Monthly Archives: June 2012

Paper Petition Campaign has Begun!

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While we are slowly gaining signatures on the online petition, we’ve heard from various sources that many people who are not often online have either a) not heard of our petition to bring Trader Joe’s to Central Illinois, or b) cannot get online to sign the petition.

To solve this problem, we have begun a paper petition campaign! We have created a signature petition form that you can print from home and use to collect signatures.

We are asking that everyone take some time to fill at least one page with signatures. The more the better! Start collecting everywhere you can – around your neighborhood, at work, school, at your garage sale, at the kid’s sporting events or summer camp pick up line – just tell people why you love TJ’s and want a store to open here and ask that they sign the petition and join in!

Some public places, like the Farmer’s Market in Urbana, require permission before you may gather signatures there. And keep in mind that not everyone will be interested in signing the petition and some may actually be against it. Try and keep it friendly and fun, and remember that we want to represent Trader Joe’s in a positive way! You don’t have to engage in any conversations with people who don’t want to sign. You can simply say “thank you” and move on to the next person. Most people you meet will be very supportive and excited to be a part of this movement.

We need everyone to work together get the number of signers on our petition higher – we must impress Trader Joe’s with our numbers, showing them our determination to bring a store to Central Illinois. Please print the form below and start collecting more signatures!

TJ’s Paper Petition

When you have completed gathering signatures, email TJs4CU@yahoo.com for our mailing address.

Are Grassroots Efforts Pointless?

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Online petitions are everywhere these days. They are a dime a dozen, as the saying goes. Campaign and lobbying experts will tell you online petitions are ineffective because signatures cannot be verified, thus holding little sway. Other sources say that Trader Joe’s cannot be wooed and so our grassroots campaign will not work. But we beg to differ… on both counts.

For two years the residents of the small town of Olympia, Washington, wrote letters to Trader Joe’s asking them to build a store. Trader Joe’s wrote back and said they had no intention of opening a store in the city of 46,100 people (2009 Census). But the people of Olympia were not deterred and started a petition, which gathered just 329 signatures, and continued writing letters to the company. Trader Joe’s opened a store in Olympia in 2009.

The city of Winston-Salem, NC, started contacting Trader Joe’s 10 years ago. They got a petition going four years ago, which gathered 500 signatures.  The people of Winston-Salem continued their campaign with a Facebook page and later wrote a catchy song complete with a music video to entice the company.  The Winston-Salem store will open in August.

In 2008, the residents of Palm Springs, California, gathered a staggering 6,000 signatures in just two months. This small town of 48,181 people (2009 Census) were rewarded for their Trader Joe’s passion when the company opened a store right on the Palm Springs border in Cathedral City a couple of years later.

Several years earlier, in 2000, the people of Long Beach, California, successfully petitioned Trader Joe’s with 5,000 signatures to build a store in their city, even though another Trader Joe’s was located a mere 4.5 miles away.

Economic developers in Virgina Beach, VA, wrote Trader Joe’s to ask the company to consider their town. But it wasn’t until 2007 when a handful of Virginia Beach residents collected over 1,200 signatures on a petition that plans were finalized. The Virginia Beach store opened in 2009.

The residents of Albany, New York, started a grassroots campaign and gathered 2,306 signatures on their petition to bring Trader Joe’s to the capitol city. Not only did they have to convince the company, but they had to run a second petition to get a zoning variance necessary for Trader Joe’s to build its new store. The store in Colonie, NY – just minutes from downtown Albany – will open in August.

So it would appear that grassroots campaigns have succeeded in the past (whether Trader Joe’s admits it or not!).  Let’s make C-U the next success story!

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The petition is at 1,645 signatures and we’re hoping to reach 1,650 by this evening! Thank you for continuing to spread the word about the Trader Joe’s 4 C-U movement. Please keep telling everyone you know in the area – Champaign-Urbana, Monticello, Peoria, Tuscola, Bloomington-Normal, etc.

We have created a survey to gather data and add supporting information as we work to bring Trader Joe’s to Central Illinois. The survey is very short and will only take a few minutes to complete. We’d really appreciate your response and will post the results on the blog.

Petition Update and Survey

A Response to SmilePolitely.com

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SmilePolitely.com published an opinion article, “Upsetting the grocery cart“, highlighting the Trader Joe’s 4 C-U petition. There are inaccuracies speckled throughout both the article and the comments. I’m not going to deal with all of them right now, but I’d like to address a few of the errors about the reasoning and motives behind our movement.

Error 1) It is implied that this movement will not work to attract Trader Joe’s

There are several (more than that, really) communities that have previously done exactly what we are doing. And guess what? Those communities now have or are getting Trader Joe’s stores. This is not a pipe dream. This kind of effort does work and has a proven track record. A writeup is coming later this summer that will go into more detail about other towns that have successfully drawn Trader Joe’s.

