From Super A to Trader Joe's?

Alhambra leadership is working to bring a Trader Joe's to a development which would replace Super A Food's at 300 Main Street. The proposed 10,000-square-foot supermarket would be located on the corner of Main and Fourth streets as part of a larger new mixed-use development. 

“That market is the most critical point of the development, and it's really important because Alhambra is underserved by markets," Vice Mayor Barbara Messina said at the Alhambra Redevelopment Agency Meeting on Monday night. "It needs to be a market like a Trader Joe's or Bristol Farms, a market that is going to serve everybody. We do not need, and I don't mean this to be offensive, but we do not need an ethnic market there. ”

Developer Pacific Plaza Investment and designer Simon Lee and Associates Architects presented to the City Council Monday night a plan that consisted of a mixed-use residential condominium and commercial complex. It would house a four-story 118 residential units and a one-story 18,000 square feet of commercial space, including the new supermarket.

“It is incredible what is designed here,” City Manager Julio Fuentes said, noting the extent of commercial space that would be made available.

About 400 people would be housed in the condo units, according to the plan.  In order to meet market requirements, the units will consist of two, three, and four bedrooms.  Future residents will have access to parking both below and above designated commercial parking. In addition, residents will have access to a recreation room, green areas with fountains, and other amenities. Energy will be powered, in part, by 300 solar panels on the roof.

Photo by Nathan SolisThe development plan still needs the approval of the Design Review Board, which will review it in late October, and the Planning Commission which will receive the proposed plan after that.  Construction on the site is tentatively scheduled to begin fall 2012.

42 thoughts on “From Super A to Trader Joe's?”

  1. there used to be a Trader Joe’s in Alhambra many many years ago. It was on Valley Blvd near Electric. That was late 70’s early to mid 80’s. It was the early days of Trader Joe’s and once they closed they never re-opened. It wasn’t too popular.

    1. I don’t remember ANY Trader Joe’s at that location. Te only one that ever existed in Alhambra (and, yes, it was one of the very early locations) was located on the west side of Atlantic Blvd., just south of Mission Drive. It actually WAS quite popular, and it had a nautical theme. There even was a meat market with a live butcher. There also was an early one on Garvey near Casuda Canyon. That was had a butcher shop, also; I shopped there a lot. The story about the reason why it was closed is that most of the residents in the hills above it were Asian, and they bought more hard liquor than wine. And, wine is one product that Trader Joe’s has always featured. These days, I think the chain has moved way beyond that. The closest one to Alhambra is on Mission in South Pasadena, a couple of blocks west of Marengo, on the south side of the street.

  2. Common sense says in this bad economy we need an alternative to Costco… Walmart or Sam’s Club would be the best choice for anything to be built here. So called upscale places will only wither away in time since the majority of the people don’t make the kind of money the city council members make.

  3. A minor point, but I have to disagree with John Gacis and South End (unverified user). SinoSoul is right. TJ’s produce goes bad way too quickly — and it’s not because they’re organic; even their non-organic stuff goes bad super fast. I should know; I’ve wasted so much money on their produce. The same stuff from Whole Foods, organic and non-organic, stays fresher longer. The same especially goes for Alhambra farmers market organic and non-organic produce; you’re getting it directly from the farmer and not from the middleman, so of course the produce is fresher and thus will last longer in your fridge. TJ’s is great, but highly perishable produce (like blueberries) ain’t their strong point.

    1. #Brett Moorover

      Sounds like you have “a dog in the fight.” 😉

      1. @ South End: More like I have bad TJ berries in the fridge. 😉

  4. If you have not tried Trader Joe’s it is awesome. Ralphs and Vons and Fresh and Easy do not have the variety of ORGANIC foods and foods without preservatives that Trader Joe’s does. Trader Joe’s is also very affordable compared to Whole Foods and even Ralphs. $2.99 for organic raspberries and blackberries! Cheaper than the farmer’s market or Ralphs for non-organic variety! About $3 for Organic strawberries! Certified too. No lying about “no sprays” like at the farmer’s market. No high fructose corn syrup! Organic OJ for $3.50! I am tired of driving to South Pasadena or Pasadena locations and would love to spend my money at an Alhambra location where my $ go to the city I live in. YES!!! Please bring a Trader Joe’s to Alhambra. We need healthier food options.

