Some frustrating news for the multitudes of gourmet food lovers practically salivating at the mention of a Trader Joe’s grocery outlet opening in Rego Park: You’ll have to wait another three months — maybe longer — to get your favorite wines, vegetarian meals and ethnic cuisine on the cheap.
A long-awaited Trader Joe’s, first slated to open in March, then delayed until June, has now been scheduled to open by the end of September. And even that date is tentative, according to Alison Mochizuki, a spokeswoman for the specialty grocer.
The spokeswoman assured that plans are still on track for a ribbon-cutting some time in the future, but would not say when.
Nor would she explain the repeated setbacks. “No reason,” she replied, when asked why the opening had been pushed back again. “This is all typical: We never confirm (an opening date) until we have a grand opening, which is still … slated. Just the date isn’t set in stone.”
In early January, construction screeched to a temporary halt after picketers hauled out a large inflatable rat at the site, located at 90-30 Metropolitan Ave., to protest the apparent use of non-unionized labor. But within weeks, progress had resumed; cranes were elevating the roof, while laborers replaced steel girders and erected brick walls at the front of the building.
Since then, however, progress has stalled again, according to civic leader Barbara Stuchinski — even as Michael’s Arts & Crafts, one of two retailers slated to share the old Heidelberg building with Trader Joe’s, appears closer than ever to opening. A Staples office supply store is also planned.
“I really don’t get it, because you see a sign for Michael’s, but the one store everyone wants to see, there’s no sign of,” said Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association.
“When (The Shops at Atlas Park) was going up, it was boom-boom-bam, and the thing was opened in no time,” she added, referring to a nearby high-end mall. “But these construction guys just seem to be sitting around. When I tried to talk to them, they just shrugged and walked away.”
Mochizuki declined to comment on possible labor disputes. Neither Michael’s nor Staples could be reached for comment on the delays to their co-tenant’s opening.
The California-based grocery chain announced plans to open its first-ever Queens location last November. Rated one of the best national supermarkets, Trader Joe’s is known for its discounted gourmet, ethnic and vegetarian food. The company has 10 locations in New York, including one on 14th Street in Manhattan, four in Westchester and five on Long Island. Trader Joe’s officials confirmed last month they were also eyeing a site in Brooklyn.