Topics in this article

Trader Joe’s founder dies

The founder of Trader Joe’s grocery stores has died.

Joe Coulombe, 89, founded what was then known as Pronto Market in 1958 — eventually changing the name to Trader Joe’s in 1967.

Coulombe felt the Pronto concept was too similar to 7-Eleven and came up with the store’s trademark tropical theme while on vacation.

The stores are known for higher quality groceries at lower prices, thanks to the idea of buying directly from wholesalers.

Many items in the stores are sound under owned brands — which are changes to “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian foods, “Trade Jose’s” for Mexican, “Trader Ming’s” for Asian and “Trader Jacques'” for French items.

The store does also carry select name brand products as well.

It’s also known for its “two buck chuck” wine that still sells for $1.99 in California, though costs have raised its price in other markets.

Coulombe sold Trader Joe’s to Aldi in 1979 and spent years working as a CEO for companies in transition. He retired from that in 2013.

The store now has over 500 locations in 40 states.

Residents of some areas that only have a store a few hours away have popularized “Trade Joe Runs” where a group of people will “put orders in” for someone who drives to a store, buys products for everyone and then is reimbursed — often with a fee added on for the service.

Trader Joe’s has not expanded into Canada, so a store called Pirate Joe’s opened just cross the border that resells Trader Joe’s products, at a markup, to customers not able or willing to cross the border. The owner makes trips across the border regularly to stock up on inventory.

Trader Joe’s unsuccessfully sued Pirate Joe’s.