February 1, 2023

A history of Trader Joe’s and Joe Coulombe, the man behind the brand

4 min read

Joe Coulombe, owner of a struggling convenience store in Los Angeles, decided to open a grocery chain in 1967 to appeal to the small but growing number of well-educated, well-traveled customers who Stream supermarkets were overlooked.

“I have an ideal audience in mind,” he said Los Angeles Times In 1981. “This is the man who got the Fulbright Scholarship, went to Europe for a few years and tasted something other than velvet,” he said.

Columbe acknowledged that the arrival of the new Boeing 747 in the market was about to explode international travel. For the name of its new store, Coulombe Trader landed on Joe’s to create exotic images of the South Seas. The name was inspired by Trader Vic’s, a popular tiki bar restaurant that started in California.

One marketing expert thought it was a terrible name – “merchant” “associated with selling defective horse meat,” Columbe said in his memoir. “Becoming a Merchant,” Published in 2021, one year after his death at the age of 89.

But it got stuck, and the first trader, Jose, opened in 1967 in Pasadena, California. The location was ideal for its new target customer, surrounded by a college campus, a hospital and a large engineering firm.

“It was a grocery outdoor that was able to see things differently,” he said Benjamin’s daughter, Author of “The Secret Life of Grocery: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket.” “He wanted to tap into the idea that food was a quest, that food was travel and adventure.”

Marine theme

The first Trader Joe’s store had a nautical theme with a nautical pattern that included a ship’s bell, a fishing net and half of a boat. The checkout counter was an island with a roof. The employees were wearing Polynesian shirts and Bermuda shorts. The manager was formerly called the captain and the assistant the first mat. And the sounds of aerial music were played on loudspeakers.

But the goods did not look like anything you would find in Trader Joss today.

The original store had a general grocery convenience store with discounted magazines, books, socks and hosiery, records and photo finishing. The big draw, however, was the choice of wine.

Original Trader in Pasadena, California.  It opened in 1967.

California had fair trade laws on alcohol, so manufacturers set minimum prices and it was illegal to go below them. Since Columba could not compete by offering lower prices, he realized that he had to offer a wide variety to stand out.

The first trader to take pride in ranking the world’s largest wines – 100 brands of Scotch, 50 brands of bourbon and gin and 14 types of wine.

Columba eventually found a flaw in California’s fair trade laws that allowed his shop to import high-quality French wine and sell it at a lower price than its competitors, which helped it reach out to wine experts. ۔ (It wasn’t until years later that Trader Joe released his famous 99 1.99 Charles Shaw Wine, dubbed the “Two-Book Chuck”.)

Health obsession

By the early 1970’s, Colombo had taken over the growing health food movement, believing that it would appeal to the same kind of consumers who were also alcoholics.

Benjamin Lore said his ideas about grocery marketing came from his wine marketing.

Trader Joe’s first private label product was granola, and then it began adding freshly squeezed orange juice, vitamins, nuts and dried foods and cheese. At one point, trader Jose Bury was the largest U.S. importer.

Columbus plunged into the health food culture of Berkeley and San Francisco.

“I hired a young hippie woman from the University of California, Santa Cruz to teach lingua,” he said.

Brandenburg Browns and Sir Isaac Newtons

In 1977, Coulombe rebuilt Trader Joe’s – setting him on a path that would be more familiar to today’s consumers.

in response to Abolition of fair trade laws on alcohol With California and other price controls, traders need new ways to maximize profits and stay competitive. It eliminates household items and cleaning supplies and focuses on food. It also reduced the number of items it carried and went on to sell large-scale private label products.

“As we developed Trader Jose, his biggest vacation was not his size or his decoration,” Columbe said. “It was our commitment to product knowledge, which was totally alien to the mass merchant culture, and our turning to branded merchandise.”

Columbe said the company was even positioned to link its private label names and branding to well-educated buyers – Brandenburg Brownies and Sir Isaac Newtons.

Lower said creating strong private label offerings for rival national brands would be one of their legacies in the supermarket industry. “It has changed the balance of the grocery industry. All of a sudden, groceries become as powerful as they never were.”

But Colombo opposed opening dozens of new stores.

Today, Trader Jose has more than 500 stores across the United States.

The handful of stores Columbe opened were in Southern California, according to the demographic profile he was looking for – teachers, musicians, journalists and other professionals.

In 1979, Columbe sold Trader Jose to the family of Theo Alberchitt, then owner of Aldi Grocery China in Europe. (In the United States Owned separately by Theo Albert’s brother Carl’s family.

Aldi executives traveled from Germany about once a year to meet with Trader Jose, but they took a hands-off approach to overseeing the growing chain.

When Columbus stepped down as chief executive in 1988, Trader Jose had 27 stores in California and sales were estimated at 150 million.

He will be his successor as chief executive. John Shields, A former sibling in Stanford, who took Trader Jose out of California and turned him into a national chain. In 1996, Trader Jose opened it. The first two stores on the East CoastBoth on the outskirts of Boston.
As of 2020, Trader Joe had more than 530 stores and sales were estimated at $ 16.5 billion, according to the latest data from. Supermarket News.

Coulombe stated in 2010 that “my successors at Trader Joe’s have taken over a chain of 30 stores across the country with which we have adhered to the basic concepts.”

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