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Sorry, we don’t know why the Capitol Hill Trader Joe’s is closed ‘indefinitely’ — UPDATE: Employees say decision tied to BLM protest and strike

(Image: Andrew Taylor via Flickr)

Thanks to a CHS reader for the picture

It quite literally pales in comparison to the fight for equality and against police brutality underway a few blocks away. But Friday night, Capitol Hill’s Trader Joe’s closed early and a paper sign on the door says the grocery store is closed “indefinitely” — without explanation.

CHS has calls out to the corporate office in Monrovia, California of the privately traded, somewhat secretive grocery chain of more than 500 stores coast to coast to find out more.

Calls to area Trader Joe’s stores only yielded confirmation of the closure. The store’s page on the Trader Joe’s website shows a message that it is “temporarily closed.”

UPDATE 6/14/20 12:50 PM: A group of workers has launched a campaign to push back on the closure and are asking for community support to keep the store open as they say the management is retaliating over employee participation in Friday’s Black Lives Matter protest and general strike. Here’s the statement from savetjs130.com:

On June 11, dozens of workers at Trader Joe’s Capitol Hill (Store #130) informed store management that they would be participating in the June 12 protest organized by the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. Store managers determined that broad participation in the protest would lead to staffing issues, and decided to close the store early on June 12. Store management assured workers participating in the protest that this would be considered an excused absence and would not result in any disciplinary measures. But on the morning of June 12, a representative from TJs corporate called the store to ask about the early closure. Unsatisfied with the rationale for the early closure, corporate informed store management that the store would be closed indefinitely, effective immediately.

We, a group of Store #130 workers who wish to remain anonymous, believe it’s no coincidence that the store was abruptly closed on the day that dozens of us took action in support of the movement for Black lives. We know that the company will try to avoid the appearance of being antagonistic to the movement. They will likely cite “personnel issues,” “safety concerns,” or operating costs as rationale for the store closure. What they really mean when they cite “personnel issues” is that they saw our store as a hot spot for worker organizing. TJs corporate has aggressively squashed worker organizing for years and has a long record of retaliation. This is the most dramatic retaliation any TJs store has seen to date, but it is not an isolated incident. Prior to the abrupt store closure, we had been organizing to secure a living wage, health insurance for all workers, and basic protections against COVID-19. “The large majority of us were already living paycheck to paycheck,” says Store #130 crew member Peter Strand. “Many of us were working without health insurance while risking steady exposure to the public in the midst of a pandemic.”

While Trader Joe’s has publicly voiced support for “Black crew members and customers,” the company has done nothing to tangibly support the movement for Black lives, and they have penalized employees for supporting the movement. While the company insists that they value crew member feedback and support crew-led solutions, they have consistently disregarded our insights and requests. We know what it would take for the store to run smoothly, and we want to be in conversation with store management about solutions.

We are saddened by the store closure. For each of us, it means both a loss of community and a loss of financial security in the midst of an economic downturn. We recognize it’s a loss for our neighborhood as well, and we hope the community will join us in demanding that Trader Joe’s reopen Store #130 and restore our jobs immediately. We’ve heard that TJs corporate will make a final decision about the closure this coming Monday. We’ll be prepared with a response regardless of the decision.

You can go directly to the group’s petition here.

Employee group spokesperson Peter Strand tells CHS that they believe the company will listen to its customers. Trader Joe’s does have a history of listening to customer feedback,” he said, “so we think that the best angle is to have customers speak up.”

Trader Joe’s has not “come out with a full rationale” for the closure, Strand says, leaving the employees in the challenging place of waiting — or acting on the situation.

Strand said the actions by the parent company were swift and unexpected. “We were all surprised by the news and mobilized,” he said. “We know that Trader Joe’s will come out with its own version of events.”

Original report: The 1700 E Madison store has gone through some bumpy times with COVID-19 restrictions limiting hours. It also closed without notice for a day or two earlier this month but this time seems to have brought a longer shuttering.

While the store is not far from the protest area, it is far enough away that the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone should not be a factor in any decision to keep the doors closed. Other store have closed due to COVID-19 cleanings but those aren’t usually multi-day efforts.

