Jean Coutu was born in Montreal on May 29, 1927. His father, Lucien Coutu was a pediatrician at Sainte-Justine hospital and a family doctor in an East Montreal neighbourhood.
With his Bachelor of Arts degree in hand, Jean Coutu enrolled with the faculty of Medicine of Montreal University. In 1949, following a dispute with the Council of Studies, he leaves the faculty of medicine and he joins the pharmacy program. In 1953, he obtains his pharmacy license.
While still in university, he works part time. Jean Coutu works for some five years in an outlet of the Leduc Pharmacy chain. First hired as a clerk, he is eventually promoted to the position of assistant manager and then manager.
In 1955, Jean Coutu opens in Montreal a retail pharmacy with his cousin Jean Locas as partner. After the expiry of their five-year agreement, Jean Coutu decides to go his own way.
In 1966, he enters into partnership with Louis Michaud. Both partners open a first store called « Farmateria » where are offered at discount prices all the products found over-the-counter in a traditional pharmacy setting. Those stores are liquidated in 1968.
In June 1969, Jean Coutu opens his first discount pharmacy on the corner of Garnier and Mont-Royal. Two years later he partners again with Louis Michaud. In 1973, they sign their first franchise contract. The Montreal pharmacy, the largest retail pharmacy in the world, becomes the very first Pharm-escompte Jean Coutu. In 1980, Jean Coutu becomes the sole owner of the Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc.
Since 1986, the Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc. is a public company. It represents one of the finest examples of a family business which has been passed down to the second generation. In 2007, Jean Coutu named his son François, president and chief executive officer of the Jean Coutu Group (PJC) Inc, remaining himself president of the board of directors.