HOLLAND, Michigan — A Holland woman thought she might not be alone in wanting a Trader Joe's along the lakeshore, and she was right. Now, a Facebook page she created has nearly 4,000 supporters and is showing how an online community is coming together to get a store location closer to their home town.
Brenda VanderWege has always been a dreamer. Her latest mission: Get a Trader Joe's store in Holland.
"It grew much faster and quicker than realistically what I thought it might," said VanderWege.
In September of 2020, she created a Facebook page called "Bring Trader Joe's to Holland." She said she was inspired by the success of the Kentwood location that opened in 2015.
The page now has almost 4,000 likes and is growing every day.
"It blew up," she said, "and really the goal was to see what the actual interest was other than myself. And it's clearly there."
VanderWege said she's been driving nearly an hour to the Kentwood location for years because she loves what Trader Joe's has to offer.
"Trader Joe's products are unique, fun and they're adventurous," she said, "but they're also really reasonably priced."
VanderWege said she also has Celiac disease, so she can't eat gluten.
"I can get more products at Trader Joe's than almost anywhere else," she said, "and almost always at much better prices."
With the help of a friend, VanderWege's vision for the Facebook page has gone beyond what she could have imagined.
They interact with group members by asking them to submit location requests to Trader Joe's and then give out prizes through what they call "mini missions."
"We try to do fun things to really encourage interactivity," said VanderWege. "We all want to see a Trader Joe's here in Holland, and that's why we're on this page."
So other than the interest, what else is involved in the process of getting a store on the lakeshore?
In a statement sent to 13 ON YOUR SIDE, Trader Joe's said:
"Unfortunately, we don't grant any interviews or comment on business practices (outside of what you see on our website, Instagram, podcast, etc.). I can share, however, that in general, we plan to keep growing and opening in new neighborhoods. Thank you for understanding."
"We feel like a lot of the things they say they're looking for are here in this area," said VanderWege, "and we feel like we have the support for them."
The Facebook group members also work hard to scope out possible locations.
"We are really at the point where we're trying to pursue someone in commercial real estate who could keep their eyes open for possible locations as they come available," said VanderWege.
And that's something that Holland's City Manager Keith Van Beek echoed as well, saying:
"We of course would welcome the consideration of any successful business to consider locating in our City. We don't 'recruit' private business to our community, especially as it is presumed that they would need to secure a private piece of property to renovate or build upon. We do, however, welcome and have an open door to anyone who is interested in the planning/zoning requirements for their idea. This can and does sometimes include talking to a business that might want to locate in our market, but might know exactly where some possible sites might exist. We are happy to help connect an 'idea' with possible sites we might be aware of."
And for VanderWege, she said she's just grateful for the support and camaraderie of this Trader Joe's community no matter the outcome.
"It's time that I think is well spent, I enjoy the interaction with the group, and it's just fun," she said. "And if it ends up resulting in a Trader Joe's, then think how amazing that will be, and it would all be so worth it."
"If and when this happens, it will be because of the interaction and the commitment of the Facebook page," VanderWege added, "and the help and support from everybody who has liked the page. This not my page, my project, my idea. It's our page, our project."
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