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Meijer Celebrates 90th Anniversary As Family-Owned Retailer

Meijer's Thrifty Market

Meijer is celebrating its 90th anniversary with more than 500 supercenters, grocery stores, neighborhood markets, express locations and distribution and manufacturing facilities throughout six Midwest states operated by more than 70,000 employees.

“We have built an incredible team here at Meijer that is accomplishing great things and enjoys working together, and they are the reason we’ve been able to evolve and grow over 90 years from a little grocery store to a new concept in retailing to an agile company with multiple formats,” said Executive Chairman Hank Meijer.

“We continue to look at how we can better serve customers in multiple ways to ensure our first 90 years is just our first chapter.”

Meijer’s history

In 2016, Hank Meijer highlighted some of the company’s history during the Food Marketing Conference at Western Michigan University.

Amid the Great Depression in 1934, Hendrik Meijer opened Meijer’s Grocery next door to his barbershop in Greenville, Michigan, with his wife, Gezina, and their children, 18-year-old Johanna and 14-year-old Fred. The business was established when he couldn’t find a tenant for the space and wanted to take care of his barbershop customers.

Meijer noted that his grandfather reached out to Kroger and A&P to take over the location, but neither showed any interest. Instead, Hendrik studied the two grocers and introduced concepts they were using.

“He had something you could call a supermarket,” Meijer said. “And he cared about his customers.”

Welfare was introduced in the 1930s, with struggling merchants such as his grandfather asked to take IOUs from the government, which said it would make good on a customer’s order. By 1940, he was doing 60 percent of the welfare business in the county. He opened his second store in Cedar Springs in 1942, with his father, Frederik, managing that one.

“They took the craziest gamble since that first grocery store and in 1962 … opened Meijer Thrifty Acres, ‘the self-service, discount department store with a hometown touch,’ they called it,” Meijer said. “That’s a long handle; they were just trying to cover everything. They offered their shoppers one-stop shopping.”

This new retail environment combined a complete supermarket with a full range of general merchandise, a café, a pharmacy and other services, selling all its merchandise through a single set of checkouts.

Since then, the industry has grown ever more complex and competitive.

Meijer's Thrifty Acres

 Focusing on the customer

From the beginning, Meijer has been focused on making the shopping experience “the best it can be.” In addition to low prices and good customer service, innovation often has been key to exceeding expectations.

Over the last 90 years, these innovations have included introducing shopping carts, automatic doors, conveyor belts, supercenters, self-checkout lanes, mPerks, curbside pickup, home delivery and Shop & Scan.

[RELATED: Meijer Opens New Supercenters In Northeast Ohio]


Fred Meijer often said that customers don’t need us, we need them, so that focus on earning our customers’ business every day has been central to how we’ve operated,” said Rick Keyes, Meijer’s president and CEO.

“We are constantly evaluating how we can further elevate the experience our customers have when they shop with us, and innovation paired with great prices and excellent customer service will be how we continue to earn customers’ business.”

Creating culture of dignity, respect

“It was important to Hendrik and Gezina Meijer that those who worked and shopped with them felt they were being treated with the dignity and respect all people deserve,” Keyes said. “Ninety years later, that sentiment remains a core part of our values and culture, informing how we treat each other.”

Meijer employees are eligible to receive a variety of benefits, including weekly pay, employee discounts and flexible scheduling. The retailer also invests in the success of its staff, offering career advancement opportunities, free college education, paid parental leave, child care discounts, access to multiple health insurance options and the option for 401(k) retirement contributions.

As a result, Meijer was recently recognized as a Great Place to Work for the sixth consecutive year. The certification honors employers for creating outstanding experiences based on responses to The Trust Index Survey, an organization-wide assessment of culture. The survey measures employee feedback across organizational culture, credibility, fairness, respect, camaraderie and pride.

In 2016, Meijer shared similar sentiments about his grandfather.

“These were his neighbors and friends, and they would be welcomed and treated just like every other customer. And word got around. Low prices and treating people with respect proved to be a powerful combination,” he said.

[RELATED: Meijer Celebrates 60 Years Of Innovation]


Part of the community

Meijer has donated at least 6 percent of its annual profit to nonprofits throughout the Midwest, impacting millions of its customers.

Supporting hunger relief organizations is a big part of the company’s community engagement – specifically, its Simply Give hunger relief program. Since its inception in November 2008, the program has generated more than $90 million in donations to food pantries thanks to the generosity of Meijer customers and employees.

“My family never wanted Meijer to just be another business,” Hank Meijer said. “We’ve always wanted to be a force for good by helping our communities address their most pressing needs, and we will continue to do that for the next 90 years.”

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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