Noah Stevens says that Chattanooga will see what he terms "a food adventure" when the Trader Joe's grocery store he oversees opens to the public on Wednesday.
"We're in the customer experience business," he said on Monday during a preview of the 2111 Gunbarrel Road store. "We happen to sell food."
The new store employs about 60 people, chosen from some 800 applicants, said Stevens, who came to Chattanooga from a Trader Joe's market outside Memphis in Germantown, Tennessee.
The 19-year veteran of Trader Joe's said the Chattanooga location is "a neighborhood store." He pointed out that a number of murals, which depict various scenes of the Chattanooga area, are placed on the walls around the 11,000-square-foot store located outside one of the Hamilton Place mall entrances.
Just as Chattanooga offers people who live here a variety of activities such as boating and rock climbing, Stevens said Trader Joe's will provide shoppers with "a culinary adventure."
Customers will see that Trader Joe's does a lot of private labeling of merchandise, he said. Stevens said the store has a new item shelf which will hold goods every week.
"It's one of the little things we try to do," he said. "Chattanooga is full of foodies."
When Trader Joe's opens, it will become the third specialty grocer within a two-mile strip on Gunbarrel.
The Fresh Market at 2288 Gunbarrel Road is located at The Overlook at Hamilton Place near Best Buy. Meanwhile, Whole Foods opened a second Chattanooga store at 1814 Gunbarrel Road at Gunbarrel Pointe late last year, moving into the site of the former Earth Fare store after that grocer filed for bankruptcy.
Stevens said Trader Joe's isn't a health food store, but it offers a lot of healthy items.
"Our big thing is about quality," he said.
Stevens expects Wednesday to be a busy day. Plans are to open at 9 a.m. following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, according to the grocer.
"We can't wait to see customers," Stevens said.
Trader Joe's as a company wanted to be in Chattanooga for a long time, he said. Stevens said the company found the right location.
Bassam Issa, a Chattanooga developer who bought the property where the store will go and put up a new building on the site, said that "good things take time."
"There was demand by the community," he said.
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.
Stevens expects the store to draw not just out of Chattanooga but from Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.
"People have been waiting a long time," he said. "There's a lot of work to do in the next couple of days. It's coming together beautifully."
In terms of the coronavirus, Stevens said the store is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local guidelines.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.