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Make your mark: Trader Joe’s

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Profiles in Leadership

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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mark Gardiner August 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Joe may have owned the cult, and above average retail salaries were a small part of it. But there’s a lot more that explains how Trader Joe’s built one of America’s strongest brands, virtually without brand advertising. How did they do it? One thing’s for sure, they won’t tell you; TJ’s is one of America’s most secretive companies. That’s why, after 20 years in the ad business, I took a $12/hour job to research my book, “Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s” (available on Amazon.) To learn more about this fascinating company, visit my blog at


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