a haul, but the Alexandria and Tyson’s locations usually aren’t nearly as chaotic. They could probably get away with opening two new locations in the District. Maybe one in Columbia Heights or the U Street area, and one on the Hill?

    • We have pretty good grocery options on the Hill, but I think a Trader Joe’s would do extremely well here!

  • How about putting one at the bus depot location on 14th once they close it down and develop it into retail and condos 😉

  • Wish they would put it in the new building going up on top of the Shaw-Howard metro stop, Progression Place or whatever it’s called now. Close enough to U Street, right on the green line, and it would really kick start the continued redevelopment of that area. I know, pipe dream; I’m sure they’ll put it closer to 14th.

    • There or in the old Wonder Bread factory. He-double toothpicks, I would be happy with a Giant, Safeway, Wegmans,Shoppers Choice or Bob’s Rip-Off Price But Large Section Grocer LLC in either of those locations.

      • +1, I’d love to see a new grocery store near the RI/Florida intersection… especially if the O St. Market project gets off the ground. We’ll lose the Shaw Giant for two years when/if that happens.

        I always thought one of the gas stations along Rhode Island between 3rd and 5th would make a good site for a grocery store, too… it’s pretty close to the metro but there’s a ton of car traffic on RI/FL/NJ Aves., especially during rush hour. I could see a lot of people stopping by on their way to and from work, just as they do with the gas stations now.

  • Georgia Ave!!

    I’m going to the foggy bottom Trader Joe’s this weekend just so I can give my zip, many times over!

  • Yeah, I love Trader Joe’s but there are too many people in the Foggy Bottom location during the weekend (regardless of the Parking available).

    A U Street/Columbia Heights/Petworth walkable/metro accessable location would be great!

    (Go Zip Code 20001!)

  • i LOOOOVE this conversation!

  • they should open a trader joes or a wegmans any one of those grocery stores that people go crazy about at:

    O street Market
    Capitol City Market
    McMillan Site
    Next to RFK

    place that would really shake things up.

  • I think DC USA would be perfect. It’s got plenty of parking and its right off the metro. I love Trader Joe’s but I avoid the Foggy Bottom b.c. its is too busy and far.

  • The Western end of H Street would be a great decision. With all of the new buildings on Mass Ave and NoMa, there’s the density for it. And think of all the market share they’d get from all of the row houses on Capitol Hill.

    They should scrap the plans for the Giant or the Walmart and plop one down in one of those spaces.

  • how about the Hines development at Eastern Mkt?

    • Hine. No “s”.

      And, TJ’s has been tossed about throughout the process, but as of the last meeting last Wednesday, no grocery store is planned for the development. (which will now be 85,000 sq ft smaller than originally planned).

  • Trader Joe’s rarely ever goes where the high incomes aren’t. We’ve been trying to get a TJ to locate near College Park for years, but ah ‘specs we po’ folk in PG jes cain’t afford food. Screw them.

    Bitter, party of one, my table is ready!

    • Theyre being silly too – since their food is the cheapest option of all the grocery stores…

    • Lol. I actually know a few people in PG county that would kill for a TJ’s.

    • pg has a wegmans, which typically has only popped up in wealthy areas.

      • PG has several moderate to extremely wealthy areas.

      • Well, yes and no. Wegmans has made no secret of its expansion formula: It requires HUGE plots of land so it can build those awesomely monstrous stores, along with giant parking lots. Most of the places that are willing to meet those requirements are wealthy areas.

        Because of this land requirement, don’t expect to see one in D.C. proper anytime soon. There just aren’t enough huge swaths of land in the right parts of town.

  • Generally agree with the speculation that a 2nd DC location for TJ’s would do well, if it were properly sited. As noted by many above, they’re asking for this information to understand their customer base (you give the same info at Safeway and Giant, you just do it when you scan your discount card). One very important metric for grocery stores is their “draw radius” — how far people will travel from where they live to shop at that store. A Whole Foods, for instance, probably has a draw 3-5x of a standard full-service grocery. It’s pretty detailed business, but ultimately, they’ll decide whether there’s some geographical point where they could put a new location and be profitable/competitive based on the data.

    Also, while I like TJ’s, I don’t always get the level of enthusiasm. It’s not a full-service grocery; it’s really a giant private-label store that has marketed itself very well. I almost never buy fresh produce there, bc it’s not really a place that is meant to sell fresh produce. It can replace a lot of normal grocery shopping, but not all of it.

