Trader Joe's Founder Joins Sport Chalet : Retailing: Joe Coulombe, 64, is named president of La Canada Flintridge-based sporting-goods chain.


Joe Coulombe, who founded Trader Joe's, the multimillion-dollar gourmet food and liquor stores, has been appointed president of Sport Chalet Inc., a La Canada Flintridge-based chain of sporting-goods stores that posted sales of more than $122 million last year.

Coulombe, a Pasadena resident who served on the Sport Chalet corporate board of directors during 1993-94, will replace Sam Allen, who is resigning after 11 years to pursue other opportunities.

"We are extremely fortunate to have available to us a person of Mr. Coulombe's proven ability and retailing experience," said Norbert Olberz, the company's chairman.

Industry analysts also applauded the move, saying Coulombe is a solid name in Southern California retailing.

"We expect him to move in and basically fine-tune the operations as opposed to making any kind of radical changes," said Martin Cosgrove, vice president of investment research at Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles.

"He's familiar with the company, and yet he's an outsider, which can bring new angles. It's a good combination," Cosgrove said.

Coulombe, 64, founded the first Trader Joe's in South Pasadena in 1967, capitalizing on increasingly sophisticated and traveled consumers he believed would buy exotic foods from around the world.

The offbeat retailing formula worked, and Trader Joe's boomed and expanded. In 1979, Coulombe sold the chain to the Albrecht family of German grocery store tycoons, but served as chief executive until 1989, when he left to pursue a series of top jobs at firms that owned food, drug and sporting-goods chains.

Sport Chalet, which was founded with one store in La Canada Flintridge in 1958, was a family-owned business for many years. The company has since expanded to 17 stores in Southern California with sales of more than $122 million.

Just before moving to Sport Chalet, Coulombe was president and chief executive officer of Provigo Corp., a large food retailer and wholesaler based in Northern California.

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