- Joe Coulombe, who founded the popular grocery store chain Trader Joe's in 1967, died at age 89 on Friday in Pasadena, California, following a long illness, his family confirmed to the AP.
- Coulombe created Trader Joe's on the idea that college-educated, young professionals would buy healthy foods if they could afford them.
- Today, Trader Joe's has more than 500 stores across the United States.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Joe Coulombe, the founder of ever-popular American grocery store chain Trader Joe's, died at age 89 on Friday at his home in Pasadena, California, his family confirmed to the AP.
Coulombe is survived by his wife, Alice; their three kids, their spouses, and six grandchildren.
Long before founding Trader Joe's in the 1960s, Coulombe grew up on an Avocado ranch near Del Mar, California. He served in the Air Force and attended Stanford University, studying economics and earning a master's in business administration. He also met his wife at Stanford.
Coulombe founded the grocery store on the idea that college-educated, young professionals would buy and eat healthy, fresh food if they could afford it. Enter Trader Joe's, which opened in 1967 in Pasadena, California, and later led to 15 more stores in California.
In an episode of the grocery chain's own "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast, Coulombe explained the genesis of Trader Joe's, saying that he knew there was a customer base who would want a different type of grocery-shopping experience.
"The demographics were changing in the United States because of the GI Bill of Rights, which was the largest experiment in mass higher education in the history of the human race. And I thought that these people would want something different," Coulombe said in the podcast.
In the early 1970s, the store started selling its own private-label products, which are arguably what continues to set Trader Joe's apart from other retailers. Today, many of its signature items, from Everything But the Bagel seasoning and cauliflower gnocchi, to its famously affordable wines, have a cult-like following, with people flocking to their local Trader Joe's just to stock up on the oftentimes cleverly named goods.
In 1979, Aldi Nord purchased Trader Joe's and continues to be its parent company today. In 1988, Coulombe retired from the company.
Today, Trader Joe's has more than 500 locations across 42 states in the US.
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