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Store, county reach agreement over delivery hours

LAWRENCEVILLE - It's full speed ahead for Trader Joe's, the eclectic but economical grocery chain with a cult-like following.

Last week the specialty grocer and Peachtree Corners residents reached a compromise over delivery hours, clearing the way for a store that will open in November at the Forum on Peachtree Parkway.

The owner's of the open-air mall wanted the county to change the retail center's zoning conditions so trucks could deliver goods to Trader Joe's between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The store site backs up to a subdivision, and homeowners said late-night deliveries with idling trucks and bright lights would cause a disturbance.

Both sides settled on delivery hours between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., and the Gwinnett County Commission approved the new zoning condition on Tuesday.

The Forum also agreed to install an opaque fence with sound-abatement qualities behind the store, and three gates that will prevent truck traffic behind the shopping center during nondelivery hours.

"I think there were some significant concessions from the residents," said Wayne Knox, who handles land-use issues for the United Peachtree Corners Civic Association.

Knox and Darrell Baker, director of retail development for Thomas Enterprises, which owns the Forum, said Trader Joe's will open on

Nov. 15.

It will anchor a new three-story retail and office building on one of the Forum's out parcels beside Peachtree Corners Circle.

Recent Trader Joe's openings in other states have drawn droves of shoppers seeking store products such as Sir Strawberry Juice, Chocolate Flavored Tea and Charles Shaw wine.

The 48-year-old company started as a convenience store chain in Southern California known as Pronto Markets, but founder Joe Coulombe changed the name to Trader Joe's in 1967, decking out his stores in cedar plank walls and his employees in Hawaiian shirts.

Since then, the chain has expanded to more than 250 stores in 19 states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia on the East Coast.

It would be Trader Joe's first entry into the Southeast market, though its close cousin the Aldi Group launched stores here a few years ago. Trader Joe's is owned by a trust that Aldi co-founder Theo Albrecht created.

Although the two chains follow a similar philosophy - low overhead equals low prices - Trader Joe's devotees know it as an upscale boutique, and it's often linked with an affluent customer base.

It found one in Peachtree Corners, a white-collar community nestled between the city of Norcross and the Chattahoochee River.

The demographics, and the success of the Forum shopping center, are drawing other stores.

In late July clothing retailer Banana Republic will open a shop at the Forum, and Best Buy is taking steps to build a 30,000-square-foot store in part of the parking lot, Baker said.

The store would have a parking deck attached to it to offset the displaced parking spots.

"We've studied it and income has increased between 6 to 7 percent per year for retailers there," Baker said.

Staff writer Douglas Sams contributed to this report.