Joe Coulombe, founder of Trader Joe’s, the revolutionary grocery store that focused on high quality items at low prices, has passed away at the age of 89, according to the Associated Press.
“Joe’s curiosity, philanthropic generosity, and irreverent sense of humor were woven into the fabric of the culture that defines Trader Joe’s stores.” the company said in a statement over the weekend.
Known for its Hawaiian shirt-wearing employees, fair wages, and a focus on serving “overeducated and underpaid people,” the store amassed a cult following soon after its original Pasadena, CA location opened in 1967.
Five years after its opening, Joe introduced a granola to the store that he considered to be a “game-changer,” in that it was the first time the company had acquired a product at the wholesale level and sold under the Trader Joe’s brand name.
The snack was a preview of the business model that would propel the store to its current popularity. This, along with a policy of discontinuity that insisted on only buying prime items at a good deal, no matter if that meant switching suppliers, allowed the store to maintain its low prices and continue attracting the struggling conscious consumer whom Coulombe originally envisioned the store to serve.
While Coulombe sold his interest in the company to Aldi Nord in 1979 — when there were only 19 stores — his vision and mission still lives on in each and every one of the 500+ locations across the nation.
For that, pour a two buck Chuck out for Mr. Coulombe today.