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Shoppers are crammed into a new Trader Joe's store, which opened in October in west Little Rock. Lines of prospective shoppers stretched for over 100 yards before the store opened. / Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/John Sykes Jr.

Specialty grocer Trader Joe's is eyeing new store sites in Tennessee, including Chattanooga, but a unit isn't confirmed, the company says.

"Our real estate team has explored/is exploring some sites in Tennessee, including Chattanooga," said company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel. "However, at this time, they're just looking — nothing has been confirmed."

The spokeswoman said that the Monrovia, California-based company is "always looking for great locations that would be a fit for a Trader Joe's store." She said the company's goal each year is to open 20 to 30 stores.

Trade Joe's already has stores in Knoxville, Nashville, and Germantown, outside Memphis, in Tennessee. The company opened a second location in Nashville last October, at about the same time a site debuted in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Trader Joe's remains on the wish list of many Chattanoogans.

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A Trader Joe's store in Riverside, California, is shown in this file photo. Late last year, Trader Joe's had 503 stores nationwide in 42 states and Washington, D.C. / Photographer: Francis Specker/Bloomberg News

In 2017, a survey of 1,100 people by the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co. showed that a Trader Joe's market was among those retailers most desired in Chattanooga. Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters was the other.

Also, a Facebook page, "Bring Trade Joe's to Chattanooga," has received more than 6,000 likes.

"We, as a community, must show Trader Joe's that we want and will support a store here in Chattanooga! " the Facebook page said in urging Chattanaoogans to ""show the love" for California-based retailer.

Kim White, who heads River City, said earlier that the survey reinforced the group's efforts to woo more retail stores downtown.

In 2017, Buehler's Market on Market Street downtown closed after 105 years of service.

Last year, however, a developer said that Publix plans to open a new store just outside of downtown in the South Broad District. Last week, Dollar General said it planned to open a relatively new concept on the 700 block of Market Street in which it will offer sandwiches, salads, and fresh fruit and vegetables along with a coffee bar.

Whole Foods has operated a store on Chattanooga's North Shore for years, and grocer Earth Fare has two units, one in Hixson and another in East Brainerd. Fresh Market also operates in East Brainerd.

Chattanooga has seen new retailers enter the market of late. Chipotle opened a restaurant in East Brainerd, while Dave & Buster's plans to open a new eatery and entertainment complex in March at Hamilton Place mall.

Trade publication Winsight Grocery Business reported last September that Trader Joe's opened 20 new stores in 2017 and 11 stores in 2018. For 2019, it reported that seven new stores opened, with 15 others under construction and 15 more in the proposed or planned state.

Winsight reported that the number of proposed new Trader Joe's stores is fewer than competitors such as Sprouts and Whole Foods, with some 30 and 40 new stores, respectively, planned for 2019.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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