In 1958, founder Joe Coulombe managed the new Pronto Markets chain in California, which later becomes Trader Joe’s. Joe Coulombe developed the idea of the Trader Joe South Seas motif while on vacation in the Caribbean. He liked the idea of bringing home new and unique items that were not available in the local markets, at that time. In the beginning, some of the stores offered meats provided by butchers who leased space in the stores, as well as other fresh picked fruits and vegetables from local producers.
The first Trader Joe’s store debuted in South Pasadena, California in 1967. 12 years later, it was bought out by the Albrecht family. Joe Coulombe remained active within the company as a counselor until 1988, until he was succeeded by longtime friend and colleague John V. Shields.
Trader Joe’s starts to really take off at this time, and reaches about $150 million in sales in 1989. Steady growth compels the executives at Trader Joe’s to expand beyond California, into Arizona, pushing their number of stores to 59 in 1989.
By 1994, Trader Joe’s is consistently reaching $600 million in US sales annually, and opens stores in Seattle and Oregon. With the addition of the Trader Joe’s web site in 1996, they also open up more stores on the East Coast, in Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York. Along with this move, they also expand their nonfood specialty business.
Having outgrown their present location, Trader Joe’s decides to move the company headquarters to Monrovia, California. They also made the move away from genetically modified ingredients from its private-label products; and decided to exclude products from China amidst claims that organic food from this country contained less than true organic ingredients.
By 2009, Trader Joe’s had grown to a total of 353 stores, in 27 States, including Washington, D.C., with sales of over $8 billion US.
Headquarters: Monrovia, California
No. of Stores: 353 (2010)
No. of Employees: 7,488 (2001)
Geography: 353 stores, in 27 States, including Washington, D.C.
Special Services: gourmet foods, organic foods, vegetarian food, unusual frozen foods, imported foods, domestic and imported wine and beer, and staples like bread, cereal, eggs, dairy, coffee and produce. Non-food items include personal hygiene products, household cleaners, vitamins, pet food, plants, and flowers.
Trader Joe’s promises that anything with a “Trader Joe’s” logo contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, no MSG or trans fats, and is sourced from non-genetically modified ingredients.
Trader Jose’s (Mexican food), Trader Ming’s (Chinese food), and Baker Josef’s (flour and bagels).
By selling almost all of its products under its own label, Trader Joe’s “skips the middle man” and buys directly from both local and international small-time vendors.