PORTLAND-- A neighborhood struggle over the fate of a Northeast Portland Trader Joe's was the butt of a late night talk show joke on Monday.
Conan O'Brien, comedian and host of Conan, on TBS, joked that critics of the Trader Joe's said the store would "attract too many white people."
His joke followed the Feb. 3 announcement from Trader Joe's that it would no longer be a part of an $8 million retail development planned for a long-dormant corner at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street.
The project has been called gentrification by its opponents in the Portland African American Leadership Forum. The group believes the site, which would have been sold to a developer at a heavy government subsidy, should include affordable housing.
Black residents have been migrating out of the area for a decade or more, at the same time home prices have been rising and new, mostly white, homeowners have moved in.
When Trader Joe's announced it was pulling its store out of the project, the news went viral.
Web journalist Ben Swann ran the headline, “Black Activist and Politicians Force Trader Joe's Grocery Out: Claim it would attract too many whites."
On Monday, O'Brien said that he found the struggle ironic.
“In Portland, Oregon, a group of African Americans are protesting a Trader Joe’s because they say it will attract too many white people, which is ironic because Portland is the Native American word for too many white people,” O'Brien said.