Can We Get a Trader Joe’s in Bowie?
The city has been working to bring the grocery chain to Bowie for several years, with little success.
With recent closings of Safeway on Superior Lane and the Giant grocery stores in Pointer Ridge and Bowie Plaza limiting shopping options in the area, Bowie residents are clamoring for a new food store, namely a Trader Joe’s.
The coveted grocery store chain had about 345 stores nationwide as of January 2013. Trader Joe’s keeps a smaller stock than typical grocery retailers, but according to CNN Money, it sells $1,750 in merchandise per square foot, which is double that of Whole Foods.
“We’ve been at this for several years,” Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said, and still no Trader Joe’s.
The city has approached the grocery chain, but representatives have said they are reluctant to open a new store in Bowie.
“They’ve said they are not in the expansion mode in our area right now, but if they do come this way, they clearly want beer and wine sales,” Robinson said.
By law, grocery stores are generally banned from selling beer and wine in Prince George’s County, and this is a law that does not appear to be close to being changed any time soon.
A bill proposed last year by state Senator Douglas J.J. Peters (Dist. 23), Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith (Dist. 23) and others, but ultimately the bill was not passed.
The primary opposition to this type of legislation, said Robinson, is coming from liquor store owners who don’t want the competition from grocers.
“When I looked at the grocery stores, they have a tendency to sell boutique brands. I don't really see the competition to individual liquor stores,” he said.
Robinson has made two trips to Annapolis already this year lobbying for beer and wine sales in Prince George’s County, but no new bill has yet been proposed.
Last month, the city’s economic development staff attended the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Mid-Atlantic Conference. Though Bowie has been seeking grocery tenants for several years, retailers have been hesitant to come to the area while still gaging the impact of the new Wegman's in the region, stated city manager David Deutsch in his weekly status report.
However, site locaters also told city staff that they expected to begin looking for new store locations in Prince George’s County in the next 18-24 months.
That’s not to say the city has been entirely unsuccessful in bringing in new grocery retailers to Bowie. Both Aldi and MOM’s Organic Market have opened stores in Hilltop Plaza in recent years.
While Robinson is pleased to see these new stores, he said they are not enough and that the city still desperately needs grocers in Bowie Plaza and Pointer Ridge.
“The reality is it’s not only a grocery store issue, it’s a jobs issue and an economic redevelopment issue to me,” Robinson said.