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

Joe Coulombe's family says he died Friday at age 89.
Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
FILE PHOTO: The Trader Joe's sign is seen during the grand opening of a Trader Joe's on October 18, 2013 in Pinecrest, Florida.

LOS ANGELES — The man who created Trader Joe’s markets with a vision that college-educated but poorly paid young people would buy healthy foods if they could only afford them has died.

Joe Coulombe's family says he died Friday at age 89.

He opened the first of his quirky, nautically themed markets in Pasadena, California, in 1967. He stocked it with granola, organic foods and other items he bought directly from suppliers to hold prices down. The store was run by people who were described as “traders on the high seas.”

The first store is still operating and it's in its original location.

Joe retired in 1988 when Trader Joe's had 19 stores. Now, the chain has more than 500 stores in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

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Credit: AP
This circa 1985 photo provided by Esme Gibson shows Joe Coulombe, the founder of the Trader Joe's market chain, at his home in Pasadena, Calif. Coulombe, the man who created Trader Joe's markets with a vision that college-educated but poorly paid young people would buy healthy foods if they could only afford them, has died. Coulombe's family says he died Friday, Feb. 28, 2020 at age 89. He opened the first of his quirky, nautically themed markets in Pasadena, California, in 1967. He stocked it with granola, organic foods and other items he bought directly from suppliers to hold prices down. Trader Joe's now has more than 500 stores in over 40 states. (Image by Esme via AP)

“He wanted to make sure whatever was sold in our store was of good value,” said Coulombe’s son, also named Joe, told the Associated Press. “He always did lots of taste tests. My sisters and I remember him bringing home all kinds of things for us to try. At his offices he had practically daily tastings of new products. Always the aim was to provide good food and good value to people.”