Jonesing for a Joe’s! Thousands sign petition demanding Trader Joe’s open in Coney Island

Jonesing for a Joe’s! Thousands sign petition demanding Trader Joe’s open in Coney Island
File photo by Stephen Brown

They’re hungry for hipsters!

Bigwigs at South Pacific-themed grocer Trader Joe’s must open a third Kings County location in Coney Island, according to thousands of locals who signed a petition claiming a local outpost would help make the neighborhood “Brooklyn’s next hipster enclave.”

The store known for its Hawaiian-shirt–clad employees would bring fresh and inexpensive fare to Coney residents who must now otherwise shop at three larger, chain supermarkets, according to the petition’s co-organizer, who claimed to own three apartments in the neighborhood, and admitted to jockeying for a Joe’s because he said it would increase the value of his real estate.

“It appeals to both the lower-middle and upper-middle-class people, it’s superb service, and great quality food,” said Alex, who declined to give his last name and said he lives nearby in Brighton Beach. “I would love to see gentrification happen, because [the value of] my investment properties would go way up.”

Alex said he and the petition’s co-creator, who insisted on remaining anonymous, initially wrote it as a joke.

But as of Thursday evening, more than 2,600 people signed the plea, which seeks 5,000 names, and calls for bringing “more skinny-pants residents” to Coney in addition to the grocer, whose two other Brooklyn locations — on Court Street in Cobble Hill, and inside Downtown’s City Point complex — are too far a trek from the southern neighborhood, according to the plea.

“The Southern Brooklyn shoppers are tired of taking a car, train, taxi, or bus to other neighborhoods,” the petition reads.

Three bigger chain supermarkets currently hawk groceries to Coney Islanders — including Key Food at Neptune Avenue and W. 36th Street, Fine Fare on Mermaid Avenue between W. 29th and W. 30th streets, and Stop and Shop on Cropsey Avenue near Bay 53rd Street — in addition to the spate of small bodegas that dot Surf, Mermaid, and Neptune avenues.

The district manager of the local Community Board 13 said the board would welcome a Trader Joe’s — or any business that both stimulates the local economy and fills a need in the community.

“We look forward to any new commercial development coming to the neighborhood,” said Eddie Mark. “We need stores that will fill in the services lacking in the area.”

But some locals who support the push for a Coney Trader Joe’s outpost stopped short of endorsing the petition’s gentrification call, fearing such change would forever alter the neighborhood’s character.

“Trader Joe’s specifically would be a wonderful addition to the community, it’s just a matter of how that petition was worded that I had a problem with,” said Orlando Mendez, who did not sign the plea. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s get rid of the current culture; let’s wipe the slate completely clean and bring something different in here.’ ”

Alex said he his co-creator encourage gentrification because of the types of new businesses — such as the grocer — and people it could bring to Coney Island, not with a desire to displace current residents.

“When we say support gentrification, it’s to bring in amazing food, an amazing vibe, to the area,” he said. “I totally understand what [gentrification] does, but at the same time when you have money invested in an area you want to see it grow.”

A rep for Trader Joe’s said the California-based company currently has no plans to open a Coney store. But honchos at the grocer are “always looking for and considering new neighborhoods that would be a great fit,” and are “so grateful” that locals want a Coney Island outpost, according to Kenya Friend-Daniel.

If the company did decide to open in the People’s Playground, the area’s slew of forthcoming developments would offer ample location options to consider.

Developer Georgica Green Ventures’s in-the-works, mixed-use Surf Vets Place complex on Surf Ave. at W. 21st Street includes two basketball courts’ worth of retail space.

And builder Pye Properties, which wants to redevelop the old Shore Theater into a hotel and spa, also plans to create new commercial space at the Surf Avenue property — which could be a great future home for Trader Joe’s, according to a Pye executive.

“Trader Joe’s could be a good candidate and we would be open to discussions,” said Eddie Yadgarov.

Grocery magnate John Catsimatidis — the owner of Gristedes, Red Apple, or D’Agostino — is also building a three-tower development with retail space in Coney Island’s West End, but said neither his brands, nor Trader Joe’s, would be his first choice of tenant, because he’d rather bring a one-stop shop to the neighborhood.

“Trader Joe’s runs a great operation, but a lot of complaints are that people can only buy maybe 50 percent of their needs there,” Catsimatidis said. “The people that are near my development have to buy 90 percent of their needs at a supermarket-pharmacy.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.