Nearby Central Co-op will help pick up some of the slack as will the Whole Foods that opened at Broadway and Madison in 2018. The 23rd and E Madson Safeway is a few block walk to the east and a new PCC is set to open next week at 23rd and Union.

Meanwhile, the E Madison TJ’s appears to be shuttered for the weekend and hours posted online through next Thursday — as far out as they’ll display — show the store as closed.

UPDATE 6/15/20 1:15 PM: Trader Joe’s has responded with a statement on the situation and says the “temporary” closure is for a one to two week renovation project:

Employees call it retaliation for protest, Trader Joe’s says closed for Capitol Hill remodel


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107 thoughts on “Sorry, we don’t know why the Capitol Hill Trader Joe’s is closed ‘indefinitely’ — UPDATE: Employees say decision tied to BLM protest and strike” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Could it be the ultra slow moving line they have created by forcing only a handful of people to be allowed in the store ? I’ve given up and gone to QFC on 15th which is as friendly as ever.

    • Its not their fault only a few can be inside – they are following the opening phase requirements. I think right now they can only have 25% occupancy inside at a time. QFC is bigger so they can allow more people in.

      • And yet thousands can parade up and down the street without any issues from the city or governor. Why is that? Is the virus smart enough to distinguish when and who to infect?

      • @Jules

        Systemic racism is a more pressing issue than COVID-19. If you disagree, you know where the door is. And most of us are still wearing face masks and distancing as much as possible.

      • No, the 25% limit is for general retail, NOT for grocery stores, those have been open the entire time (never closed) and aren’t part of phase 1.5. QFC, Safeway and Trader Joes never closed and have no specific limit other than what they implement to TRY to create social distancing (QFC by me has 1 way aisles, tape showing the 6 foot space in checkout lines). If Joe’s was only doing 25% capacity that was just their “choice”.

    • There hasn’t been a line there the past 3-4 weeks when I’ve gone. They are allowing more people inside now. Also, according to crew members I’ve spoken to this store is doing record-breaking business during the pandemic. Not surprised based on some of the people I’ve seen stocking up in there, so I think they’ll be fine without you.

      • I regularly ride past the one in the u district which is a good size and it’s a constant line. Not worth it.

      • Though the lines look daunting, I’ve found personally that they are fairly quick moving. And it feels safer in TJs than in any other grocery store where employees are sometimes not wearing masks and they certainly don’t enforce social distancing guidelines.

  2. I won’t link it, but if you’re wondering, there is a post about this on the Seattle Reddit. The person there is claiming to be a crew member (or ‘closely connected’ to one) and that corporate is claiming “personnel issues that include high call outs and low morale, as well as incredibly high theft and consequent high security costs.” I am personally extremely disturbed by the connotations of this.

    • The theft issue will go away when the new PCC opens – more expensive stuff that no one locally can afford.

      I’ve seen a lot more brazen theft in QFC – people just go in and don’t even pretend to shop. You’d think limiting the store to about a dozen customers they could control stock loss. I guess the security guy is just for show.

      • Correct. The shoplifting always seems worse at QFC. I stopped going to the one at Broadway and Pine long ago– worried about what might happen one day.

    • By “the” Seattle Reddit, do you mean /r/Seattle, /r/SeattleWA, or /r/SeaWA? ;-)

      (don’t mean to troll, I’m just trying to find the post.)

    • Interesting timing on that Reddit post. Couldn’t be right-wing extremist trolls trying to paint Seattle as a war zone, could it …no siree! I seriously doubt the “incredibly high theft” part. They ALWAYS have a uniformed security guard near the door.

    • Why are you disturbed? I worked at one of the Safeways on Capitol Hill and the theft was sky high. It wasn’t any racial demographic, it was the homeless. Some of the items targeted were rumored to be traded at small convenience stores for money. Hard to argue “survival crime” when someone walks out of the store with $300 worth of steaks to sell for heroin money. This is what many grocery stores are faced with. Welcome to 2020 in Seattle. I am going to take a guess this TJ’s had staffing issues. Combined with theft issues it will be a real loss if they decide to abandon the location.

      • @Paul
        “Some of the items targeted were rumored to be traded at small convenience stores for money.”

