Trader Joe's: A Mystery Wrapped In Mom-And-Pop Mystique

Trader Joe's is an "offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience," writes Fortune's Beth Kowitt in a long look at the operations of one of the hottest retailers in the U.S. There are now 344 stores in 25 states and Washington, D.C., and a long list of wannabe locations.

The story is replete with phrases such as "yuppie-friendly," "goofy trademark Hawaiian shirts" and "cheerfully refund" but Kowitt is definitely on the outside looking in. Management is "obsessively secret," she reports, and has never participated in a major story about its business operations. Including this one.

But analysts and former insiders say that the company has a winning formula and could easily triple its size in the coming years if it continues to come across to shoppers as a mom-and-pop operation. "They see themselves as a national chain of neighborhood specialty grocery stores," says Pepperdine University professor Mark Mallinger. But there are "buts," of course.

Some former employees claim that CEO Dan Bane has made Trader Joe's more corporate and added layers of management. That may not matter if it's transparent to what one observer jokes is the typical shopper: a "Volvo-driving professor who could be CEO of a Fortune 100 company if he could get over his capitalist angst."

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1 comment about "Trader Joe's: A Mystery Wrapped In Mom-And-Pop Mystique ".
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  1. Perry Schaffer, August 26, 2010 at 1:52 p.m.

    See the film referenced in this story: