Want a Trader Joe’s? We had one

TRADER JOE’S has over 500 stores in the country, but one of the first was in Garden Grove.

In various studies and surveys, both formal and informal, when Garden Grove residents were asked about which store they’d most like to see open in The Big Strawberry, the answer is usually: Trader Joe’s.

The recent death of Joe Coulombe, the founder of the eclectic home of “Two Buck Chuck,” raised in conversation what seemed to be an urban legend, which is that Trader Joe’s actually got its start in Garden Grove.

We always dismissed that as folklore, such as the story that Disneyland originally wanted to locate in the GG. But we heard it enough to do some digging and asking.

Here’s the back-story. Coulombe was working for the Rexall drug chain when they asked him to start a chain of convenience stores. So he created the operation called “Pronto,” centered in Southern California. After a while a giant rival – Southland, based in Texas, announced plans to enter the SoCal market with its 7-11 stores.

Convinced that Pronto could not compete with that behemoth, Coulombe – who acquired his creation in 1958 – mulled his choices and came up with the Trader Joe’s concept of a kind of pirate-waterfront theme. The year was 1957. Fishing nets, offbeat food and drink choices and friendly employees was the style, and it caught on.

HIGHLAND #2 on West Street in Garden Grove (Orange County Tribune photo).

Today, Trader Joe’s has over 500 stores. But was one of them, you know, once here?

Yes. Located just north of Westhaven Park – in area of Chapman Avenue and West Street – is a convenience store operating under the name of Highland’s #2, previously a Certified Market. That’s where the Trader Joe’s was allegedly located.

We walked in, questioned the manager, and yes, the tales are true.

(By the way, there are three Trader Joe’s in Huntington Beach).

It did have its origin as Pronto, was converted to Trader Joe’s in the late Sixties, didn’t last long in that form and it has operated under different names and formats ever since. He even said there was a photo around of the old operation, although it wasn’t handy.

So, those of you who still long for TJ’s, instead of calling for it to come to Garden Grove, you can now just say, “Bring Back Trader Joe’s.” It worked for the Rams.

Tales of the coronavirus jitters

Mostly overshadowing the 2020 presidential campaigns and the onset of the new baseball season is the fear, verging on panic, of the fast-moving coronavirus. Originating in China, this malady attacks the respiratory functions and – as yet – has no vaccine or cure. As you no doubt have seen, concerns have rippled across the world and even Orange County.

WALMART was hit by a run on bottled water and more.

While Southern California hasn’t been hit hard, folks are taking precautions. Costcos and Walmarts are being stripped bare of bottled water, toilet paper and paper towels.  The assumption is that if the virus continues to spread a) you want to stay away from crowded stores and b) other people wanting to stay away from crowded stores will strip bare the shelves of things you may want.

Long-timers say they haven’t seen anything like it since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in terms of panic-buying and hording.

It’s even affected our daily interactions. We’re hugging less and waving more. A senior citizen’s home in Stanton is urging people to “fist bump” instead of shaking hands, and we’re all being ordered to wash our hands a lot and stop touching our faces.

Just where this is going, no one is sure. But it goes to show us that what happens thousands of miles away really can affect us, and in a big way.

Usually Reliable Sources is posted on alternate weeks, usually on Wednesdays.







2 replies »

  1. I once read an article in a magazine (either Time or Newsweek) that was an interview with Trader Joe’s people and it was said that Trader Joe’s was originally started for the convenience of both the Legal Profession and the Teaching Profession; it went on further to state that “the educational level” of Garden Grove’s adult population did not warrant locating a Trader Joe’s in Garden Grove. I was astounded at yhr time.Don Reid

  2. I have lived here for a year, in a senior living facility. After meeting the adult and younger population, I have to agree with your comment on the “article “. So many of the people I have seen seem to retreat into their ethnic groups and shun the rest of society. I grew up in the NY area melting pot, and the newcomers grew into the mainstream of this country. They did not retreat, they advanced with pride, and now they are gone.

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