The Federal Trade Commission, which is seeking public comment on the proposed sale of the former Wild Oats store in Portland to Trader Joe’s, is getting an earful from Mainers.
And it’s overwhelmingly — to put it mildly — positive.
“We want it, we want it, we want it!!!” Meredith Cohen of Hallowell said in her posting. “I was told I should write to show my support for Trader Joe’s buying the old Wild Oats building so here it is. Please, please, please! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!”
Cohen is one of 348 people who have commented on the proposed sale, a result of Whole Foods’ purchase of Wild Oats last year.
The FTC’s approval of the deal included a requirement that Whole Foods sell off the Wild Oats stores it was closing, preferably to another food retailer that would provide competition.
Whole Foods, on Somerset Street, is just a stone’s throw from the former Wild Oats store, on Marginal Way. Texas-based Whole Foods said it had no comment on the possible sale of the former Wild Oats stores.
The public comment period closes today, but there’s no timetable for a decision on the sale, said Mitchell Katz, a spokesman for the FTC.
He said the commission’s staff often analyzes public comment to give the commissioners an idea of consumers’ reaction.
The number of comments on the Trader Joe’s plan in Portland is unusually high, Katz said. He noted that there were only 58 public comments on the sale of two other former Wild Oats stores — in Boulder, Colo., and Kansas City, Mo., — and that the $68 billion merger of pharmaceutical giants Wyeth and Pfizer drew only three comments.
Katz said it’s clear that Mainers are commenting from the heart.
“It’s important that it’s coming from individual people,” he said, “not form letters. We tend to discount the form letters that come in.”
Katz said most of the issues that generate comments generate opposing views. About the only issue he can remember being as one-sided as the Trader Joe’s matter in Portland is the FTC’s do-not-call proposal, which banned telemarketers from calling households that requested no calls.
A quick perusal of the comments about Trader Joe’s showed only one negative — an Augusta woman said she wanted a Trader Joe’s a little closer to her town.
Most who posted on the FTC’s Web site kept their comments brief and to the point: the store is empty, so its sale would provide jobs and activity.
Also, another specialty grocer with a reputation for selling healthful foods might provide competition to Whole Foods. That could keep prices down, they said, and encourage other grocers to stock more organic foods.
Many of the commentators raved about the foods they can find only at Trader Joe’s, and said they make regular runs to Trader Joe’s stores in New Hampshire or Massachusetts.
Anne DeStafano-Ring bemoans the fact that she moved to Maine from Hadley, Mass., just after Trader Joe’s announced it was opening a store there.
“I will DIE if a Trader Joe’s doesn’t get put in Portland, ME!” she told the FTC.
Another commentator, identified only as DeLong, asked the commission — in capital letters, the online equivalent of shouting — to approve the sale and said that a Trader Joe’s opening in Portland would be the best thing to happen to the city in a long time.
“DON’T MESS THIS UP FOR US FTC,” the comment concluded.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: