This story was updated on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020 at 4:33 p.m. with additional information.
Specialty grocer Trader Joe's confirmed on Friday it's in the initial stages of trying to put its first store in Chattanooga.
"We are very interested in bringing a store to the area," said Trader Joe's Public Relations Manager Kenya Friend-Daniel.
Building plans filed with the city of Chattanooga show the store could go at 2111 Gunbarrel Road, a location which formerly held the AAA Chattanooga insurance agency.
Detailed plans by Neuhoff Taylor Architects of proposed retail space for the site reference Trader Joe's.
A demolition permit has been issued for the address, and a building permit for the site shows construction of retail space in a $1.95 million project. The permit cites construction of a "mercantile structure."
Chattanooga developer Bassam Issa said Friday he was not prepared to make an announcement about a tenant for the property.
The building permit said that work on the shell of the new structure is slated to be finished in late March 2021.
Friend-Daniel said that "since we are so early in the process, there is no additional information to share at this time."
Early this year, she said the company was considering locating new store sites in Tennessee, including Chattanooga.
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.
Trader Joe's already has stores in Knoxville, Nashville, and Germantown, outside Memphis, in Tennessee. The company opened a second location in Nashville last year, at about the same time a site debuted in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Nationwide, the retailer operates more than 500 stores, which it bills as "your neighborhood grocery store." Compared to a typical grocery store that stocks about 50,000 items, Trader Joe's carries about 4,000 items, most of which bear one of its own brand names. Trader Joe's features gourmet foods, organic foods, vegetarian foods, unusual frozen foods, imported foods, domestic and imported wine and beer, where local law permits.
Trader Joe's has remained on the wish list of many Chattanoogans.
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 6,700 likes as of Friday.
"We, as a community, must show Trader Joe's that we want and will support a store here in Chattanooga! " the Facebook page said.
Trade publication Winsight Grocery Business reported last month that Trader Joe's was actively opening new stores despite the pandemic, citing a Wayne, New Jersey location. Winsight said the Trader Joe's website lists new stores "coming soon" to Coral Springs, Florida, Queen Creek, Arizona, Richmond, Virginia, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.