    1. Trader Joe’s has some of the worst fresh fruit/vegetable selections vs. Superior A and/or Asian grocers. Just because it’s “organic” doesn’t mean it’s well grown/fresh/well transported. I don’t even know how many times my organic blueberries have gone moldy within a day or so from TJ. Their greeneries make me hate msyelf.

      1. “I don’t even know how many times my organic blueberries have gone moldy within a day or so from TJ.”

        That’s because they’re FRESH and don’t have an outer layer of pesticide-laden wax or preservatives to keep them from spoiling sooner or picked while still “green.”

  5. A lot of great points being made here. I’m glad we have a place to discuss what’s going on in our city.

    It seems to me that at the heart of this discussion ultimately is not about Super A, the definition of ethnicity, jabs at Chinese Alhambrans, or rich versus poor. What we’re all talking about is change, change to a city that we all call by the same name but that we all see very differently.

    For some, Alhambra is a city that is and should remain a sleepy, quiet suburb of primarily houses, not apartments or condos. Big green lawns. Neighbors who speak the same language and look and live more or less like we do. A Main Street that shuts down every Sunday. Little traffic, for the city we love is not a “destination.” Quiet. Nice. A good place to live. Good schools and a good place to raise a family.

    Others see it as a city on the up and up — in tune with newer urban planning concepts like mixed use developments with shops on the bottom floor and housing above, smarter public transportation, bike lanes. Popular shops and other amenities that attract both residents and people from neighboring communities to increase both livability and the local tax base. A bustling Main Street, even on Sundays. A city that’s walkable, more “livable.” Progressive. Nice. A good place to live. Good schools and a good place to raise a family.

    Still others see Alhambra as a little city with big-time cosmopolitan flair, brimming with the cultural vibrancy of the world. The more ethnic diversity, the better. The more difference, the more happening, the more artistic, and cutting edge, the better. An exciting destination where people want to go, a city where your neighbors are different and you love the fact that that are. Lively. Nice. A good place to live. Good schools and a good place to raise a family.

    (There are other visions, I am sure.)

    I have seen, and continue to see, the beauty of all three images. Is there no room in our city for all three valid visions to co-exist? Surely, there is some room for compromise in the hearts and minds of my fellow Alhambrans as we move toward the future and plan a city not just for ourselves, but for everyone in our community.

    1. “For some, Alhambra is a city that is and should remain a sleepy, quiet suburb of primarily houses, not apartments or condos..”

      This city is WAY too far gone to ever get back to that scenario. I’ll even bet that “rentals/multi-unit” ratio exceeds single-family homes.

      1. @ South End -> “This city is WAY too far gone to ever get back to that scenario. I’ll even bet that ‘rentals/multi-unit’ ratio exceeds single-family homes.”

        I’ll have to agree with you on this one…

  6. @John Gacis
    Oh I see.In other words…Gentrification-the changes that result when wealthier people (middle-class Chinese) acquire property in deteriorating areas.This results in the poorer native long time residents (senior citizens/white/latino) of the neighborhood, being unable to pay increased rents, house prices, and property taxes, being displaced. Often old buildings are converted to residences and shops. In addition, new businesses, catering to a more affluent base of consumers, move in, further increasing the appeal to more affluent migrants [market demand] and decreasing the accessibility to the poor.

    1. @ Eleanor Rigby

      You seem very offended and you do make a certain points. However, are you saying Alhambra is displacing poor Latinos and senior citizens due to increase rents and house prices? Have you even looked around the community that surrounds you? (Sorry, but my tone is simply commensurating yours).

      Alhambra is building up its supply of residential units, which helps LOWER the cost of housing in this city. If you limit residential construction, prices will go up the roof. Try buying a house in So. Pasadena or San Marino that have more restrictive building ordinances. Some prices there make homes here in Alhambra dirt cheap. Have you even bothered to read the latest HOUSING ELEMENT report from the city of Alhambra. They address some of the same concerns you have. Senior housing projects like the latest Atherton development, Howard Townhomes (specifically for low-income), or the projected PEO Redstone development are planned ahead to address the needs of senior citizens. As far as Latinos/whites go, they share the same problems and successes as any other group. People should be judged by their efforts and merits, not by the percentage of their populace within the community.

