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Patt Morrison Asks

Joe's Joe: Joe Coulombe

Everybody's got a Trader Joe's story, and the original one belongs to the original Joe, Joe Coulombe.

May 07, 2011|Patt Morrison

It's based on Consumer Reports physically, page size, column width, but I jazzed it up with cartoons. And its writing: I [emulated] New York magazine. Writing that copy was another form of getting educated.

Because we didn't have any money, I only used artwork [from] prior to 1906 because there was no copyright until 1906. So I collected adventure books from the 1860s and Punch Magazine and Harper's for the cartoons. In those days you didn't have Photoshop. I [did it] with scissors and Scotch tape.

The original South Seas theme has been downplayed.

I read that the 747 would radically reduce the cost of travel, and I came up with the term "Trader" to evoke the South Seas. The first stores were loaded with marine artifacts. We'd go down to the docks in San Pedro, we'd buy flags, chains, all that stuff. I [put] walk-in boxes in the shape of ships with cannon in the middle of the stores. That was a terrible idea.

Trader Joe's has a no-questions-asked return policy. I just returned a guacamole-hummus mix. It was disgusting.

My daughters love hummus. My wife likes it. I don't like it. It's a downer flavor.

This interview was edited and excerpted from a longer taped transcript. Interview archive:

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