Bloomberg News File Photo / Specialty grocery company Trader Joe's is considering putting additional stores in Tennessee like this one pictured in Riverside, California.

Trader Joe's is hiring in Chattanooga as the grocer moves closer to opening its first store in the area.

The company is advertising for what it terms "mates," or assistant store managers. Mates will lead and develop crew members through role-modeling, direction and support, according to an online job post.

The listing puts the pay range for mates at $20 to $25 an hour.

Last November, the specialty grocer confirmed it was working toward a store in Chattanooga. Construction later began at 2111 Gunbarrel Road, a location that formerly held the AAA Chattanooga insurance agency just outside of Hamilton Place mall.

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Staff photo by Mike Pare / The former site of the AAA Chattanooga insurance agency on Gunbarrel Road is slated to undergo demolition. The property has been identified as a Trader Joe's location.

Trader Joe's Public Relations Manager Kenya Friend-Daniel said in an email this year that "we are excited to be bringing a store to Chattanooga."

The company isn't immediately saying when the store will open. But a building permit said construction work was expected to be complete in late July.

The permit for the site showed construction of a $1.95 million project.

An expert in the grocery store sector said the opening of Trader Joe's will be a regional draw and attract shoppers from as far away as Alabama and North Carolina.

"Because this is the first Trader Joe's in southern Tennessee, I would expect the opening to attract people from all over the area, including from north Georgia, north Alabama and even southern North Carolina," said Gina Acosta, executive editor of Progressive Grocer and Retail Leader.

"Trader Joe's doesn't open a lot of stores, or very often, so when they do open a store, it attracts hundreds if not thousands of shoppers, depending on the location," she said.

Acosta said Trader Joe's has built a cult following on the strength of its quality, globally-inspired private brand products, friendly customer service and smaller, easy-to-navigate stores.

Trader Joe's already has stores in Knoxville, Nashville, and Germantown, outside Memphis, in Tennessee.

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 goods, many 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.

Contact Mike Pare at Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.