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5 surprising facts about Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is turning 50 and we're celebrating one of our favorite grocery stores with a look at some little-known facts about the chain.
/ Source: TODAY

So it might not be quite as exciting as the eclipse, but there's another event this week that we're still pretty psyched to celebrate.

This Friday, Aug. 25, will mark 50 years since the first Trader Joe's opened in Pasadena, California. In the half century since its birth, the tropically-inclined grocery chain has grown a lot — there are now 467 stores across the country where you can get your daily requirement of cookie butter (introduced at TJ's in 2012, by the way!), Mandarin orange chicken (introduced in 2004) and dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

First Trader Joe's
The original Trader Joe's in Pasadena, CA, in the 1960s.Photo Courtesy Trader Joe's (C) 2017, All Rights Reserved.

We know TODAY fans love Trader Joe's as much as we do, so let's help TJ's celebrate with a little trip down memory lane. Here are five fun facts about Trader Joe's you might not know.

1. Trader Joe's wasn't always Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's actually started out in 1958 as a small chain of convenience stores called Pronto Markets. In 1967, founder Joe Coulombe changed the name and transformed the business into a grocery store concept, which grew into the TJ's we know today.

Trader Joe's Hawaiian Shirt
The Hawaiian shirt has been a TJ's trademark since shortly after it opened.Photo Courtesy Trader Joe's © 2017, All Rights Reserved

2. The Hawaiian shirts go way back.

The tradition of employees wearing Hawaiian shirts started in 1969, a couple of years after the name change. "We wear Hawaiian shirts because we're traders on the culinary seas, searching the world over for cool items to bring home to our customers," explains the company's website.

3. You used to be able to buy panty hose at Trader Joe's.

The store is best known for selling food items but it has sold clothing in the past. TJ's started selling panty hose in 1973, but ditched the product in 1977.

4. TJ's was an early adopter of the reusable bag.

Trader Joe's reusable bag
Trader Joe's is selling this reusable bag for 50 cents during anniversary events.Photo Courtesy Trader Joe's © 2017, All Rights Reserved

Back before "Paper or plastic?" was even a question, in 1977 Trader Joe's introduced a reusable "Save-A-Tree" branded, canvas bag. That same year, the store introduced the sub-brands Trader Ming's, Trader Jose's, Trader Giotto's and Pilgrim Joe's.

5. There's a plastic lobster in every Trader Joe's.

A plastic lobster was first used as decoration in a Trader Joe's in 1976. Since 1983 there's been one in every store. A spokesperson for Trader Joe's says the lobsters actually don't have any particular meaning, besides being a fun part of the nautical theme at the store.