Trader Joe’s is celebrating the life of its founder Joe Coulombe, 89, who died Friday, Feb. 28, in Pasadena, California.
Mr. Coulombe was an extraordinarily smart and accomplished entrepreneur who built a company that introduced something welcomingly different in the grocery retail space, the company says. He opened the first Trader Joe’s store in 1967 in Pasadena. Notably thrifty and insightful, Mr. Coulombe went against conventional industry norms at the time, moving away from national brands and introducing Trader Joe’s private label in 1972.
“Joe was the perfect person at the right time for Trader Joe’s. He was a brilliant thinker with a mesmerizing personality that simply galvanized all with whom he worked,” said Dan Bane, CEO of Trader Joe’s. “He was not only our founder, he was our first spokesperson. He starred in captivating radio ads for years, always signing off with his unique, ‘thanks for listening.’ Joe developed a cadre of leaders that carried on his vision and helped shape Trader Joe’s in the early years.”
Mr. Coulombe’s curiosity, philanthropic generosity and irreverent sense of humor were woven into the fabric of the culture that defines Trader Joe’s stores. He retired in 1988, but that culture carried on and is evident in Trader Joe’s stores today.
Mr. Coulombe said he always believed that it is the people that set Trader Joe’s apart, and we acknowledge that started with Joe, the company says.