LOS ANGELES, CA. (THECOUNT) — Joe Coulombe, founder of popular boutique food market, Trader Joe’s, has passed away. He was 89.

Coulombe sold Trader Joe’s to German grocery retailer Aldi in 1979 where he remained as CEO until 1988. He later left to launch a second career as interim CEO or consultant for several large companies in transition. He retired in 2013.


Born Joseph Hardin Coulombe, in San Diego, California, he lived on an avocado ranch in nearby Del Mar. After serving in the Air Force, he attended Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s in business administration and met and married his wife, Alice, reports WFLA.

Coulombe and his wife also became well known in Southern California philanthropic circles, contributing time and money to such causes as Planned Parenthood, the Los Angeles Opera and the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens.

Stories differ on how the name Trader Joe’s came about, with some saying it was inspired by a ride on Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise boat or a book he read called “White Shadows in the South Seas” or his favorite college hangout being a Trader Vic’s bar near Stanford.

In addition to his three children and wife of 67 years, Coulombe is survived by six grandchildren.

A cause of death was not provided.