Trader Joe’s founder dies at 89

Trader Joe

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Trader Joe's was founded by Joe Coulombe, who got his start running a group of convenience stores.

Joe Coulombe, who founded Trader Joe’s, the popular grocery known for its kitschy vibe and beloved private label wine dubbed “Two Buck Chuck,” died late Friday night at his  Pasadena, California home. He was 89.

Coulombe’s son, also named Joe, said in a statement his father died following a long illness.

Born on June 3, 1930, Coulombe was raised on an avocado ranch in Del Mar, California, near San Diego. He served a year in the Air Force and got a bachelor’s degree in economics, followed by an MBA from Stanford University in 1954.

Coulombe met his wife, Alice Steere, at a party while in college. They married in 1952, when they were both in graduate school, and went on to have three children.

First convenience, then groceries

In 1958, Coulombe went to work for Rexall Drugs, where he was tasked with creating a group of convenience stores similar to 7-Eleven. He worked without pay in a grocery store to better understand the business.

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