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Trader Joe’s headed for Forest Drive?

krupon@ thestate.com March 26, 2012 

Trader Joe’s appears to be headed for the former Columbia Athletic Club site on Forest Drive.

Bradford Building Co., a Birmingham, Ala.-based contractor, is asking for bids from subcontractors to refurbish the building for the grocery store, project manager Ben Dobbins confirmed.

The quirky grocery store with a fanatical following — based on its cheap store brands and unique products, including “Two-Buck Chuck” wine that costs $2.99 — has been looking for a site in the Columbia area for months, local developers have confirmed.

The Monrovia, Calif.-based chain typically follows Whole Foods’ entrance into a market, according to published reports. Columbia’s first Whole Foods grocery store is under construction near where Devine Street becomes Garners Ferry Road. It is slated to open in the fall.

Bradford is seeking bids – or prices – for the Trader Joe’s job for developer Centennial American Properties out of Greenville, Dobbins said.

Centennial currently is developing a Trader Joe’s in Sarasota, Fla., according to its website. Officials Monday declined comment about the Columbia project.

Coley Brown, who owns the former Columbia Athletic Club building, confirmed the 4502 Forest Drive site is under contract for sale but would not say who the contract is with. He said the closing date for that sale is set for between April 16 and May 1.

Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said Monday that Columbia is not in the company’s “two-year plan,” which she said means the company does not anticipate opening a store in the Midlands in the next two years “unless something changes.”

Trader Joe’s already has two stores in South Carolina – in Greenville and Mount Pleasant.

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