      You talk about rents, housing prices, and property taxes increasing. Are you serious? I own a condo here in Alhambra and my home value has gone down. Thank goodness my property taxes have went down too; if not, I’d be complaining to the L.A. County tax assessor by now for a reassessment. We are in a bad economy right now; don’t you think what is going on in Alhambra is also going on for the rest of this country? I think what does need to be done is for Alhambra to INCREASE the opportunities and quality of life for its senior citizens and the poor. The city can only do so much, the rest must be handled through each of us through the support of our community (family, neighborhood, churches, etc.) and not only through city councilmembers.

      Eleanor, for your info., I’m not some wealthy middle-class Chinese just talking the talk. Far from it. As a matter of fact, as a Federal Civil Service employee, I almost went through a furlough a couple of months ago when the Feds had a hard time balancing the budget. It really hurts to see the possibility of your only source of income placed on hold. You’re not the only one with worries. But you are the ONLY ONE who can best find comfort/solutions to your own concerns.

    2. (I submitted a response, but since it got lost somewhere, I’ll submit a reader’s digest version.)

      It seems to me people have a misconception of gentrification, and I’m not sure if Alhambra is going through such a phase. Reason being, while racial and ethnic demographics have shifted, as did age, from 2000 to 2010, I’m not certain income has shifted to fit people’s perception of what’s happening in Alhambra. That’s to say, the people who are moving into the city aren’t necessarily more wealthy than the residents already living in the city. Yes, some are, but some are not.

      Perhaps the real issue is that people are not happy with Super A potentially closing, and this talk about gentrification and serving the needs of the community is a product of the unhappiness. I think dissatisfaction with a business closing is perfectly valid, as is a lively talk on what should replace it, but drawing a line between “wealthy” vs “poor” is a bit much.

  7. Since when was “ethnic” a bad word?

    Although I don’t always agree with Messina’s views, I know exactly what she was refering to. One only needs to look at the context of how our city’s supermarkets have changed over the years.

    Some examples are:

    1. Vons, which once sat near New Ave. and Valley Blvd., is now 168 Supermarket.

    2. Max Foods, next to Thrifty’s on Valley Blvd., is now Cali-Mart.

    This new multi-use development is another project that follows the West Main Street Corridor guidelines adopted by the city years ago. Because this area of Main St. is seeing a growth of residential units, a supermarket that can cater to a broad range of consumers will be crucial. I don’t think Trader Joes’s will please everybody, but as Julio Fuentes mentioned at the city council meeting, he is still working with the developers on a potential tenant. I don’t even think a Trader Joe’s is definite yet, its still too early. And even more important, unlike Super A Foods that dominates only one building and is the exclusive anchor tenant, this commercial space (inside a multi-use building) would be much more accomodating to changing tenants if necessary (based on market demands). So even if there was a Trader Joe’s here, it doesn’t mean they will be here forever.

    In addition, the development site will house other smaller retail tenants, not just one anchor tenant (see council meeting video at the city website). If a market (like Trader Joe’s) can’t please everybody, there will be opportunity for other stores in this building to fill in the gaps. Lunasia and the other asian stores at the Alhambra Regency satisfies their area; this new development can provide their own. The more goods and services offered, we enliven our neighborhood with different choices to improve our quality of life here in Alhambra.

    Diversity is the key here, and that’s what I feel Messina was alluding to…

    1. @John Gacis
      By Diversity do you mean Asian only? Where are there other Latino food markets on this street?

      1. @ Eleanor Rigby

        Definitely not. I think there are enough Asian supermarkets already (hence my list), but that would depend on the local community. And you’re right, I don’t see any other Latino markets in this street area. I don’t advocate for any particular supermarket at this site, but if a Latino Supermarket is warranted by market demand, then by all means let there be one.

        The closure of Super A Foods doesn’t necessarily mean the end to having access to Latino foods. We might have to be patient for the time being, but the future still holds many opportunities we don’t even know about yet.

    2. Guillermo Martinez

      “The more goods and services offered, we enliven our neighborhood with different choices to improve our quality of life here in Alhambra.”

