Joe Coulombe, founder of popular Trader Joe's markets, dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Coulombe envisioned a brand sleek know-how of young grocery consumers rising in the 1960s, one which wanted wholesome, tasty, excessive-quality meals they couldn’t salvage in most supermarkets and couldn’t manage to pay for to buy in the few excessive-waste connoisseur outlets.

So he chanced on a brand sleek ability to bring all the issues from a then-appealing snack meals called granola to the California-produced wines that for flavor compared with the relaxation from France. And he made browsing for them nearly as important fun as sailing the excessive seas when he created Trader Joe’s, a quirky tiny meals market stuffed with nautical issues and staffed not by managers and clerks but by “captains and mates.”

From the time he opened his first retailer in Pasadena, California, in 1967 till his death Friday at age 89, Coulombe watched his namesake commercial upward push from a cult accepted of educated but underpaid formative years — and a pair of hippies — to a retail extensive with bigger than 500 outlets in over 40 states.

A extensive yes, but one which at some stage in bigger than half of a century has by no ability lost its fame for pleasant carrier from staff decked out in goofy Hawaiian shirts, a e-newsletter that looks treasure it used to be published in the 1890s, and rows and rows of excessive-quality, inexpensive wholesome meals and gargantuan wine, even when you veritably can’t ever again salvage the true same thing.

“He desired to be decided whatever used to be sold in our retailer used to be of correct payment,” acknowledged Coulombe’s son, also named Joe, who added that his father died following a long illness. “He continually did hundreds style exams. My sisters and I be aware him bringing home all forms of issues for us to strive. At his areas of work he had virtually on a fashioned basis tastings of most modern merchandise. For all time the goal used to be to supply correct meals and proper payment to of us.”

He executed that by shopping right this moment from wholesalers and cutting out the middleman, in loads of cases slapping the title Trader Joe’s on a win of nuts, trail mix, natural dried mango, honey-oat cereal or Angus pork chili. He named several merchandise after his daughters Charlotte and Madeleine and gave quirky names to others. Among them were Trader Darwin vitamins and a non-alcoholic gorgeous juice called Eve’s Apple Sparkled by Adam.

He prided himself on checking out every classic of wine from California’s Napa Valley, at the side of Trader Joe’s standby, Charles Shaw, affectionately is named Two-Buck Chuck because it sold for $1.99. (It still does in the California stores, even though transport costs bear elevated the payment in other states.)

“He sold pretty a pair of better wines too,” his son illustrious with a laugh, recalling trips the family made to France to gaze them out.

After selling Trader Joe’s to German grocery retailer Aldi in 1979, Coulombe remained as its CEO till 1988, when he left to launch a 2d profession as what he called a “temp,” coming in as meantime CEO or consultant for several tremendous companies in transition. He retired in 2013.

Joseph Hardin Coulombe, an handiest child, used to be born on June 3, 1930, in San Diego and lived on an avocado ranch in interior sight Del Mar. After serving in the Air Pressure, he attended Stanford College, where he earned a bachelor’s stage in economics, a grasp’s in commercial administration and met and married his wife, Alice.

A couple of years after graduation, he used to be hired by the Rexall drugstore chain, which tasked him with setting up a series of convenience stores called Pronto. When Rexall lost hobby in the stores, he bought them and had grown the chain to a pair of dozen outlets when the extensive 7-Eleven firm made a predominant push into Southern California.

“So I had to enact something diverse,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2014. “Scientific American had a story that of all of us qualified to creep to varsity, 60% were going. I felt this newly educated — not smarter but better-educated — class of of us would want something diverse, and that used to be the genesis of Trader Joe’s.”

His wife’s of us had presented him to an worldwide of meals previously appealing to him, at the side of energetic olive oil, new seafood and cheap quality wine, and he figured issues treasure that will maybe per chance be supreme for the younger target market he used to be looking out out for out.

As he bargained for these merchandise, he’d now and again stumble upon an extremely distinctive olive oil or classic wine, by no ability to salvage it again, and he wouldn’t inventory an imperfect product as a change.

He eschewed promotional gimmicks treasure loyalty clubs or loss-leader gross sales, getting the discover out with brief radio spots and the Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer” e-newsletter, whose faded-vogue look used to be impressed by one other money-saving effort. He desired to costume up the e-newsletter’s reports with illustrations he gash out of magazines, but he made distinct he handiest took ones on which the copyrights had expired.

He passed such savings on not handiest to his prospects but staff, which Trader Joe’s boasts are among retail’s simplest compensated, with scientific, dental, imaginative and prescient and retirement plans and annual salary increases the firm says range from 7% to 10%. Many crew bear remained with Trader Joe’s for decades.

“He correct had a seek recommendation from the day earlier than on the sleek time from employee No. 1,” his daughter Charlotte acknowledged rapidly earlier than her father’s death.

He and his wife also became nicely known in Southern California philanthropic circles, contributing money and time to such causes as Planned Parenthood, the Los Angeles Opera and the Huntington Library, Art work Museum and Botanical Gardens.

Tales vary on how the title Trader Joe’s came about, with some announcing it used to be impressed by a fling on Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise boat or a e-book he read called “White Shadows in the South Seas” or his accepted faculty hangout being a Trader Vic’s bar come Stanford.

Coulombe, who loved to walk, did acknowledge over time that he had a fascination with the South Seas and place Trader into the title and a nautical theme for the length of the stores to lend that appealing enchantment to prospects.

Besides to his three children and wife of 67 years, Coulombe is survived by six grandchildren.

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