Yes, Trader Joe’s is coming to the Pep Boys in Sugar House

Trader Joe’s CEO Bryan Palbaum

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Folks, we know you love some good grocery gossip, and we’re delighted to enter the fray.

The Pep Boys on 700 East in Sugar House is closing on Saturday. Trader Joe’s will very likely be filling its place.

An apparent representative for the company, through a service that specifically expedites building permits on behalf of applicants, filed for a permit last week that clearly labeled the plan.

“Converting location to a Trader Joe’s grocery store,” the permit for 2160 S. 700 E. says.

That’s as black and white as it gets. And now that the cat is out of the bag, the company is almost certainly not happy.

Trader Joe’s covets secrecy around its new locations, preferring instead to control any announcement.

When the company made plans to expand into Draper near 11400 South, it required the owner of its future building to promise not to say anything publicly. If he did, the company would fine him, Robert Galanis, founder of Mountain High Real Estate Advisors, told us.

“I can tell you this, they covet the ability to make the announcement first,” Galanis said. “To a point where they have a provision in the lease that states if it becomes known that the landlord or through any representatives makes an announcement prior to them, and it can be proven that it came from them, it will result in a $250,000 fine.”

It would have been helpful filling up vacant retail space by letting other potential tenants know that the popular grocer was going to anchor the development, Galanis said.

“In fact, we had to even go into the city with their plans that were marked for ‘Tenant B,'” he said.

Trader Joe’s ended up signing a 10-year lease at that location after Galanis kept things under a tight lid.

It appears it missed its chance at quietly preparing its store before a splashy announcement.

So long, Pep Boys. We barely knew ye. (Even if you were in the same spot for 31 years.)

Rumors started swirling when planning director Nick Norris shared a post on X (the social media platform that should still be called Twitter), with a screenshot of the building permit.

The Salt Lake Tribune called Trader Joe’s and a representative for the grocery chain denied that the firm would be moving in.

“We are actively looking at hundreds of neighborhoods across the country as we hope to open more new neighborhood stores each year,” the representative said. “At this time, we do not have a new location confirmed in Salt Lake City.”

The company didn’t respond to questions from Building Salt Lake about its new location, or about threatening to level fines should its plans be made public.

It would defy logic to pay the money to hire a company and take the steps to request a building permit from the city.

Building Salt Lake took a step the Tribune apparently didn’t take: We called Pep Boys. A representative for the Sugar House location confirmed the store will close in three days. Its other locations in the area will remain open.

Kip Paul | Cushman & Wakefield

Kip Paul, vice chairman at Cushman & Wakefield, said his firm was contacted to conduct an appraisal for an unknown company at the Pep Boys address.

“We were contacted by an appraiser looking for land sale comps in that area and referenced that address,” Paul said. “We don’t know who it was for.”

Paul said he assumed the building would be torn down, given the appraisal was for land comps.

The building is owned by the Olsen family, which owns the Dee’s restaurant on the corner of the 2100 South 700 East. The family also owns the strip mall slightly west of 700 East in the same assemblage.

Wade Olsen didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Email Taylor Anderson

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Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.