      John, if you consider increased traffic and pollution on Main ST. The addition of more Asian restaurants, and increased population straining the already overcrowded city. Then in Messina’s and your opinion I suppose it will enliven the community, and improve the quality of life here. Personally I take an opposite opinion of your views.

      1. @ Guillermo Martinez

        Thanks for your opinion and honesty. Its good to have a healthy dialogue on these issues.

        You’re right, I will bet on it too that it will start getting crowded when all these projects on Main St. are finished. There is no doubt the more people living here, the more traffic we will have. But this includes people (foot traffic) and not just only cars.

        Keep in mind that we are still living in a city that mostly comprises of a suburban environment. Our population density has been increasing over the years, but our infrastructure has not really adapted to this. Not to mention segregated zoning areas (residential, commercial, industrial) that has forced us to depend on cars. So who do you blame on this? City Council? With the West Main St. Corridor now transitioning into urban growth and renewal, I see it normal that most people are going to criticize all these developments that are changing our generational landscape. When these buildings are finished, I won’t be surprised if people start cruising more often along Main St. to check out the opportunities available there. But like what I said, we are in transition. Our city is never stagnant, and people are not stupid. Subterranean parking spaces will be used, carpools implemented, some will take buses, and walking/biking will slowly mold into place where people see fit. New residents living here will also adapt to an urban lifestyle but we seem to pity them under a suburban microscope. We need to stop thinking backwards in time. As more infrastructure grows elsewhere, let the people decide if its better to utilize other destinations or travel through Main St. No city government policy or law can force people what to do; its main job should be to set an ADAPTABLE environment that promotes safety and balances growth and restraint.

        By the way, have you forgotten our city’s history? Isn’t it amazing that there were once trolley lines that actually ran through Main St.? Buildings much taller than the ones we have today once sat on Main St./Garfield Ave. (Alhambra Hotel and Jones Building). We also had very affluent businessmen/families that resided in this city and helped this community grow. We are continuing this growth today but the main focus now seems to be not neglecting the poor and old. We shouldn’t and that’s why we have laws protecting them. At the same time, we shouldn’t let our paternal instincts FORCE government policies to overcome poverty and care for the old. People, not policy, are the main agents for that. Policies are only tools that are as good as the people utilizing them. Whatever happened to family, neighborhoods, churches, and volunteerism? These community elements seem to have lost their importance as ingredients for success. Wealth gets the bad wrap of being a hollow word without substance because the more we have of it here in Alhambra, we automatically assume we’ve stolen it from the old and poor. Hence, its no wonder why any sense of affluency or gentrification in this city is frowned upon in scorn. This is not the sense of civic mentality I believe in.

        Its ok if you worry about cars and traffic. Those are transitional city elements that will continue to change as new infrastructure (new stores, mass transit, etc.) grows elsewhere. I think the bigger picture is how we let our growth empower all of us (rich, middle, or poor of any ethnicity) to live better lives in this developing exciting city.

  8. I’m going to miss Super A. Now I’m going to have to drive to E. L.A. just to get my fresh masa. Super A’s selection of certain super fresh vegetables, fresh lard (not the boxed stuff), El Guapo spices, really fresh batches of dried beans (there is a difference!), prepared foods, and specific cuts of meat will not be found easily elsewhere nearby. 🙁 I liked their Latino grocery options, and no, I’m not Latino — but who doesn’t love this kind of food??!! Messina is wrong about ethnic markets; I don’t care if a market is considered “ethnic” or not; if it meets customers’ grocery needs and runs a tight business, it has a place here (locally owned would be even better). And as far as I’m concerned, thank GOD for “ethnic” markets; they’re the only ones that offer full-service meat/seafood counters these days! (I believe Albertson’s offers a pseudo meat counter; it’s not a real full service one. Whole Foods offers one as well, but that’s way up in Pasadena, and their seafood/meat selection is not as big.) On the other hand, it would be nice not having to drive all the way to S. Pas to get to Trader Joe’s. Bristol Farms? Meh. It would be great to see the return of TJ’s to Alhambra. But I’ll believe it when I see it. Right now all this talk about TJ’s and (ahem) Bristol Farms is just that — talk.

