Joe Coulombe still has his fingerprints all over Trader Joe’s.
Founder of the food store that bears his name, Coulombe is responsible for the good selection of dried fruits and nuts, as well as the Hawaiian shirts employees wear.
Other trademarks are less visible. He decided to pay full-time employees the median California family income instead of “the quasi-serf environment of 7-Eleven.”
He also paid attention to his reading. Scientific American magazine alerted him in the 1960s that most people who qualified for college enrolled, and later that an environmental movement had gotten under way. Trader Joe’s still promotes healthy eating and caters to a college-educated crowd. In 1979, he sold the business to the Albrecht family.
“My children say that the Albrechts own the business,” he says, “but I own the cult.”
— Adapted from “Meet the Original Joe,” Beth Kowitt, Fortune.
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