Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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by Jason Snell

The cross-border appeal of Trader Joe’s

Here’s a fascinating commerce-as-culture story from Christopher Mele at the New York Times:

Pirate Joe’s, which for more than five years celebrated its status as an unauthorized importer of Trader Joe’s products with a blend of cheeky humor and David-versus-Goliath determination, closed its doors at 12:01 a.m. Thursday after a protracted legal battle with the American corporation.

Trader Joe’s is resolutely an American store, apparently, despite being owned by Germans. For non-Americans, Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that’s largely populated by store brands (rather than name-brand products), with good prices and frequently good quality. My family doesn’t do more than a fraction of our shopping at Trader Joe’s, but there are many items in our pantry that we only buy from Trader Joe’s.

I just love the idea that some dude in Vancouver loved Trader Joe’s so much that he set up a store and began reselling items bought across the border in Washington, like a reverse-bootlegger from the era of prohibition.

He would fill a cart with the items he needed and then have companions pay at the cashier — the most sensitive part of the expedition because it was where he most risked being spotted. In ads on Craigslist, Mr. Hallatt recruited “day laborers” for $25 an hour.

Alas, Pirate Joe’s is now dead. And while Trader Joe’s should probably consider expanding into Canada, Target remains an object lession in major American stores failing in the Great White North.

—Linked by Jason Snell

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