        Oh yeah, and another rumor is that the world is flat. I’m very curious what convenience stores would buy $300 worth of steaks. Knowingly selling stolen goods at a convenience store would be loss of their license besides jail time. Sheeeesh, you trolls are getting very sloppy.

      • When Deano’s Bar / Club Chocolate City was still around, it was rumored that the cafe there would cook your Safeway meat for a fee. That’s here-say but I’ve personally heard staff from the auto repair business (then Havlick’s) report that people would knock on their door, offering (still packaged) Safeway meat for sale.
        The actors may have changed, but the problem probably persists. Back then, when we had neighborhood meetings, the Safeway representative reported that the Madison store had the highest loss rate in the area.

  3. That is one of the smallest trader Joe’s I’ve ever been in. Still, it’s a great store. I would imagine the protest and the increased covid-19 might have caused them to shut down temporarily.

  4. If permanent, this closing is a damn shame. It has been a convenient place to shop, with parking, and the crew was always very friendly. If there was a “morale” problem, they didn’t show it to customers.

    I sure hope this isn’t one more casualty of the pandemic and/or leftist civic unrest in Seattle.

    • The pandemic has been exacerbated by right wing, federal government incompetency, anti-science bent, and willful inaction. While leftist civic unrest is necessary due to systemic racism, which is itself a public health crisis (as illustrated by COVID-19 disproportionately impacting people of color). What’s a damn shame is your focus on one grocery store over more pressing issues.

      • Everyone talks about systemic racism. What does it mean and proof? Our last president a black person. Three of the top five jobs in congress are Black. Police chief of SPD is a black woman while Black is only 5% of Seattle population. The same for San Francisco, a black mayor with 6% of black population. Does the systemic racism mean racism aimed at Asian, American Indian and Pacific Islander from the majority (White, Black and Latino)? From those three races POV, Black is majority.

      • “Leftist civic unrest”? Understatement of the century right there. And I’m with Vince – interested to hear your facts proving the “systemic racism” which is what you’re using to justify these unlawful actions.

        Maybe instead of worrying about the cherry-picked stories the likes of CNN and Al Sharpton are shoving down your throat, your time would be better spent educating the black community about the potential consequences of committing violent crime and not complying with officers’ orders.

      • Anastasia, the grocery store is not my “focus.” Like walking and chewing gum at the same time, it is possible to have opinions on two different issues at the same time.

  5. This doesn’t make sense to me. You’d think if something had to close, it would have been one of the two QFCs down on Broadway. They have seen a lot more drama than this Trader Joe.

      • Hahaha all the the drama queens. Psst, CHAZ isn’t really autonomous, some police are back in the precinct, property is still ludicrously expensive, and so far no socialist militants have seized or destroyed any businesses to the point that capital of the owners is at risk.

        Grocery stores are still in business. The sky is not falling.

      • No coincidence that all the left/liberal controlled major cities are hell holes. Policies that perpetuate the never ending cycle of shit those people have to endure will forever keep them in figurative chains they think their ancestors have shed generations ago. Vote those people out of power, trust the system in which you are rewarded for going to work and contributing to society.

        It isn’t about the color of your skin – it’s about the color of your vote.

    • @ Bill
      “No coincidence that all the left/liberal controlled major cities are hell holes.”

      So maybe you can explain why people are moving in droves to Seattle. Same with those “hell holes” like San Francisco and Portland on the West Coast. Don’t start trying to think outside the box. Just wait until FOX tells you what to say.

    • I don’t know where the truth lies. I find it difficult to believe that a long-standing profitable store would close permanently over one day of protests. On the other hand, if that is indeed true, why would I supportTJ going forward?

  6. I love that TJ’s and I’m not alone. The store sells a lot of groceries and makes a lot of money! I can’t imagine that they would plan to close down permanently.

  7. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
    –MLK

    CHARACTER MATERS

  8. I wondered where anarchists and BLMs went to buy groceries. If you destroy everything nearby then it becomes a huge effort just for day to day living. So, maybe it is the threat or risk that is affecting a willingness to do business there. I won’t pretend to know but tit is interesting to read about.

