Happiness is a Warm Trader Joe's

I am fascinated by Trader Joe's. How does it manage to never lose its shine? It is a privately held subsidiary of a German company that earns over $10 billion a year, yet every one feels like an Anytown, U.S.A. mom and pop shop. The brand is so well-cultivated, and yet, unlike Disney, which has been not-so-secretly nicknamed "Mauschwitz" by its employees, there doesn't seem to be a Sword of Damacles hovering over its staff to conform to the corporate brand.

At the TJs I go to each week, there are hipsters and hippies, there are piercings and staid grandatherly types. A couple of years ago, one guy warmly welcomed my whole family each time we arrived. Months later, we found out his mother had passed away right before Passover. We invited him to our seder--he hugged us. We were really sad to hear that he was moving to a higher position in another TJs in another state. But it's not all warm and fuzzies --some people are downright prickly but efficient, while others want to talk politics or literature. One guy sings out loud. One woman hawks her wares at the sample table like she's about to make a million bucks. No one ever seems sluggish.

I'm not gonna lie: I'm sometimes jealous. Yes, each store is intentionally geared towards its local customer base, but I have noticed something universal about almost every person who works there: they work with purpose, and so often with joy for all to see. And that is contagious.