How Trader Joe’s Exploits a Fading California Fantasy

In the Golden State It’s Getting Harder to Live the Good Life on the Cheap

For years, I’ve told children, newspaper editors, and other credulous people that I’m the Joe of Trader Joe’s. That’s, of course, a lie. But it is true that the store and I grew up in the very same neighborhood.

As a child in Pasadena, I rode my bike the two short blocks from my house to the Trader Joe’s on Arroyo Parkway—the original store, first opened by Joe Coulombe, a San Diego native and Stanford alum, back in 1967. It was known for being a cramped and cluttered place, mostly good …