The pirate north of the border has conceded defeat.
After five years of buying Trader Joe’s products in the U.S. and selling them at a high markup in Vancouver — and fighting a protracted legal battle to keep doing so — the man behind Pirate Joe’s has finally shuttered the secondhand store.
Mike Hallatt’s farewell, which came overnight between Wednesday and Thursday, spells the end to a twisty saga that saw his small outlet long locked in conflict with the popular American grocer. Trader Joe’s sued its unofficial (and unwelcome) Canadian counterpart in 2013 for hurting its brand — and though Hallatt got a temporary reprieve when the case was dismissed in federal court, an appeals court decision last year put the matter squarely back in court.
Hallatt long protested that he was well within his rights to carry on this operation in a Canada starved of Trader Joe’s locations.
“I buy up the stuff, retail, full monty,” he told NPR last year. “I own it, I get to do with it whatever I want to and I just happen to want to sell it to my friends in Canada.”
That argument did not convince Trader Joe’s, which, according to the New York Times, had banned Hallatt from its stores. The Times details Hallatt’s manifold efforts to get around the ban — including disguises, day laborers hired on Craigslist and even a couple of freelance purchasers who had tattoos, dreadlocks and, by the end of their buying spree, some $600 in chips and crackers.
He even tried a name change, dropping the “P” from his store’s name and swapping in an underscore, to make it _irate Joe’s.
But now, Hallatt says the mounting legal fees have simply proved too much for his rogue business.
“I had to face the music,” he told CTV on Thursday. “I got myself into this, so I had to get myself out of it.”
The Canadian broadcaster reports Hallatt shuttered his shop only “after coming to an agreement with Trader Joe’s” — though it remains unclear what this decision spells for the lawsuit.
The American grocer has not commented publicly about the move.