WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Uptown residents who are tired of schlepping to the Upper West Side for their Speculoos Cookie Butter and two buck chuck have launched an online campaign to bring Trader Joe’s to the neighborhood.
Washington Heights residents Susan Feldman and Elayne Karp created a Facebook page for the cause after lamenting what they described as the high prices and mediocre products of many local supermarkets. Since launching early last month, “Bring Trader Joe’s to Washington Heights” has already garnered more than 250 page likes.
Feldman, who has lived in the neighborhood for seven years, said she was surprised but pleased by how quickly the idea gained popularity.
“It’s very difficult to convince Trader Joe’s to set up shop, so any support and traction we can get will hopefully show [Trader Joe’s] they can be successful in our neighborhood,” she said in an email.
The Facebook page also serves as a place for members to post recommendations of vacant storefronts where the grocer could set up shop. Suggestions so far have included the former Crystal Party Supplies at Broadway and 183rd Street, the vacant movie theater at Broadway and 181st Street, and the new commercial building at 207th Street and Broadway.
Uptown is currently served by several local and regional grocery chains, including Fine Fare, C-Town and Associated. However, group members said these stores leave something to be desired, noting on the page that it can be difficult to find new products and that the quality of produce is often lacking.
Feldman said that she frequently drives to Fairway on 125th Street or the Stop and Shop in Yonkers to find quality ingredients at a good price.
"I’m a big cook and I love to bake, so ingredients are really important to me," she said. "I want to be able to find quality things and not get price gouged."
Feldman said the point isn’t to push other stores out of the neighborhood, but to raise the bar for all stores.
"One of the things I love about Heights and Inwood is that there are a lot of local business owners, which brings a lot of character to the neighborhood," she said. "We wanted Trader Joe’s because it’s a little bit different than what’s already here and the prices tend to be lower.
Trader Joe’s currently has three Manhattan locations, with stores in Union Square, Chelsea and the Upper West Side, as well as one in Cobble Hill and another in Forest Hills. The store sells fresh produce and other standard grocery items, but is better known for specialty foods, many of which Trader Joe’s sells under its own label.
Top Trader Joe’s-brand sellers in 2013 included Joe-Joe’s Sandwich Cookies, Joe’s Diner Frozen Mac ‘n Cheese and Trader Joe’s Spinach, Kale and Greek Yogurt Dip, according to the company.
Feldman and Karp are also encouraging residents to request an Uptown location through Trader Joe’s website. The company says it takes such requests into account when looking for new locations.
Rachel Broderick, a spokeswoman for Trader Joe’s, said the company does not have any currently plans to open Uptown.
"But we absolutely appreciate and will make note of the community interest," she said in an email.