Trader Joe’s: A Small Town, Family Feeling


If you’ve had the privilege of visiting one of the 500+ Trader Joe’s neighborhood grocery stores, then you’re not at all surprised Forbes named them America’s Best Employer of 2019. You feel the culture the moment you walk in! Every employee seems genuinely excited to be at work, whether they are stocking shelves, offering samples, or working the register. There’s a good chance they have tried the products you are inquiring about and/or purchasing, and they are eager to give endorsements and recipe recommendations. Whichever city you may be in, shopping at Trader Joe’s gives you a small town, family feeling.

How do they create such a unique experience? I think any Trader Joe’s team member would say it starts with employee engagement in a team-minded atmosphere, where they know their growth and development is a priority. Founder Joe Coulombe created a hierarchy where each store is operated individually by a Captain (store manager), 8-12 Mates (supervisors), and a Crew (referred to as the “bread and butter” on the Trader Joe’s website). Their website also reports that 78% of Mates started as Crew, and 100% of Captains were promoted from the Mate role.

Trader Joe’s understanding that happy employees make happy shoppers has motivated them to cultivate an environment where engaging at work helps employees meet their maximum personal and professional potential. A beautiful byproduct of this is the tight-knit relationships formed at each store and within the larger Trader Joe’s family. Hayley Benham-Archdeacon-Lattice says, “Workplaces often like to put you in a room together and tell you you’re a family now, but it was intensely true at Trader Joe’s. I have met best friends, surrogate parents, and real-life comedic inspirations–but the familial feelings span across the whole company. If you go into any other store and ask for your employee discount at the register, the mate who comes out to key it in greets you like a long-lost relative.”

Furthermore, the happy shoppers have turned into a loyal cult following! So despite the increasing availability of unconventional online grocery shopping, this charming little neighborhood market is not going anywhere. Because they made their Crew the “bread and butter.” Simple as that.

That’s our spark, what’s yours?