Trader Joe’s Founder Joe Coulombe Dies Aged 89

by : Julia Banim on : 29 Feb 2020 15:27
Trader Joe's Founder Joe Coulombe Dies Aged 89Trader Joe's Founder Joe Coulombe Dies Aged 89PA/Shutterstock

Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe has died at the age of 89 following a long illness.


Joe, sometimes known as ‘Two Buck Chuck,’ passed away at his home in Pasadena, California. His son, also named Joe, confirmed his father’s passing in a statement.

Born June 3, 1930, Coulombe grew up on an avocado ranch in Del Mar, California, near San Diego. After serving a year in the Air Force, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, followed by an MBA from Stanford University in 1954.

In 1958, Joe began work for Rexall Drugs, where he was asked to create a group of convenience stores comparable to 7-Eleven. He worked unpaid in a grocery store in order to gain a better understanding of the business.


This new chain was named Pronto Markets. When Rexall decided to shut it down, Joe purchased the locations and began running the stores himself.

By 1967, 7-Eleven was opening up further locations in California, and Joe opted to kickstart a brand new, notably different type of supermarket chain.

The very first Trader Joe’s store was opened in Pasadena, California in 1967, and was a pioneering move forward. Stocking the sort of healthy, high-quality food most supermarkets didn’t offer, the produce was also affordable for those who couldn’t afford to frequent high end stores.

The business went on to flourish from being cult favourite among discerning young people to a retail behemoth, with over 500 outlets spanning more than 40 US states.

Reflecting on his father’s legacy, son Joe said, via AP News:

He wanted to make sure whatever was sold in our store was of good value.

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.

Joe and his wife, Alice Steere, met in college. They got married in 1952, with their marriage lasting 67 years. Joe also leaves behind three children and six grandchildren.


Our thoughts are with the family of Joe Coulombe at this difficult time.

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, California, Grocery Store, Joe Coulombe, Trader Joe's


  1. AP

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