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Pirate Joe's

8am-8pm 7 Days. Café in September!

Trader Joe’s wants to control the market for it’s products. Nice idea for a business. Bad idea for a consumer. Free enterprise means entrepreneurs will find and serve markets, especially underserved ones like Vancouver. 

People have an unassailable right to sell what they own. When Trader Joe’s sells me Baked Cheese Crunchies their right to the product is exhausted after I pay for it. I get to do whatever I want with my Cheesies. I like to re-sell mine to my friends in Vancouver. 

Trader Joe’s has a history of threatening legal action against people who try to service markets they don’t. Last year a mom in Riverhead New York set up a business delivering TJ’s to her neighbors. TJ’s threatened her with a lawsuit. 

The first incarnation of my business operated out of a defunct Romanian bakery the size of a large closet. The sign outside said Transilvania Trading. The only way you would know what was going on inside was if you came in looking for bread or got word on the DL from a friend. Trader Joe’s threatened  to sue me over it. 

The names Pirate Joe’s, irate Joe’s and Super Pirate Joe’s are responses to Trader Joe’s threats. They are also shorthand for ‘unaffiliated, unauthorized and unafraid’. I do not confuse people or trade on Trader Joe’s brand. If changing the shop name to "Mike’s Grocieries" would spare the world this ridiculous lawsuit I would happily comply. But it won’t. 

The TJ’s v. Mike lawsuit has been stuck in the weeds around questions of jurisdiction but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently cleared that away so the lawsuit can begin. 

Can I buy food products retail, put them in my car, drive them up the freeway and re-sell them? Or, by doing so, do I damage the products and therefore lose my right to re-sell?

I think it’s too grey to answer without a lot of bickering over the van, the shoppers and the handling of bags of groceries. I admit we toss the stuff around: into the cart, into bags with unreliable handles, back into a cart that bumps across the parking lot, into the van with a busted window, up the jammed highway, into the funky store, onto wooden shelves and into the arms of thankful people. TJ’s has pallets of food sitting out in the parking lot on Sepulveda under the hot LA sun. Their stuff is fine. So is mine. 

Why bother? I ask myself that every morning and every afternoon people stop in to answer - “thank you, we love what you are dong, keep it up! And, can you get me some of those Cheese Crunchies?”


Pirate Joe's is an unaffiliated unauthorized re-seller of Trader Joe's products (we were sued, they lost, they appealed, they won a second try). We stock what we are asked to stock by Trader Joe's lovers who don't always have the time (or a car or a passport) to head south to Bellingham (the nearest Trader Joe's). We buy retail from Trader Joe's then import everything legally and add Canadian compliant ingredient and nutrition facts labels. We have to pay the rent and the help (and the label supplier) so prices are about 30-40 percent higher than at Trader Joe's. We also import other brands Canadians are duped out of. If you have a request we can usually get it for you within a week (no cheese - call your MP).