I’ve been shopping at Meijer most of my life — in Flint, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and now Midland. As a student at Eastern Michigan University, a group of friends and I would occasionally go to Meijer Thrifty Acres — we called it Meijer Fifty Acres — at midnight or 1 a.m. to stock up on Ramen noodles, Lucky Charms, Doritos, Mt. Dew, some socks, a taillight for the raggedy Chevette and a tropical fish for the aquarium. They indeed had everything you needed under one roof.
The retail chain of what are now known as “hypermarkets” originated in Greenville, Mich., in 1934 when Hendrik Meijer, an immigrant and barber by trade, took a risk and opened a grocery store during the Great Depression. His son Fred also got involved in the business (as a bagger at age 14), and their products, prices and service apparently met with market approval, as the store flourished and expanded.
Meijer Inc. now employs 60,000 people in six states, according to press reports. How many more individuals have gotten their first job experience or retired from Meijer over the decades? The Meijer family foundation has engaged in generous philanthropy, contributing millions of dollars to food banks, universities, hospitals, civic theater, nature trails, parks and countless other worthy endeavors. And for nearly 80 years, Meijer has contributed to the tax base of the states and communities where it has a presence.
Fred Meijer passed away this weekend. He may have been among the country’s richest 1 percent, I don’t know. I do know that his family business has taken a lot of my hard-earned dollars over the years — but certainly not as a result of coercion or exploitation. In fact, I’m grateful for every Meijer-bought package of Ramen noodles and Kraft Mac and Cheese that sustained me through the lean years. Funny thing is, my kids like them now, too.