Trader Joe’s Is Coming to Springfield. Just Not That Springfield.


Saturday, March, 2024

by Patrick Reevell

traderjoes-file

Residents in Springfield, Mo., had asked for a Trader Joe’s for years. Just as they thought they were finally getting one, their hopes were dashed.

When Trader Joe’s told a Springfield, Mo., newspaper on Thursday that it was opening a store there, shoppers rejoiced.

“Springfield is getting so nice I may not want to go to heaven!” a pastor, Tyler Padgitt, wrote on Facebook.

But his elation didn’t last even an hour: The company apologized minutes later, saying it was actually talking about Springfield, Va.

“It was a moment of euphoria followed by a dark night of the soul,” Mr. Padgitt said in an interview.

Shoppers in Springfield, Mo., a city of about 170,000 residents, have been asking Trader Joe’s, the grocery chain, to come to town for years. Nearly 4,000 people have joined a Facebook group that urges neighbors to fill out a store request form on the company’s website, which says there are “no guarantees, but being wanted matters to us.” The group has been active for at least 16 years.

Trader Joe’s has inspired an intense following in the United States for its abundant selection of affordable yet distinctive store-brand products — like their spinach and artichoke dip, Greek chickpeas with cumin and parsley, and horchata ice cream — that stand out from the wares of other American supermarkets, which have largely stuck with staples branded for the mass market.

Trader Joe’s, which has more than 500 locations, remains one of the businesses most frequently requested by the city, along with the Cheesecake Factory, Mr. Padgitt said in an interview.

Other major companies have also been slow to open a branch there, in part because of the geographical isolation created by the Ozark Mountains. Walmart, which has 11 stores in the city, is one of the few exceptions. Costco opened there only two years ago.

“When people are evaluating whether to live here, it seems to be one of the benchmark things,” Mr. Padgitt said of Trader Joe’s, lamenting that shoppers need to drive nearly three hours, to Kansas City, Mo., for the nearest one. “It’s a common request for the city.”

So when The Springfield News-Leader, a newspaper that serves Springfield, Mo., reported that Trader Joe’s planned to open a store there with a quote from a company statement, it was noticed.

“I’m happy to confirm we have plans to open a new store in Springfield,” the Trader Joe’s spokeswoman had written, according to the newspaper.

But “Springfield” proved not descriptive enough. There’s Springfield, Fla., Springfield, Mass., Springfield, Ill., Springfield, N.J., Springfield, Ohio, Springfield, Ore., Springfield, Pa., Springfield, Vt., Springfield, Tenn., and Springfield, Va.

Springfield is also where “The Simpsons” takes place. The show’s creator, Matt Groening, who acknowledged in recent years that the city in his home state of Oregon was the inspiration for the town in the show, has said: “Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, ‘This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.’ And they do.”

Minutes after the Springfield, Mo., newspaper published the Trader Joe’s news, the company’s spokeswoman said she had made a mistake, the newspaper wrote. “I realized this morning that The Springfield News-Leader is in Missouri. Unfortunately, I thought you were speaking of Springfield, Va.,” she said.

Patrick Reevell

Patrick Reevell serves as the principal political analyst at RicanMagazine, specializing in American politics. He delves into elections, public sentiment, demographic shifts, and polling trends. With a keen eye for detail, Reevell provides insightful commentary on the dynamics shaping the political landscape.