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Trader Joe's store coming to Merrimon Avenue

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7/11/2012 - Trader Joe's store coming to Merrimon Avenue
by Jason Sandford - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- The specialty grocery chain Trader Joe's is planning a store on Merrimon Avenue, according to business owners who said Tuesday they've been told they have to move.

Fernando Sandoval, manager of the Mexican restaurant La Carreta at 100 Merrimon Ave., said Tuesday he was notified on Monday that Trader Joe's had purchased the property and that his business would have 120 days to vacate the premises.

"That means that our dreams are in the trash," Sandoval said.

"That's not much time and it means 15 to 20 people will be out of jobs," he said. "We've put a lot of money into this place. It feels sad."

The restaurant, which has a second location on Hendersonville Road, has been serving burritos and margaritas on Merrimon Avenue for seven years.

Freddie White, the owner of NY Fashion at the corner of Merrimon Avenue and Chestnut Street just north of La Carreta, said a representative of his building's owner notified him last week that the building had been sold.

"As far as we know, they sold this building, the Benjamin Moore paint store next door and the restaurant to Trader Joe's," said White, who owns the urban clothing store with his wife, Michelle. The store has been open at the location for 10 years.

White, who said he'd never heard of Trader Joe's, said he was surprised at the news but will be looking for a new location for his business. "We take this as a promotion," White said. "We'll be OK."

The Citizen-Times was unable to reach a Trader Joe's spokesman for comment.

Rumors of Trader Joe's scouting for an Asheville location have buzzed for years. A group of Facebook called "Bring Trader Joe's to Asheville" has more than 6,000 fans, and discussion about possible locations has been heating up.

The privately held, California-based grocery store operates more than 350 stores across the U.S. It has stores in Greenville, S.C., Knoxville, Tenn., and Charlotte, Raleigh, Cary and Chapel Hill.

A commercial permit application filed with the city in March for 120 Merrimon Ave. by CAP Asheville, a Greenville, S.C.,-based company, calls for a new, one-story, 13,000-square-foot retail store on the location. City planners responded to the company's applications with comments, but the company has yet to respond.

If Trader Joe's follows through, it would build a store on a busy city street between two other big grocery stores. The popular Greenlife Grocery Store, now owned by Whole Foods, is at 70 Merrimon Ave., while Harris Teeter is building a 45,000-square-foot store just northwest of the Merrimon Avenue intersection with Chestnut Street. The company plans to open the store in 2013.

Preliminary plans for the Harris Teeter development call for developers to add a middle turn lane at traffic light at Merrimon's intersection with Broad Street.

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