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20 Things You Didn't Know about Trader Joe's

Do you shop at Trader Joe's? Many people do and even if you haven't ever set foot in one, you've certainly heard about them. Many people become very excited when they realize that a new Trader Joe's is coming to their city or town and it's understandable why they get so excited. This is a store that has a different atmosphere about it and you can find a lot of products there that you won't find anywhere else. If you want to know more about Trader Joe's, consider checking out these 20 fascinating items that are listed below.

1. It was founded in 1958

Many people, especially Millennials, have a tendency to think that the company is much newer than it actually is. It's frequently known as “the hip” place to shop, and many people that shop there on a regular basis don't realize that the store was actually founded more than a half-century ago. Granted, it's undergone a lot of changes since it was founded in 1958 but that doesn't change the fact that it's been around a lot longer than most people are willing to give it credit for.

2. The store has its roots in California

Back when the store first started, the very first location that would ultimately become Trader Joe's was located in Pasadena, California. As a direct result, many people considered the store to have roots in this western state. As a matter of fact, it started gaining popularity in the area and soon, many would argue ( quite successfully) that it was the most popular grocery store in the entire state of California. Its success soon led the owners of the store to make the decision to expand into other states. Today, Trader Joe's is known all over the country and most shoppers have access to at least one or two stores.

3. You could argue that those roots go all the way back to Germany

If you think that the store really got its start in California, you'd be mistaken. In reality, this store is an offshoot of the Aldi grocery store, which originated in Germany. Basically, that store came into existence in the 1930s when two brothers decided to carry on with their mother's chosen profession of owning a grocery store. They expanded into other countries and eventually, they began to disagree on the way that business should be handled. As such, one continued on with the Aldi stores and the other broke off and created his vision of what a grocery store should be in Trader Joe’s. However, both stores are actually operated under the same company name, even to this day. There are, however, major differences between the two, both in the way they look and in how they are operated from a business standpoint.

4. It’s still headquartered in California

In more modern times, it was determined that the headquarters of the store needed to be close to where it first became so popular. Eventually, it was decided that Monrovia, California would be the site of the original headquarters for Trader Joe’s. That headquarters is still operational today. As a matter of fact, the company eventually made the decision to expand, but that is something that will be discussed in a later paragraph.

5. It started out under a different name

If you're from the Los Angeles area and you were in the city during the 1960's and 70's, you might be familiar with the store under a different name. When it first got it start, it was designed to be more like a convenience store than a grocery store and it had a name that didn't even resemble Trader Joe’s. Instead, it was called Pronto. They were all over the Los Angeles area for a number of years, so if you spent any time there during those two decades, there's a better-than-average chance that you probably shopped inside one of those convenience stores yourself.

6. It’s not publicly traded

One of the things that still surprises many people is that Trader Joe's is not publicly traded on the stock market. This is one of those major differences that have already been mentioned between this store and Aldi. Aldi has been traded publicly for years but the individual responsible for creating the Trader Joe's chain made the decision a long time ago that the store would not be publicly traded, largely because he didn't want to make many of the things public knowledge that are required in order to do so.

7. The chain is operated through a family trust

For many years, the Traders Joe's chain of stores was operated by one of the two brothers that started the Aldi chain. Sadly, he passed away about eight years ago. Since then, the chain has been operated by a Family Trust and a whole host of individuals that are responsible for carrying out that Trust. Many people haven't noticed that a lot of changes have occurred to the store because he made it very clear in his will that he wanted the store operated in the same exact way that he had chosen to operate it for so many years. Since he had such a clear vision about the way he wanted to operate the store, he was always very adamant against the idea of anyone coming along after him and changing things. Therefore, he took the necessary steps to ensure that this would not be a problem and fans of the store went on shopping there, many of them without ever noticing any key differences at all.

8. It boasts corporate offices on both coasts

You might remember from an earlier paragraph that this is a store which has its headquarters located on Monrovia, California. You might also remember that the store is constantly expanding. More recently, it's massive expanse into other states necessitated a second headquarters, with this one being located in Boston, Massachusetts. This effectively allows those in charge of the chain to operate the stores more easily because they're in a better position as far as geographic location goes. After all, it's hard to effectively manage stores that are located in places like Massachusetts and New York from a headquarters that is on the opposite side of the country. Developing both a West Coast and East Coast headquarters give the company a lot more leeway when it comes to deciding how things should be operated on a day-to-day basis.

