Pirate Joe’s (3744 West 10th Avenue), an unauthorized Trader Joe’s reseller in Point Grey, shut its doors for good last night (June 7), effectively raising the white flag in a five-year legal battle with the American grocery behemoth.
The closure comes a little over a week after Pirate Joe’s owner Mike Hallatt launched a crowdfunding campaign to help cover the store’s legal fees. He had hoped to raise $50,000 by the end of June, which would help him defend his business against Trader Joe’s claims of trademark infringement in U.S. federal court.
As of June 7, however, the campaign had only collected $5,765. Therefore, Hallatt has decided to reach a settlement with Trader Joe’s. “If we were going to trial, it would be just prohibitively expensive for me,” he told CTV News. “And as an individual, I just can't get there from here. We're agreeing to disagree on the merits of the case.”
Trader Joe’s sent Pirate Joe’s a cease-and-desist letter in 2012, when it opened at its original location on West Broadway. In 2013, it sued Pirate Joe’s for copyright violation and false advertising. Although a Washington-state judge dismissed that case, Trader Joe’s was able to return the dispute to court by alleging that Hallatt was compromising the quality of its products by transporting them from the U.S. to Canada. The two retailers were due to stand trial in November.
“It’s a blatant attempt to bury me with legal expenses,” Hallatt said during an interview with the Georgia Straight last week.
During the on-and-off battle, the case became known as “David v. Goliath” to Pirate Joe’s supporters and long-time customers. Hallatt also dropped the “P” from the Pirate Joe’s signage, becoming “Irate Joe’s” in response to Trader Joe’s actions. A former tech-industry worker, he opened Pirate Joe's as a way to share the specialty and health-oriented food items he enjoyed during his time living in California.
Over the years, he's spent thousands of dollars at various Trader Joe's locations in the U.S., even hiring people to do the shopping for him when he became banned from several stores.
In a post published to Pirate Joe’s Facebook page yesterday afternoon (June 7), Hallatt wrote, “Thank you to everyone who has ever supported us. We are sad that it had to come to this, but hey, at least we had some fun while we were at it right?!”
Although Pirate Joe’s is no more, the eccentric entrepreneur hinted that he has other plans for his storefront on West 10th Avenue. “I’m not sure what it is yet,” he told the Straight, “but it’ll be something.”