A look back at the life of Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe, a world traveler who served in the Air Force and used to do taste tests to make sure shoppers were getting a good value

trader joe's Joe Coulombetrader joe's Joe Coulombe

Joe Coulombe founded Trader Joe’s in 1967.

John Blackmer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images


  • Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe died on February 28.
  • Coulombe was 89 years old.
  • The retail icon is best known for founding Trader Joe’s, a popular grocery chain with a penchant for quirky offerings.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe died on February 28 at the age of 89.

He founded his namesake chain of stores in 1967, seeking to cater to educated, health-conscious shoppers on the hunt for novelty and value. 

His stores became famous for their jaunty, nautical vibe, staffed by crews and helmed by captains. The Associated Press reported that Coulombe was a world traveler who enjoyed seeking out new experiences and products around the world.

During his tenure as CEO, Coulombe’s son Joe told the Associated Press that his father would often do “lots of taste tests” himself, to ensure that his customers were receiving “good food and good value.”

Here’s a look back at the late founder’s life and career:

Coulombe was born in 1930 in San Diego. He served in the Air Force and later graduated from Stanford, according to the Associated Press.

trader joe's store



John Blackmer/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images


Source: Business Insider, Associated Press, Insider Trader Joe’s

He pivoted to grocery stores nearly a decade later in 1967, when he opened the first Trader Joe’s in Pasadena, California. That inaugural store is still in existence today.

trader joe's store



Chris Pizzello/AP Images


Source: Business Insider, Associated Press, Insider Trader Joe’s

Coulombe stepped down from the helm in 1988, and went on to serve as a business consultant for other big companies, the Associated Press reported. He retired from the retail industry for good in 2013.

trader joe's employee



Cliff Grassmick/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images


Source: Business Insider, Associated Press, Insider Trader Joe’s

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