    • I wouldn’t even say it replaces a lot of normal grocery shopping. My groceries consist mostly of fresh fruit, veggies, dried beans, rice, yogurt… all of which can be obtained for lower or equivalent prices elsewhere. My dogs do like the canned dog food at Trader Joe’s, and I like to have a few of their frozen meals on hand for days I have class and don’t get home until 11pm, but there’s not much else I can justify buying there.

  • The parent company of TJ is opening it’s sister store Aldi’s in the Atlas district of DC this summer. The reason they are collecting your zip is to see how many people near the new store there will be that already shop at TJ.

    • Wow, that’s great news! I used to sho pat Aldi when I was a poor college student, and I predict it will be a hit among the Atlas District crowd.

  • Somewhere along lower Georgia Avenue, north of Howard. Close to Columbia Heights but not in the dead center cluster F. Lots of space for parking, trolley streetcar will be there in a few years. Accessible to those in CH and Petworth and parts east like Brookline.

  • Whenever a young clerk asks me my phone number I tel them it’s 867-5309. They never get the song reference.

    • i tell them 555-2368 but they don’t get that either.

    • Try 777-9311.

      Maybe collecting the Zip codes will convice them that they do not need to open another store because TJ’s customers are loyal and willing to travel. If they check #s again in 6 months and the number of 20011, 20010 20012 et. al. shoppers decrease by 50% maybe that would have a larger impact.

      Question – TJ’s seeks out areas with high income residents, does the TJ’s on Route 29 fit this this profile?

  • The zip code is also used in connection with credit card transactions to lower the rate they pay their credit card companies. The more information they can collect from you, the less they pay as it is supposed to reduce fraud.

    Haven’t you noticed that the gas stations are also asking for your zip code? It’s not that they are looking for the next “hot” location for a gas station. They want to pay Visa and Mastercard a lower percentage for processing the credit card.

    I know this because I was asked to reprogram the systems at my company. By asking for the zip code we will save 100K per year on credit card fees.

    Sorry to burst people’s hope for a new Trader Joes. Most likely they are just lowering their costs.

    • Wow, 96 comments and this was the only one to get it right.

    • Are they only asking for zip codes on cc purchases? what about debit? cash?

      • Debit cards are processed by the same systems(VISA/MasterCard/Discover). As for cash, they probably have one system that treats all payment as one. It would be rare to build separate payment systems for both cash and credit/debit.

        So most likely the system just requires the zip code for all transactions.

  • This is NOT a new practice at Trader Joes – they do this periodically to see where their shoppers live to determine potential new sites. But don’t get excited – they did the same thing at their Foggy Bottom location over a year ago and have made zero announcements of new stores in DC (but have expanded in Virginia, of course).

    Keep your expectations low…

    • Seems like this strategy would pull in a lot of zip codes that are near the VA border. I think a Foggy Bottom resident was more likely to go out to Bailey’s Crossroads or Alexandria than someone in Petworth simply because of geography.

  • Psmitty311

    I think the land that the old pipe factory sits on to the right of the 9:30 club is being auctioned off this month or next. It’s a huge plot, and I’m really hoping that whoever buys it puts a decent grocery store in the ground level of what I’m sure will be a ton of condos. From that area (9th & V), the closest grocery store is Whole Foods, and that’s not exactly an “easy” place to get to, nor is it the best-priced with the best best selection. We tend to go to the Giant in Columbia Heights for most of our shopping needs since we can get just about anything there and they have free parking. Haven’t checked out the Harris Teeter yet.

    • Frenchie–Harris Teeter rocks! They’re a wee bit more expensive, but they have the best staff ever, which makes the extra pennies well worth it. The selection they have of everything is delicious and ample and they have a large international aisle too.

      Other grocery options close by you:
      – Giant on 9th Street
      – Safeway on Columbia Road
      – Whole Foods on P St
      – Harris Teeter on Kalorama

  • They have been asking for zip codes in Boston, too. The cashier said they do this for 2 weeks a year every year, just to get a sample of their customers (as opposed to using Bonus Cards or asking year-round as some other chains do).

  • The need to drop in a location where the Avenue market currently resides…oh, I would welcome them with open arms.

  • Capturing zip codes is usually done in conjunction with a ‘fearless flyer’, either to judge responses to the bulk mailings or to perhaps establish where flyers should be sent in the future.

    TJ realizes that it is a destination location, while most grocery shopping is done in line of travel. There is not the same need to rent high price real estate in order to be successful, customers will find the stores. Rent adds only to cost, nothing to value. That said, landlords realize that TJ will bring strength to any retail development. TJ is in an enviable position, cash rich, fashionable, and so many places wooing them.

    14 & U may be too close to FB, go north is my bet, 2nd alphabet, along CT ave.

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