    • Wait a minute? “Thug”? I thought that was a naughty word in this insane PC world we have allowed to fester. Ok for the anointed one Obama to say it but not Trump. Trump is a racist if he says it, right? Obama – that’s ok though. A black person is allowed to say what he wants and is not a racist, right?

      You referring to what is an overwhelmingly upstanding group of civil servants? I guess that’s ok as well.

      • WhoIs, nah, just using the same word right wing cockroaches like to use.

        Not counting racism, domestic vioIence percentages are higher among the uniformed thugs than the rest of the population. Beating your wife is not very upstanding.

    • Congrats Fred! You don’t get off of your boney, crusty ass to go and check out the area in question yourself. And, you admit to being the bottom feeder type who gets his misinformation from FucksNews and those who report based on its propaganda feeds. AND, you all-but-admit your a raging prejucial bigot. That takes cajones. I’m just wondering, why live on The Hill if you hate us all so much? To say that protesters on Capitol Hill are ‘domestic terrorists’ is to say that only the shittiest, craziest interpretations of the shittiest parts of our yellowing constitution matter to those most fundamentally opposed to the REAL principles worth defending that our founding slaverholders were trying to protect when writing the constitution. #ignoramus #deplorable

      • Wow strong move there critiquing a spelling mistake.

        Hey Chris, I hear the white people there are giving away $10 to black people. Maybe if you’re black, you’ll get $10 to help with your groceries.

        Black entitlement? Nah – fairy tale I’m sure.

        Ignorant racists.

      • To be clear, only dumb-asses are so intellectually-challenged as to not realize that the most successful cities ON THE PLANET are relative progressive bastions for justice, equality and, ummmm, progress. The only big challenge? The unchecked capitalism that is making them inaccessible to the 99% and sowing seeds of frustration, anger and discontent (oh, and under-trained, over-powered, uncontrolled suburban authoritarian bigots who join the police force and condescend -or worse- to the very people who pay their salaries.

        When did this blog become a haven for Seattle’s 100 boomer white wing crackpots and the KIRO/Seattle Times old white guy kkkonservative bigots?! Go away! If you don’t like progressives who stand for justice, what THE HELL are you doing on Capitol Hill. #tonedeaf

  9. So my sister works at this store, she said that exaggerated media coverage and excessive numbers of employees calling off of work have led to this closure.

  10. I hope TJ’s stays in business. Some of my favorite products there have no real equivalent in the corporate supermarkets and cost much more in the boutique ones. Also it’s worth noting that TJs is one of the few large-ish Seattle grocery stores that somehow manages to keep out most non-service dogs. That alone is reason enough to shop there.

  11. Trader Joe’s can reasonably imagine their store being peaceably taken over and all the merchandise distributed to the community. Have you noticed their extensive wine and liquor selection. My local store does about 40% of their business in that category.

    They can further imagine demands that the store keep being restocked.

    They can’t quite imagine how to evict those occupiers without involving the police and the optics of that would be calamitous.

  12. Perhaps it’s a lease issue? I know several employees there and they have been working there for as long as I have been in the area which is almost a decade. This super sucks.

  13. Whatever these people want will help wealthy people’s gain and make low income people poorer. There always will be ruling class, and socialism is a perfect way for them to ruling because society will grow bunch of well trained slaves.

  14. “the company has done nothing to tangibly support the movement for Black lives”
    why should it? It’s not a social service agency. Is there a reason why constantly demanding every individual and organization do something for black people is considered to be warranted? Native Americans are far more downtrodden and I don’t see any limus test being given in relation to what we do for them. I feel this is extortion and really inappropriate. I could never figure out why the African Union flag was displayed in that store. It’s not a predominantly black neighborhood and never was. The continent of Africa has a horrible civil rights record. why in the world is there some unspoken rule the people must always be doing something for black people as though that’s the definition of racism?

    • Eventually many of us learn that either political extreme is useless and just full of zealots. Interesting that both extremes are made up of mostly white people. On one side some unemployable activists are also part. Important causes easily get drowned out by extremism.

