It has been 50 years since Hendrik and Fred Meijer opened "Thrifty Acres" in Grand Rapids, marking the birth of the first supercenter nationwide and an innovative concept that would springboard into a retail phenomenon. The Grand Rapids, MI-based retailer will celebrate that historical event that occurred on June 6, 1962.
It was the middle of the Great Depression and groceries were scarce. In 1934, a modest local barber in Greenville, Michigan had a need and saw an opportunity. In an effort to take care of the customers who visited his barbershop, Hendrik Meijer purchased $328.76 worth of merchandise on credit. Together with his 14-year-old son, Fred, they opened North Side Grocery.
Meijer continued to look for innovative opportunities and ways provide higher levels of service to his customers. He renamed his store Meijer’s Grocery and began broadening his business through the use of newspaper ads and fancy metal shopping carts. As World War II raged, Hendrik pledged his company’s support to the war effort, and just like the Arsenal of Democracy, women became a key part of the Meijer workforce, numbering nearly half of all team members.
After the war, growth at Meijer began in earnest. The company acquired an office in Greenville and opened its first store in Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan. As Meijer’s customer base grew, the company asked its customers to help choose a name for a new symbol. Through a local contest, a customer suggested the name “Thrifty” for the Meijer little Dutch Boy mascot, who became the company’s symbol for the next thirty years.
With the start of the baby boom and advancements in technology, Meijer found new ways to help its customers. With the introduction of the automatic conveyor belt, Meijer was one of the first grocers in the region to help customers speed down the checkout lane. And when television took over in the 1950s, Meijer soon followed, advertising on the popular Romper Room show.
In 1962 Meijer opened its first Thrifty Acres, a food and general merchandise store that allowed customers to shop for everything they needed in just one trip. It was the birth of the Supercenter and the springboard for a concept that would grow into a retail phenomenon.
Meijer has always been a leader in finding and using new technology. This includes everything from the introduction of checkout scanners in the 1970’s to the decision to stay open 24 hours in the 1980’s to the launch of Meijer.com in the 1990’s.
Our commitment to innovation and taking care of our customers has led to continued growth throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. And our philosophy hasn’t changed. From the 1960’s when the company had 26 stores and 4,000 team members in Michigan to today’s 190 plus stores and 60,000 team members in five states, Meijer continues to do business based on the simple philosophy that led Hendrik Meijer in 1934—meeting the needs of our customers, team members and the communities we serve.