Becoming Trader Joe

Joe Coulombe

As a longtime fan of the Trader Joe's chain of grocery stores, I was intrigued when I came across this book. More than just a chronicle of how the chain was founded, the book is full of founder Joe Coulombe's business advice based on a career in the supermarket industry.

The book is a unique look into some of the deals made that led to the chain's success and sheds light on the inner workings of the industry that would otherwise have remained largely hidden. It is, however, a bit incoherent and difficult to follow. Regardless, it was a lot of fun to learn more about the supermarket chain I've been visiting for quite some time, and how it became so successful.

The book touches on a wide breadth of topics that appeal to me: wine manufacturing and purchasing, the computerization of the industry, and managing and scaling a business while dealing with local and federal regulations.

Favorite Quotes

"If you adopt a reasonable strategy, as opposed to waiting for an optimum strategy, and stick with it, you’ll probably succeed. Tenacity is as important as brilliance."

"As we evolved Trader Joe’s, its greatest departure from the norm wasn’t its size or its decor. It was our commitment to product knowledge, something which was totally foreign to the mass-merchant culture, and our turning our backs to branded merchandise."

“In a lecture at the University of Southern California Business School, I talked about this. A young woman raised her hand: “But how could you afford to pay so much more than your competition?” The answer, of course, is that good people pay by their extra productivity. You can’t afford to have cheap employees.”