Enchanted Aisles

Why do people love Trader Joe’s so much? To understand the quirky chain’s success, you have to look to its founder, Joe Coulombe—and then to a former German mogul named Theo Albrecht. Grab some edamame and pull up a chair.
  1. A man named Joe Coulombe purchased a string of six convenience stores named Pronto and reshaped them into a grocery business that would become the city’s most influential food provider. His early experiments at the new Trader Joe’s were fitful: He sold Bible bread for 69 cents and Playboy at 10 percent off; he developed Kodacolor prints and ran weekly specials on can openers. What Coulombe eventually landed on sounds simple today, but no one had thought of it before: He grafted the gourmet store onto the convenience store onto the health food store onto the liquor store (dropping, of course, the Playboy).

    He told anyone who would ask him, “I sell food, where other markets sell groceries,” and beneath one fluorescent lighting system he gathered the cuisines of Mexico, Italy, China, Greece, France, and Japan long before most Angelenos had heard of sushi or tasted pad thai. He sold whole bean coffee years before Starbucks debuted in 1971, and he became the country’s largest importer of...

The complete text of “Enchanted Aisles” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on www.lamag.com.

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