    • @choa – certainly no business should fell obligated to support community members but it’s typically considered good business relations. This area has very strong ties to the black community cause it was one of the few areas in Seattle where blacks were allowed to live. Most Seatlle neighborhoods had historical covenants prohibiting the sale to black residents. It took a federal law to stop the practice.
      Sure some African countries have had troubled leadership but that is not unique to the world. The continent of Africa was divided up in 1859 in Germany by European colonizing countries which is where current borders were established. Borders were set based on the interests of those looking to exploit resources and not based on what was best for Africans. African people had historical borders that allowed different ethnic Africans to develop societies. Just like everywhere, skirmishes and wars occurred. When the colonizers carved up the continent, they grouped together ethnic groups that had history of conflict. Many of these current borders cut right through ethnic areas splitting them into several countries. So when one ethnic group obtained power they often consolidated power to one group of people leading to conflict and abuse of power. There was also 100 years of colonization with many resources exported with little, if any benefit to African people. As Africans began liberation movements forcing colonizers out, many of the historical disagreements rose up with efforts to obtain power. Also, some European countries left very little for these new countries to build a nation state. This lead to more struggles and abuse of power. No other place in the world has had to experience this type of treatment on such a large scale.

  15. Didn’t we just gain a brand new co-op in the CHAZ? I think we’re coming out way ahead. One less corporation here crushing its workers. They’re now free to make art or pursue their interests.

    I personally can’t wait to sample the finest produce coming in uber local and organic from Cal Anderson. Wake up people, this is a huge win for the neighborhood!

    • LOL…. without a decent growing season, a good start (FYI – it’s very, very late to be trying to start a garden here, even from seedlings) and good soil (and no couple of bags of compost won’t do it) those poor bedraggled little plants plonked into the ground won’t produce enough to feed one person, much less a crowd. Good luck with that, you Not to mention, even if a miracle occurs and you get any produce at all, it will be a month or more before you see anything edible. You all are going to be very hungry without someone who’s got a full wallet. Gosh reality sucks doesn’t it..

    • Oh and second reality check…. to feed one person for a year it takes about 1 acre of land. Cal Anderson Park is about 7 acres, lets say 1/4 of it is not plantable – underneath paving/playground etc… If you were able to dig up and plant the entire park, you’d have 5.25 acres left. If you were farming it quite intensively, introducing a good diversity of crops, tending it assiduously and getting a decent yield, you might be able to feed 5 people…. if you are lucky. Better have some trust funds in your crowd.

  16. The statement directly from the employees of the store is very credible. Many of them, apparently, wanted time off last Friday to attend the Black Lives Matter march, which was a peaceful one attended by thousands of citizens and was a far cry from the violence and other nonsense which went on around the East Precinct. Good for them! TJ’s corporate could have respected their decision, and closed just for that day.

    Please sign the employee’s petition. Hopefully, the store will soon re-open!

  17. I shop at a different Trader Joe’s that had to resort to a security guard because of liquor theft. The Safeway near this store had to lock up all liquor . Numerous stores in Seattle have closed to ongoing problems with theft.
    If Seattle wants to defund police, a lot of businesses will walk. For every action, there are consequences..you can’t expect businesses to go along with the situation in Seattle.

  18. Surprised that CHS hasn’t posted TJ’s official reply. For what it’s worth, here is the text I received on June 15:

    “On Friday, June 12th, we closed our Capitol Hill location on 1700 Madison Street early because we did not have enough Crew Members available to run the store. During this temporary closure, we are taking the time to execute a remodel plan to address safety and security concerns that have developed over the last year. We will reopen the store as soon as these construction projects are completed, and it is our hope that we can welcome back our customers in the next week or two. As is always the case during any unexpected store closure, we are continuing to pay our Crew Members for their scheduled shifts during this time. Additionally, as is also our practice, perishable product that would expire prior to re-opening will be donated to our neighborhood food banks. We appreciate that this is an inconvenience and value the patience and understanding of our customers.”

  19. If I were A Trader Joe’s decision maker, I’d shut the location down. Negotiate out of the lease and move on. I doubt they are a high margin per location business in the first place. between the theft and personnel challenges, just walk away. They are in a no-win situation at this point. Take the heat for leaving and move on.

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