Error 2) Champaign-Urbana already has plenty of stores that offer what Trader Joe’s offers

The issue for those of us who want Trader Joe’s in C-U is not that there are no stores that sell healthy, natural, gluten-free, organic, etc. items in Central Illinois, it is that no stores offer truly affordable options.  It is not practical to suggest that families and individuals go to 6-8 stores a week to find the items they need. You could potentially go to several different stores/markets in town and you may find similar products to what Trader Joe’s carries, but you will be spending more money on those individual items, more on gas, and more in time than if you go to a Trader Joe’s and buy all of those things in one place, at very low everyday prices.

Error 3) “We-Know-What’s-Good-For-You” Approach

This is not so much an error than a prevailing pretentious, condescending attitude coming from many – possibly most – people who are against Trader Joe’s. This is found mainly in the comments section, from Smile Politely writers and readers alike. I’m sorry to disappoint (and severely weaken your arguments), but the people who want a Trader Joe’s store in Central Illinois are not low-income simpletons who cannot figure out how to provide wholesome foods for our families with the current grocery spectrum in our community. Nor are we privileged college students who only care about “dropping our parent’s money” on easily accessible cheap wine, as another commenter states. We are Central Illinois community members, just like you. We are families and individuals who want a place to shop for healthy, wholesome foods that meet our budgetary needs. The snobbery being displayed is offensive and borderline discriminatory.

Error 4) Local is better – ideally

In a perfect world, everyone would be able to shop solely at locally run stores. But let’s face reality; locally run businesses have higher overhead and costs to absorb than larger chain stores. These costs are passed on to the consumer and make places like Common Ground and Strawberry Fields much more expensive. I am a Common Ground co-op member and shop there for some things. Supporting local business is important, but that doesn’t mean that the needs of a large segment of the community are to be ignored if the locally run stores are unable to meet those needs.

So here’s the bottom line: Does the thriving of local businesses take precedence over the thriving of individuals and families in the community? Absolutely not. If the local businesses are not providing what a large mass of the population needs, we should not be made to feel guilty for going out to pursue what is missing in our local stores. The overall good and health of our families is too important.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: locally run stores and Trader Joe’s are NOT mutually exclusive. Everyone deserves the right to affordable, healthy foods. Those who tout the high-and-mighty attitude that you can only support local stores and if you don’t you’re less of a person or member of the community are just plain wrong.

If the narrow-minded SmilePolitely.com comments mirror the attitude of the majority of people who shop exclusively at locally run stores, count me out. Give me a Trader Joe’s where I can shop alongside other average joes who value wholesome, creative, natural, affordable living without being smug.

While they send their “polite smiles” our way, let’s redouble our efforts to bring Trader Joe’s to Central Illinois.

Trader Joe’s 4 C-U Goals

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We firmly believe that we can make Trader Joe’s see that our community wants a store, can support a store, and that Central Illinois is full of Fearless Fans willing to do what it takes to get TJ’s attention.

As everyone knows, our primary goal is to:

  • Convince Trader Joe’s to open a store in Central Illinois.

We plan to accomplish this by:

  • Getting thousands of signatures on our petition. The purpose of this is to show Trader Joe’s and the city leadership that they can’t afford to ignore our city as a location for Trader Joe’s. While there have been other smaller efforts in the past, this is the largest, best organized effort to date.
  • Using every manner of social media on the internet to further our cause and glean the most signatures possible! We are currently on Twitter and Facebook, and want the word to spread about what we’re doing. This will exponentially multiply the number of people involved in the campaign to bring TJ’s to our area.
  • Making our efforts mainstream. We want to get this movement on the campuses of the University of Illinois, Parkland, Eastern Illinois University, and any other platforms. We feel that Trader Joe’s will positively impact large segments of our community (students as well as full-time residents) and want to see this movement brought to every possible location.
  • Get developers involved with making bids. There are local developers who have pursued Trader Joe’s in the past, and we would like to solicit their help in showcasing attractive locations for our Trader Joe’s store.

Ultimately, we will:

  • Take our petition and research (yes, we’re doing research!) to the leaders of our community. We feel that Champaign-Urbana is missing out on a huge source of potential revenue by ignoring our area as a location for Trader Joe’s (many people drive out to Indy or Chicago to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of food from Trader Joe’s – this is money that could be spent in our local community, which would bring tax dollars to our city). If we can show the city leadership how viable and important a source of revenue Trader Joe’s would be and get them on board with our efforts, they could in turn work with us to get a Trader Joe’s here.
  • Present a package of our work to the Trader Joe’s corporation. This will include the petition (proving the market), the developer bids (proving the good locations), and the support of local government (proving just how serious we are). This will be submitted like a business proposal, complete with links to all the social media and reference to all the places we have posted/printed this campaign.

We need people to help with these goals. Please see the “Be Involved!” section for ways that you can contribute to bringing Trader Joe’s to Central Illinois.