Half Moon Bay residents rally for Trader Joe’s

Coastsiders are courting Trader Joe’s with a petition they hope will persuade the specialty grocer to fill the space that will be left when Albertsons closes up shop July 24.

Resident John Lynch plans to submit 5,500 signatures gathered from June 15 to July 4, calling for Trader Joe’s to help fill a niche in Half Moon Bay, where Albertsons’ closing will offer only Safeway and Cunha’s country store to grocery shoppers.

The effort is not without precendent since the store came to San Carlos in 2004, following a flood of 7,000 postcards sent by San Carlos residents in the late 1990s, according to San Carlos Chamber of Commerce President Sheryl Pomerenk.

But Trader Joe’s officials say the chain of kitschy gourmet and organic foods cannot be wooed.

“It’s nice to be wanted, but that does not help in our decision regarding where we put a location,” said Alison Mochizuki, spokeswoman for the chain.

The Albertsons in Half Moon Bay is one of two stores in the chain closing on the Peninsula, the other is on Bovet Road in San Mateo.

The grocery store chain is closing 37 of its Northern California locations and 131 of its “solidly performing” stores, according to Albertsons spokeswoman Quyen Ha.

“The stores we are closing have been unprofitable. They are 22 percent of our store base but only 12.4 percent of our sales,” Ha said.

The closures will create two very different effects.

In Half Moon Bay, the store is one of the city’s top-20 sales tax generators, according to Half Moon Bay Finance Director Judd Norrell.

The San Mateo store is not even in the top 100, according to Community Development Director Bob Beyer.

“The bigger issue beyond the financial one for the city is the lack of choice,” Half Moon Bay City Councilmember Jim Grady said. “It’s one more reason for people to shop over the hill.”

Meanwhile, in San Mateo, there are eight years left on Albertsons’ lease in the Borel Square shopping center, according to Miller Ream, managing partner of the Borel Estate Company.

In August, the lease will go up for bid to 100 prospective purchasers. “It will be replaced, I think, by a better user,” Ream said.

Lynch will present his petition to the Half Moon Bay City Council on Tuesday at the Community Senior Center, 535 Kelly Ave.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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