  9. I have mixed feelings about more housing on Main Street, but a Trader Joe’s would be wonderful. Their prices are reasonable and they carry healthier food than Super A’s or other supermarkets. Bristol Farms, no, too upscale.

  10. Gentrification with a capital G. I hope Alhambra isnt selling out.

    For the record, since when is Super A an “ethnic market”? And since when is an “ethnic market” bad for a community? What are we teaching our children with this outlook?

    Super A provides everyday groceries that many Alhambra residents need. Trader Joe’s specializes in overpriced items for people that dont mind spending their extra income on things like gluten-free ginger snaps. really, is this the option that Alhambra thinks is gonna better serve everyone in our community?

    1. @E

      I can take your statement and put Trader Joes in place of Super A and make a valid statement. The only difference is, the statements are based on personal opinion and not based on fact, which you attempt to present as such.

      BTW, I have friends who are born with an unfortunate disease called Celiac disease. Being gluten-free means the difference between functioning normally and spending inordinate amount of time in the bathroom, to name one inconvenience. It’s nice that they can have gluten-free ginger snaps.

      1. Robert – fair points.
        I just dont see Trader Joes as an “all-purpose” market that would better fit the needs of everyone in the community.

        and i totally understand the whole gluten-free thing. trader joes can be a wonderful outlet for those that need these types of options, but im guessing that the majority of the public wouldnt be interested in shelling out extra bucks for something that they dont necessarily need. but like you said, just an opinion. maybe im wrong.

  11. I’m still hoping that Missina and the other council members be challenged in soon in an election. We need new faces with new and different ideas of how best to run Alhambra. I’m still steaming about the wasted $300,000.00 on that stupid arch at Freemont and Valley. I really think Missina has some abstract ideas about what the people in Alhambra want. The last thing we need in this city of narrow streets is more traffic and more residents.

    As far as Traders Joes, I do like their stores and was sorry when they pulled out of their Alhambra location at Atlantic and Front St. many years ago. They just didn’t attract enough customers back then to continue operating. I think now they will do well in the city in a much better location.

  12. Whats wrong with Super A ???? it works for me 30+ yrs fyi im mixed heritage. no trader joes or Bristol to expensive..

    1. @EZH
      Perhaps if you’d have pursued an education, you’d have desired the better things in life besides the cheapest and most inferior. There are some of us in this city who don’t want to be embarrassed by “slummy” markets.

      1. @South End – Please note our terms of use: “Alhambra Source expects all of its users to be respectful of others.”

      2. Daniela, thank you for that reminder to “South End”.

  13. I’m willing to post my personal identity to say that I find Mrs. Messina’s vision refreshing in a city that has, for too long, catered to “the bottom line.”

    The fundamental difference between a Trader Joes/Bristol Farms and the above mentioned slew of processed garbage markets is food QUALITY. I’m willing to pay a little more in time, distance and cost by driving to South Pasadena’s better food markets rather than visit one of the local cheap price/cheap food outlets. The lone exception is Alhambra’s local farmer’s market on Sundays.

    And, there are many in this city who feel the same and wholeheartedly welcome a better choice. I will gladly support local merchants—even when paying a higher cost be it for car repairs, home improvement, etc., IF I know the quality and service experience is good. This isn’t about class, income level or demographics — it’s simply a matter of preference.

    I arrive at this conclusion only after having had an “experience” at this particular Super A several months back. I’d brought along my 3-year old — as I always do when food shopping — but by the time I got back into my car, I’d witnessed:

    1). Items and foodstuff strewn about dirty floors,
    2). A parent repeatedly slapping their toddler for wanting the brightly-colored junk the market intentionally places at kid’s-eye level (I would have intervened, but her goon husband/boyfriend who looked like a recent parolee may not have taken my advice too well),
    3). Gangster/violent movie videos for sale, and
    4). Nearly getting run over in the parking lot.

    And one last thing to all of you decrying the councilmember’s “ethnic” remarks…

    I might be wrong, but the surname Messina is of Italian origin…as in ethnic.

