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Founder of Trader Joe’s has died at the age of 89

Joe Coulombe’s dream was a store for the young gourmet grocery shoppers of the 1960s

1y ago

The man who dreamed up a high-end gourmet grocery store for those of more modest means has died at the age of 89.

Joe Coulombe, who founded the grocery store Trader Joe’s, passed away after a long illness. His family confirmed to Associated Press that Coulombe died on 28 February.

The original Joe opened the first ever Trader Joe’s in Pasadena, California way back in 1967. The quirky store, which still stands today, was quirky and nautical themed. Coulombe stocked the store with organic items that he bought direct from suppliers to keep the prices down.

His idea was to sell produce to a new generation of young grocery shoppers that emerged in the 1960s. They wanted high-quality food but at a more reasonable cost.

The idea went from one eccentric store selling products like granola and Californian wine to a major national outlet. There are now more than 500 Trader Joe’s stores across 40 states. The reputation for high-end products that are reasonably prices remains - not to mention the staff dressed in Hawaiian shirts.

Unique products include Trader Darwin vitamins and a wine called Two Buck Chuck, so named because it went for $1.99.

Coulombe’s son Joe, told AP: “He wanted to make sure whatever was sold in our store was of good value. He always did lots of taste tests. My sisters and I remember him bringing home all kinds of things for us to try. At his offices he had practically daily tastings of new products. Always the aim was to provide good food and good value to people.”

Trader Joe’s employees are “among retail’s best compensated, with medical, dental, vision and retirement plans and annual salary increases the company says range from 7% to 10%,” according to the AP.

People have been sharing their memories of Joe online...

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Comments (1)

  • RIP. Pour out a bottle of Two Buck Chuck for the legend.

      1 year ago