When we published a February story about the future of retail in Dallas, real estate experts said it would be only a matter of time before Trader Joe’s entered the market. Now we know for certain that the eclectic grocer is moving to North Texas.

The question is: Where?

As of late last week, everyone I talked to in the real estate realm was telling me the former Preston-Royal Borders would be a prime space for Trader Joe’s. It would have to be broken up because Trader Joe’s typically uses only 8,000-12,000 square feet, and the former Borders store is 30,000 square feet.

Well, apparently Central Market thought highly of that space, too, because the gourmet grocer announced yesterday that it will be opening its fifth DFW store in the former Preston-Royal Borders. Right now, the closest Central Market for Preston Hollow neighbors is on Lovers Lane at Greenville.

“Research has shown us — and many of our customers have told us, too — that while we’re a destination store, and they’ll drive from 10, 30, even more than a hundred miles to shop with us, they’d like us to be more accessible, closer to home,” says Stephen Butt, senior vice president of Central Market, a division of H-E-B.

Butt adds that the company “searched for quite a long time for just the right location for our newest store … In my experience, it seems a location this special, with such an influential and active  community surrounding it, is truly a rare find.” Butt should know, as he lives nearby and says the Borders was “the family bookstore for me and my wife and our daughters for more than 10 years.”

Even in the economic climate that has slowed down retail development in recent years, it sounds as if Central Market had a hard time procuring the site.

“I have never had so much interest in any single space in my career,” said Terry Montesi, chairman and CEO of Trademark Property Company and owner of the shopping center. “We had several great merchants express serious interest in replacing Borders, but in the end I felt like Central Market, and what it would create for this neighborhood, would be the perfect long-term fit.”

Of course, Preston Hollow is somewhat of an exception during economic lows because the demographics are still attractive to retailers. And just because the Borders space is now spoken for doesn’t mean Trader Joe’s will pass on Preston Hollow.

“They’re going to look between Forest and Mockingbird on Preston — I think that’s a given,” says John Downs, an asset manager for Henry S. Miller Equity Partners. “They need to be in an upper-middle income level with higher than normal education — some college or higher — for people to understand the concept and to embrace it.”

Downs believes Trader Joe’s will look into at least three North Texas areas — Park Cities/Preston Hollow, the Preston corridor in West Plano and Southlake/Colleyville.

I think you’ll see them do this in waves,” Mike Geisler of Venture Commercial says of how Trader Joe’s will launch stores. “I think you’ll see three or four stores open within a year. I think they’ll definitely try to start in Dallas” instead of the suburbs.

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