Trader Joe’s says goodbye to founding manager
Published - 12/23/08 - 10:14 AM | 62999 views | 1 1 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pacific Beach is losing one of its fixtures when longtime Trader Joe’s manager Kim Guentert retires after more than 40 years with the specialty grocery store.

According to Trader Joe’s first mate David Larkin, Guentert opened the Pacific Beach location in September 1986, marking it the first Trader Joe’s in San Diego. After the store’s successful launch, Guentert moved around the city to open other stores around the city until he returned to Pacific Beach six years ago, according to Larkin.

“I’ve worked with Kim a little over two years. He’s been a great teacher with 40 years in the business. Another captain will come in, but it’s going to be hard to replace him,” he said.

Trader Joe’s crew members Eddie Velasquez and Devin Kiyoshi White said Guentert has brought a dry sense humor to a job that can be hectic at times.

Both said that anytime they have to use one of the store’s computers, Guentert reminds them, “That thing is not a toy,” as if they were school kids caught messing around with something they were forbidden to touch.

“But that goes for any mechanical object here,” White said.

But that doesn’t mean the employees don’t tease him back. Velasquez said the employees often assign the head manager to tasks they don’t want to do, such as stocking the nutritional bars.

“It’s one of those things that no one wants to do, it’s so tedious and takes up time, but for Kim, timewasters like that is everything he needs after working here after however many years,” he joked.

“It’s pretty funny. Every time he’s done with that, he stands up and says, ‘Done with bars, time to take a break,’ and he’ll head out and have a smoke.”

Larkin said Guentert’s smoke breaks have been the butt of several jokes among the Trader Joe’s crew.

“We had a full store meeting and played ‘pin the smoke on the captain.’ He was notorious for taking a lot of smoke breaks. That went over really big. He was a real good sport about it and the crew got a lot of mileage out of that. We had one of our artists do a likeness of him. It was awesome.

Velasquez said the crew has been ribbing him lately about finally learning how to do certain manager duties, such as returns, when retirement is right around the corner.

“About a month ago he finally learned how to give an employee discount. All you do is turn a key one way and push a button. Whenever he walks up with his key, everyone stops — ‘Hey, Kim’s gonna use his key.”

Along with his sense of humor, White said Guentert also has an approachable management style, often inviting crew members to chat about their jobs and to make sure that the store and its employees are doing well, creating a great work atmosphere.

“Despite the fact that he’s a running a store, he’s never too busy to go outside and talk to you about the state of the store, how things are going, anything pertinent about what you are doing,” White said.

For this surprise story, Trader Joe’s crew members said Guentert hasn’t announced his retirement plans, but they doubted his plans included playing with any toys.
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August 03, 2013
Kim was my captain for many years at both the La Jolla and Pacific Beach locations. He once called me a diamond in the rough, and I would like to return the favor. He is cool in a Mad Men kinda way (minus the womanizing). He once told me that employees including himself used to smoke at the registers before that sort thing was outlawed. Despite the overarching message in the article, Kim cannot be defined by his smoking alone. Sure he did that more and more as the years past, but he was also honest and unabashed. He did not surrender to the corporate pressure to have 'in your face' and fake customer service policies. Intelligent customers know when someone is kissing their butt, and most don't like it. They just want to know where the carrots are without some turkey holding their hand on the way there. This was Kim's way, a dying way. It's a shame. Man, what I wouldn't do to be back at one of Kim's tastings from the nineties. Now, that was a lesson. Happy sailing deserve it for maintaining integrity and one of the driest senses of humor in TJ's history.
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