Photo by Emily Sawicki

Fans of dark chocolate peanut butter cups and Mandarin orange chicken may do a double take while walking down 5th Street this week: Trader Joe’s has officially announced it will be coming soon to downtown Santa Monica.

In mid-2021, the Southern California-based grocery store chain with a cult following filed paperwork to open a new location — the chain’s third in Santa Monica — within the new mixed-use development at 500 S. Broadway known as The Park. At the time, about one year ago, a spokesperson said the proposed new store location was not yet confirmed.

“Trader Joe’s is very much interested in bringing another store to the Santa Monica area and are taking the steps to make it happen but nothing is confirmed at this point,” Kenya Friend-Daniel, national director of public relations for Trader Joe’s, told the Daily Press back in March 2021.

One year later, on Feb. 23, 2022, the Trader Joe’s website formally announced the new location in its standard cheery (and nautical-trade-themed) corporate voice: “We’ve consulted our maps and compass and have found a terrific location for a store in Santa Monica, CA. We are proud to be joining the neighborhood, and to continue our commitment to providing nourishment to the surrounding communities through our Neighborhood Shares program.” (That program “donates 100% of products that go unsold but remain fit to be enjoyed to local food recovery organizations, seven days a week.”)

Trader Joe’s representatives reached on Wednesday said the location’s opening was still weeks away; however, construction appeared to be well underway. Passersby walking or driving on 5th Street may see a small, empty room on the ground floor level of the storefront, featuring a couple of plastic chairs and an elevator (alongside the trademark blond wood wainscoting), but below ground, workers were busy installing the red Trader Joe’s sign outside what appeared to be a nearly completed subterranean market as of Wednesday afternoon, April 6.

When it opens, the supermarket’s new location, known as Trader Joe’s Santa Monica (256), will be the third Trader Joe’s store in operation within Santa Monica city limits and will join more than a dozen grocery stores currently open across town, including a Vons just up the street at Broadway and Lincoln. 

“This will be a fantastic new amenity and service for our residents, downtown workers and visitors in Downtown Santa Monica helping to provide a convenient location for quick and affordable snacks, meals and groceries,” Santa Monica Economic Development Manager Jennifer Taylor wrote in an email following the announcement, adding that she expected the store would integrate well into the neighborhood as well as provide new jobs downtown.

As previously reported in the Daily Press, the development housing the new grocery store, The Park, includes 249 apartments. Developers have previously said the seven-story project at Fred Segal’s former Downtown Santa Monica location will also contain 55,000 square feet of retail space and a four-level, 500-car underground parking structure.