Pasadena's Favorite Success Story is America's Best Large Employer, Too, as Trader Joe's Takes Top Honors

Published : Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | 5:14 PM

Trader Joe’s, the grocery chain that first opened in Pasadena in 1967 and has now grown to over 480 stores in 42 states throughout the United States, is the best place to work for among large companies in America, Forbes and survey market research firm Statista said in their new Best Large Employers report this wee.

The report surveyed 50,000 workers at companies with over 5,000 employees and found that the grocery chain which businessman Joe Coulombe founded and is now owned by Aldi is on top of the list when it came down to a range of factors like atmosphere, remuneration and working conditions.

Now based in Monrovia, Trader Joe’s, with its simple selection of products and chilled out dress code, was named as the favorite among workers thanks to its higher-than-average wages, ample benefits packages, perks like new product taste tests, and a team-minded atmosphere.

“We’ve been around for over 50 years, and we’ve never had layoffs,” Jon Basalone, president of stores at Trader Joe’s, told Forbes in an interview. “We stay true to what we know works for Trader Joe’s and our crew members. You combine that with the pay, benefits and supportive, fun environment, and people tend to want to stick around.”

The company also takes a different approach from the common notion that a minimum wage prescribed by law must be the minimum wage paid to front-line employees. What it does is establish unique base wages in each of the markets where they set up shop, and decides on what range will attract the best in any given area, such that even part-time crew members can earn up to $24.75 an hour – nearly twice as much as the nation’s highest minimum wage.

The chain, open 18 hours a day, also offers a lot of flexibility in working hours, Basalone said.

“No matter what people have going on in their lives – whether they’re students, whether this is their second job, whether they’re pursuing other interests and just need a job, we can help them,” Basalone tells Forbes. “We hire individuals, we embrace their individuality and we get the work done through teamwork.”

In the large employers list, Southwest Airlines came in second, and pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly followed in third place, the report showed.

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. He was working with the Rexall, the drugstore chain, when he launched Pronto.

After setting up and running six Pronto Markets in Los Angeles, Rexall asked Coulombe to close them down. Instead, he decided to buy them out and started Trader Joe’s in 1967, setting up his first store on South Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena. It’s still there.

In a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Coulombe recalled why he chose to open in Pasadena.

“Scientific American had a story that of all people qualified to go to college, 60 percent were going. I felt this newly educated – not smarter but better-educated – class of people would want something different, and that was the genesis of Trader Joe’s,” he says. “All Trader Joe’s were located near centers of learning. Pasadena, where I opened the first one, is the epitome of a well-educated town. I reframed this: Trader Joe’s is for overeducated and underpaid people, for all the classical musicians, museum curators, journalists – that’s why we’ve always had good press, frankly!”

With good take-home pay, staff health insurance, and a retirement plan, Trader Joe’s employees ranked the store an average of 9.59 out of 10 in the Forbes/Statista survey.

Also making the top five in the survey was wholesale store Costco at No. 4, and electronics company Garmin at No. 5.

For a full list of the top large employers, visit







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