PORTLAND — Trader Joe’s this week submitted an application to open a store in the former Wild Oats space on Marginal Way.

The application, received by the city clerk’s office May 10, says Trader Joe’s would operate from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, and sell beer and wine.

The highly anticipated step toward bringing the store to Maine comes two months after Trader Joe’s filed a request with the Federal Trade Commission to allow it to purchase the Wild Oats space, currently owned by Whole Foods.

Whole Foods acquired several Wild Oats stores through a buy-out in 2007 and was ordered by the FTC to divest several Wild Oats locations – including 87 Marginal Way – in order to help restore competition. The Whole Foods store on Somerset Street is two blocks from the building planned for Trader Joe’s.

The FTC still has not made a decision on the divestiture request, according to commission spokesman Mitch Katz. Public comment on the matter closed April 12.

“We received 521 comments on the request, and we have to respond to every one,” he said, adding that the FTC usually receives a maximum of one or two comments on such matters.

Portland-area residents have been pining for California-based Trader Joe’s, even creating Facebook fan pages in support of the campaign. The Portland City Council even approved a resolution supporting the grocery store opening in Portland.

“There is a huge groundswell of support,” Katz said. He said he did not know when a decision might be made by the commission.

Despite the lack of a decision from the FTC, Trader Joe’s submitted the business application and is awaiting fire and health inspections from the city. That process can take up to six weeks. The company also needs a state business license.

No one at Trader Joe’s could be reached immediately for comment. The store is known for its private-label products and affordable prices. In May 2009 it was named the second-best supermarket chain in the nation by Consumer Reports.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]

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