Meet “Pirate Joe’s,” The Trader Joe’s Bootleggers

Trader Joe’s offers Americans reasonably priced gourmet food that is, objectively, freakin’ delicious. Now the secretive grocery giant is chasing after a brave Canadian entrepreneur who wants his countrymen to enjoy cookie butter and meatless meatballs. You see, Michael Hallatt is a Vancouver resident who runs a store called Pirate Joe’s which sells Trader Joe’s imports to Canadians at a reasonable markup. He’s now being sued by Trader Joe’s, which accuses him of trademark infringement, unfair competition, deceptive business practices, and a host of other charges.

Hallatt has cleverly renamed his store “Irate Joe’s” since the lawsuit was filed, but customers seem to love the place. Yelp reviews are mostly positive, with users thanking them for a “clean store with all the familiar Trader Joe’s labels.” In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Hallatt said, “Trader Joe’s thinks Canadians are too ignorant not to tell the difference between the empire and my little shop on Fourth Avenue.” A sign outside the store reads “Unauthorized. Unaffiliated. Unafraid.”

The store is stocked thanks to weekly shopping trips across the border that usually end with Hallatt buying $4,000-$5,000 worth of food. Pacific Northwest Trader Joe’s locations have been given his picture along with instructions not to let him in the store, so it’s been a bit of a cat and mouse game for the businessman. Trader Joe’s filed for a Canadian trademark in 2010 and, although the chain does not have any stores in Canada, they do have stores located within a half-hour drive of the Canadian border in many major markets.

[Image: Flickr user Food IQ]NU