  14. Sorry to hear that Barbara Messina feels “we do not need an ethnic market here (Alhambra)”. Why not stop there & simply pass laws preventing “ethnics” from living & shopping in Alhambra, after all if Messina gets her wish, Alhambra could become an all-White community & exclude any ethnic groups. I thought we were pass all that garbage expecially in Alhambra with so many ethnic groups; sorry that Messina who proclaims her “religion” & “community pride” has gotten so low just to get rid of an excellent markets that caters to MANY ETHNIC GROUPS & TO MANY SENIOR CITIZENS due to its fine products & reasonable prices. I supposse Messina is intending to also push Senior Citizens out of Alhambra who most likely will not be able to afford “higher-end” markets.

    1. From the south end

      You’re kidding, right?! What Messina was saying is that Alhambra needs a market that appeals to EVERYONE – not just any one particular segment, group or demographic—ethnic or otherwise. I’m in total agreement with her.

    2. You’re hilarious. Unless you have a time machine and want to go back to Alhambra circa 1903, you’re never going to get an “all-white community”

    3. @Richard

      I liked this comment the best! The losers here will be senior citizens who live within walking distance of Super A. I live in the area and shop here for “ethnic” food (I’m totally offended by Messina’s comment), but I also shop at Fresh & Easy, Ralph’s in Alhambra & So.Pas and Trader Joes’s. Some people do not have those options because of a fixed-income.
      What Alhambra city council members are seeing is $$$. Bigger business wins, the little guy almost always loses.

  15. Though it would be a nice addition to the many supermarkets we have in Alhambra, we definitely don’t NEED a Trader Joe’s or Bristol Farms here. The markets that we have now serve the community great.

    We have a Trader Joe’s and Bristol Farms not too far away. I don’t shop them much but I can say it’s not due to distance. They don’t have the products I need at home. Plain and simple.

    If you want to add these Supermarkets to include “upscale” supermarkets to go with the upscale condo environment, just say so. It won’t hurt Alhambra, instead it’ll probably help with revenue and jobs. But to imply that an ethnic market does not serve everybody in Alhambra is wrong.

  16. Trader Joe is fine, but please no more residential condos on Main Street!!!

  17. Whether Councilwoman Messina’s comment was intended to be offensive or not, it reveals how out of touch with the Alhambra community she is. While it is true that Super A attracts the latino clientele, from my personal experience, I can attest that Super A serves a panoply of ethnicities that Alhambra is composed of. All it will take for Messina to recognize this is for her to march right into Super A herself. Not only does Super A serve the entire Alhambra community, but it also provides great low prices to low-income families that might not be able to afford shopping at a higher end market.

    My question to Messina is this: How does a Trader Joe’s or Bristol Farms better serve the Alhambra community when we already have Albertsons, Fresh & Easy, TWO Ralphs, Costco, and an up and coming Super Target?

    1. I like Super A Food Store. I shop there a lot, but at the store on Rosemead in the Kmart shopping center. It’s a good store and has a great bakery and hot foods. If Alhambra would just provide some of the redevelopment funds to Super A the could do a facelift and remodel the interior to reflect newer stores that are in the town. Pardon my language, but Messina is “full of it”, this city is full to the brim with ethnic markets, and might I add restaurants. If she wanted a Trader Joes the perfectly fine old library would of made a great Trader Joes with a facelift and interior work. But now the library is gone and we soon will have another monstrous mixed use facility.

    2. The same can be asked for the number of Asian grocery markets along Valley Blvd, between Atlantic Blvd and New Ave. Just on that corner alone (Valley and New), there are 3 markets. How does having this kind of concentration better serve the Alhambra community?

      I get the impression that Messina had this kind of example in mind when she made that statement. And if you drive around the city, and even extend the range to neighboring San Gabriel, we have a lot of “ethnic” markets–these far outnumber more “traditional” markets. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we don’t need any more of them, but I do voice my support in saying maybe we can use a Trader Joe’s in the city.

      BTW, there’s only one Ralphs in the city. The other you might be thinking of is actually in South Pasadena.

  18. trader joe’s and bristol farms serves ‘everyone’ in our community?

    1. Exactly what I was thinking. How does overpriced packaged salads/fruits & fancy snacks/cheese serve the community? Has she ever set foot inside Bristol Farm? Did the council woman just mistaken her constituents with S. Pasadenians?

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