Pasadena-Born Trader Joe’s Marks Start of 52nd Year With New Products, More Store Openings

Published : Monday, August 19, 2019 | 4:42 AM

It’s now the second year past the half-century mark for Trader Joe’s, and the iconic brand, which founder Joe Coulombe started in Pasadena  in 1967, is still winning new fans and growing.

This year alone, Trader Joe’s introduced 87 new food products across the United States and opening stores constantly.

The chain is not quite in 50 states yet – they’re in 41, to be exact. But in 2019, they’re opening four more in California, and even more along the East Coast.

The new California stores include Laguna Hills, where they already had a store but moved it to a new location and reopened in June; Santa Monica, La Habra and Laguna Del Rey.

On the East Coast, they’re adding one more store to the ten already in New York City, a second Boston store, and a fifth Washington, D.C. Store, which opened in July.

TJ’s new food products this year include new salad dressings and frozen veggie mixes. Just in July, Trader Joe’s introduced 11 items such as ube ice cream, crêpe wafer cookies, mac and cheese bites, seasoned ciabatta rolls and breakfast popsicles.

Much sought-after favorites are its Outside-In Stuffed Gnocchi – classic potato gnocchi packed with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and the Cinnamon Croissant Loaf.

Trader Joe’s evolved from a Los Angeles area chain of Pronto convenience stores that Coulombe developed in 1958 as a test brand to compete against 7-Eleven.

After setting up and running six Pronto Markets in Los Angeles for Rexall, the drug store chain asked him to close them down. Instead, he bought them out and started Trader Joe’s in 1967, setting up his first store on South Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena. That first store is still there.

German Theo Albrecht bought the company in 1979 as a personal investment for his family, and Coulombe was succeeded as CEO by John Shields in 1987. Under Shields’  leadership the company started expanding beyond California and opened store in Arizona and in the Pacific Northwest between 1993 and 1995.

In 1996, the company opened its first stores on the East Coast in Brookline and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Trader Joe’s still enjoys much popularity everywhere it goes, not simply because so many journalists frequent its locations but because it has retained focus on what really matters: making popular products available for its customers, at very sharp everyday prices.

On its website, Trader Joe’s still points to the private label manufacturing process legacy that founder Coulombe started in providing great value with their products. The chain typically buys direct from suppliers whenever possible, bargaining hard to get the best price and then passing on the savings to customers.

“We keep our costs low – because every penny we save is a penny you save,” the company says on its website, www.traderjoes.com.

For many in Pasadena, even those who have come from somewhere else and made the City their home, knowing that Trader Joe’s originated here and still keeps that original store in operation is a source of hometown pride.

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