Trader Joe's in St. Louis County: One Woman's Quest
Carol Boss and her fellow Trader Joe's believers have gathered more than 1100 signatures, shot a video, scheduled an event - all to bring the grocery store to South St. Louis County.
It all started as a fun idea, one that residents of South St. Louis County have toyed with for years: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Trader Joe’s grocery store here?
Media have done a few articles about it. A local activism group submitted a letter. But not until Carol Boss launched her campaign did the efforts to bring Trader Joe’s to South County stop seeming like a long shot and start becoming a movement.
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Boss has clocked dozens of hours and invested her own money to bring a Facebook page, business cards, a map, an event, classified ads, an upcoming video, an online petition and dozens of paper petitions with hundreds of signatures from supporters into the mix, all with the goal of convincing the grocer to open its fifth St. Louis store in our backyard.
“I just want to get (Trader Joe’s) here to look, because if they see what I see, it’ll work,” said Boss, a freelance graphic designer who lives in South County. “I want to see the community thriving.”
For Boss, the uphill battle to bring the popular national grocery chain to South County started when she heard the Sappington Farmer’s Market was closing.
“I fell in love with the people who worked at the market,” said Boss, who lives near the former market. “I had a family bond with them. I don’t want the whole thing to close down. That’s my neighborhood.”
When Johnny’s Market announced it was closing shortly after, the economic climate in the Affton area, especially for grocery stores, seemed grim.
So Boss started thinking about stores that would do well here. She was searching online for ideas when it hit her—Trader Joe’s.
“I think they value and support the community,” Boss said about Trader Joe’s. “They try to be like a local neighborhood grocery. They pay their employees really well. They have great benefit plans. It provides a source of healthy food and a more affordable price.”
Boss has such momentum in her voice, clarity in her explanations and passion behind her pitch for the grocery store that her fight to open a Trader Joe’s here feels like a calling or a mission.
“I had a vision, man,” Boss said. “I looked at the map and I thought what should go in there. I call it a vision; you can call it that if you want. I don’t know. I just have a feeling.”
Boss’ first step was to call the Village of Marlborough and the owners of the property where the Sappington Farmers’ Market was located. Once she had their blessing, she called Trader Joe’s, who said petitions were the best way to get the grocery chain to consider South County.
So Boss set a goal of 2,000 signatures and launched her petition campaign.
(Why 2,000 signatures? There’s no real reason. “I’m just winging this,” Boss admits.)
The petition reads: "We the undersigned call on Trader Joe's to open a store in the General Grant Shopping Center, located in the Village of Marlborough, MO, or the immediate surrounding communities (Grantwood Village, Affton, Mackenzie, Shrewsbury, Webster Groves and Crestwood, MO)."
In August, Boss hoped the online petition would bring in 400 signatures. By Monday night, it hit 404.
On paper, Boss has gathered more than 750 signatures by leaving petitions at local businesses. (For a list of businesses with petitions, check out this story.)
And it doesn’t stop there. Boss will be passing out petitions at Hwy 61 Roadhouse during the Super Jam concert benefitting Play it Forward. She’s also coming out with a video, and she wrote to actress and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres asking her to deliver the petition to Trader Joe’s.
But if she’s being realistic, Boss says she won’t be able to keep up this pace much longer. As a mother, wife, dog owner and freelance designer, her activism has taken a major toll on her schedule and her time.
“I notice I neglect my family when I do things like this,” she said. “I’m like, ‘No, I have to go get signatures! You don’t understand!”
So Boss is enlisting friends to help distribute petitions, spread the word and produce the video she’s hoping to release soon.
But even when Boss addresses the time, money and energy she’s used up in this process, she never wavers in her goal.
“When I first thought about it there was no doubt in my mind,” she said. “This is the right thing to do.”
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