Would Trader Joe's hurt Vt stores? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Would Trader Joe's hurt Vt stores?

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Marti Webster has been shopping at Healthy Living for the past 30 years.

"The variety of things they have to offer; I come here for meals and local products," Webster said.

The South Burlington market and café offers a variety of organic and local products. Now the store might get a new neighbor and some competition-- national specialty food chain Trader Joe's. Right now there's no Trader Joe's in Vermont. The closest is in Hadley, Mass.

"I really enjoy shopping there," Webster said, "but it would not be a good idea to have it next door to Healthy Living."

Webster thinks it's too similar. But Healthy Living disagrees.

"We really have a different product mix," owner Katy Lesser said. "We're small and independently owned, we're flexible and nimble and able to get in products people ask for."

The proposed 20,000 square foot Trader Joe's building would be just north of Healthy Living, where Healthy Living currently holds its farmers market. The plan is under consideration by South Burlington's development review board.  Right now it doesn't comply with all city ordinances. The chain is working on that.

"I can't really be worried, I need to focus here now today and do what I do," Lesser said.

"Vermont and Burlington is a desirable spot; people want to have it listed where they have stores," said Pat Burns of City Market.

At City Market in Burlington, the co-op has similar feelings about the possibility of a Trader Joe's. It says there's room for competition. Sales are up at City Market and expected to hit $32 million this year.

"It gives people more options," Burns said. "We have to look at it as another opportunity to sharpen our game."

Trader Joe's is known for featuring its own branded products, like inexpensive wine and crackers. And with nicknames like Wealthy Living and City Markup, some say good old-fashioned competition could be good for consumers. Besides store brand specific products, the number one difference between Trader Joe's and City Market is the produce department.

"They have some options, but compared to the variety we have it's not even a fifth of the size," Burns said.

"I'm just committed to learning from it and ever onward," Lesser said.

A possible chain store in the mix of local markets.

"Would I shop there? I don't know," Webster said.

City Market is still planning to open a second location on Pine Street. It's in the process of finding a realtor and space. Healthy Living will also open a second location this summer in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

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