9. It’s been known as Trader Joe’s since the 1960s

Remember, the store was first known as Pronto, not Trader Joe’s. As a matter of fact, the name change didn't start taking place until about 1967. Clearly, it took several years to change the names on all the stores because there were still Pronto convenience stores in the Los Angeles area well into the early 1970s. With the name change came a change in the way the stores looked, as well as the purpose they served. This is how the grocery store that you know today eventually evolved into existence.

10. The store currently employs more than 38,000 people

You might be surprised that a grocery store chain could employ so many people but in this particular case, more than 38,000 people have a job thanks to the existence of this particular chain. That's largely because there are so many different stores that exist throughout various parts of the country. In addition, each one of those stores is fairly heavily stocked with employees, as one of the benefits of shopping there is being able to find a sales associate that can help you with any questions you might have without having to search all over the store in order to do it. These individuals also have a tendency to be more knowledgeable about the products they sell than people at most grocery stores, so the very business model of the chain itself necessitates that more employees be working in their stores at any given time.

11. The chain has over 450 stores

Currently, there are approximately 474 stores scattered throughout the United States. As previously mentioned, the chain is constantly expanding so this is a number that will change on a fairly routine basis. One of the things that the company is well known for is taking commercial buildings that have been abandoned, purchasing them, and then converting them into one of their stores. As a result, both the exterior and interior of each store can be exceptionally unique to that particular location. It also gives the stores an added level of character, not to mention helping to revitalize neighborhoods where businesses have closed down and are standing abandoned.

12. They have a presence in more than 40 states

To date, Trader Joe's has at least one store in 43 states, as well as the District of Columbia. Clearly, they have more than one location in most of these states but there are a few where they have only one. Eventually, the goal of the chain is to expand into all 50 states and to create a additional stores in many of these states, not only in major metropolitan areas, but also in suburbs, where more people are deciding to move in order to get out of the city. The store is well known for choosing some interesting locations, so it will be intriguing to see where they decide to build their next handful of stores for future grand openings.

13. It used to be associated with a popular convenience store chain

You already know that the store was once known as the Pronto convenience store, but what you might not know is the reason why it was eventually changed from a convenience store into a grocery store. At the time, there was another type of convenience store that was also immensely popular and many might argue that it still is today. It was the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores. The Pronto stores bared a close resemblance to the 7-Eleven chain, so much so that the owner of Pronto feared that the competition between the two would eventually cause both chains to fail. Not wanting to compete with a convenience store chain that was already well-established in many parts of the country, he made the decision to convert his stores from convenience stores to grocery stores and change the name. As they say, the rest is history.

14. It’s now considered a full-fledged grocery store

Thanks to this change, this is now a full-fledged grocery store chain that is capable of competing with just about anything else in the area. As a matter of fact, they're even more popular than Whole Foods, and they can certainly out do most typical local grocery stores.

15. It also has the highest sales per square foot of any store of its type

According to Forbes Magazine, if you're looking for sales per square foot, there is no grocery store in the country that makes more money than Trader Joe’s. That's saying a lot when you consider all of the high-end, specialty, and discount grocery stores that are out there.

16. Some people don’t like the fact that the company doesn’t disclose everything

There is no such thing as a company that always makes people happy. Trader Joe's has a tendency to keep things pretty quiet and they do a lot of things without letting the public know exactly what they're doing when it comes to business practices. There was a time when this wouldn't have been given a second thought but in today's world, everyone wants to know everything about what everyone else is doing. Therefore, it's created quite a ruckus among many individuals who believe that all of their business practices should be completely transparent.

17. They have made a point to let customers know about their organic products

One of the reasons that they're capable of out selling Whole Foods is because they have a number of organic products, many of them at a better price point.

18. They once took credit for a puff pastry and sausage product they didn’t invent

They called it the puff dog. Even though it had a cute name, it didn't take long for people all the way over in Germany to figure out what they were doing and call foul. They claimed that they were the ones responsible for the sausage wrapped in puff pastry, not Trader Joe’s. In addition, there is an independent bakery in the New York area that has been making these for years, long before Trader Joe's even came into existence.

19. They have been involved in a number of peanut butter recalls

If you watch the news, you know that there have been a number of times that products have been sold at Trader Joe's and then recalled. This isn't odd in and of itself, but it seems like they have a tendency to recall their peanut butter products more often than most places.

20. They’re known for selling wine for $2 per bottle

This is one of the reasons that store is so popular. The wine doesn't taste terrible and for $2 a bottle, most people feel like they can't go wrong. They get in the store to buy the wine and then find that they can get all of their other groceries there too, so it's the ultimate level of convenience.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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