Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys

When I visit the US, I always make it a point to visit Trader Joe’s. As an artist, it is a treasure trove of creativity bursting all over the store. The unique food designs are pleasing to the eye as well as to the stomach. Joe Coulombe took store brand products to a whole new level. Artists always had a fondness for diverse foods out of the norm. Trader Joe’s nourishes all sectors of life with a motley selection of foods from all corners of the world. Patty Civalleri co-authors with Joe Coulombe’s as they examine Joe’s rise from obscurity to a foodie darling to the masses. The people that shop at Trader Joe’s are passionate about their stomachs. Readers will become enamored with Joe’s Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys with the help of Patty Civalleri. It’s too bad Joe would get to see the publication of the book, he passed away in 2020.

Trader Joe’s is one of the most beloved grocery brands in America today, with loyal fans that have accumulated over 50 years. The story of its revolutionary success is told by the founder, Joe Coulombe, who truly was a visionary. This book takes the reader on an exploration into the creative and expansive mind of a true entrepreneur who made his riches by seeing opportunities where others would miss them.

We should all be inspired to think like Joe. He shares how to get from ‘where you are’ to ‘where you want to be’ by thinking outside the box. What a fascinating life! ” — Jack Canfield, Author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

In 1967, Joe owned 16 “variety stores” when a Texas retail force was positioned to come to California and challenge Joe’s success. That “Texas force” was the 7-11 retail chain. This created a cathartic reaction in Joe. But he was destined not to fail.

The concept for Trader Joe’s coalesced from several pieces of stimuli: a popular Theme Park boat ride, movies like “Beyond the Reef” were playing in the theaters, and the fact that Trader Vic’s had invented and popularized the Mai Tai drink with little umbrellas. All of these pieces came together in Joe’s mind to form his final vision.

“At a time in American history when frozen dinners and processed foods were the trusted staples, Joe saw the opportunity to create a different type of grocery store for the ‘over-educated and underpaid’ consumer, the burgeoning middle class. The book is filled with stories of brilliant marketing moves, including the story about ‘Extra-large eggs’ that readers will surely enjoy.” — Leroy Watson, Joe’s first employee, and life-long friend.

In his own words, Joe takes us on a journey from the different phases and business strategies of Trader Joe’s which in many ways mirrored the same growth and expansion Joe went through personally throughout the process. From the “Good Time Charlie” phase where the signature Hawaiian shirt was born to the “Whole Earth Harry” phase in which the organic food strategy came to fruition to the “Mac the Knife” phase which catapulted Trader Joe’s to the success it still enjoys today.

Joe Coulombe passed away in 2020 at the age of 89 during the publication of this book. In celebration of his life and as a true labor of love, co-author Patty Civalleri and Joe’s right-hand man Leroy Watson, have made it their mission to fulfill Joe’s legacy by following through with the publication of Joe’s book.

Becoming Trader Joe is now being packaged as a limited episode series for sale to the cable and streaming platforms. “This is a true ‘David and Goliath’ story,” said Civalleri. “Joe went up against the big guys and by all accounts, he shouldn’t have succeeded.” The book Becoming Trader Joe is scheduled for release on June 22, 2021.

Author Bio: 

Joe Coulombe (1930 – 2020) founded Trader Joe’s in 1967 which has become one of America’s most beloved grocery store chains. Coulombe successfully built the Trader Joe platform until his retirement in 1988 and is thought to be one of the great American entrepreneurs. Coulombe grew up on an avocado farm just outside of San Diego, California. He attended Stanford University earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Masters in Business. Coulombe served on several corporate boards and consulted for many companies including Patrinis, Sport Chalet, Big 5, and Thrifty Corp. Joe and his beloved wife Alice were married over 60 years and have three children.

Patty Civalleri is a historian, global archaeology professional, public speaker, and award-winning author, who has traveled internationally exploring lost civilizations and international cuisine. Civalleri’s travel books have won 14 global awards including the coveted Irwin Award for the 2017 Best International Travel Book of the Year. Civalleri has served on several boards including the Director’s Council of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA and the Board of the Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies at California State University in Long Beach. She has a passion for international cuisine and is a self-proclaimed foodie who loves to cook. Civalleri resides in Long Beach with her husband Roger.