53 years after Hendrik Meijer and his son, Fred, leveraged their successful grocery business, the Michigan Historical Commission has recognized Meijer for making history.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Fifty-three years after Hendrik Meijer and his son, Fred, leveraged their successful grocery business on a risky innovative idea, the Michigan Historical Commission has recognized Meijer for making history on the site of its original “Thrifty Acres” store. A Michigan Historical Marker was unveiled today on the site of the nation’s first supercenter.
Opened in June 1962, the original 100,000-square-foot store at 28
St. and Kalamazoo Ave. in Grand Rapids combined food retailing with general merchandise to provide freshness and convenience to customers. The store featured a 7-acre parking lot, along with 18 checkout lanes — a service unheard of at the time – that allowed customers to pay for everything in a single transaction, regardless of the variety or quantity purchased. It was the birth of the supercenter and the springboard for a concept that would grow into a retail phenomenon and establish the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer as a pioneer of one-stop shopping.
“We are proud to be recognized for the innovative foresight our father and grandfather demonstrated when they opened ‘Thrifty Acres,’” Co-Chairman Hank Meijer said. “They saw an opportunity to bring families more retail choices and ultimately succeeded in breaking down traditional barriers between selling groceries and selling clothes or hardware. My father and grandfather helped revolutionize retail and left us an incredible legacy to build upon.”
“Meijer is more than one of Michigan’s leading retailers today; it is also a pioneer that still shapes how America shops,” said Historical Society of Michigan Executive Director Larry J. Wagenaar, who also serves on the Michigan Historical Commission. “By piloting a new retail approach that combined groceries with general merchandise in its ‘Thrifty Acres’ store, Meijer launched an ingenious—and very successful—model, which had a major impact on retailing throughout the United States. Meijer made history with its leading-edge methods, and I am personally proud of how the company continues to celebrate its heritage and supports and promotes Michigan’s history.”
Since the opening of “Thrifty Acres,” Meijer has followed a course of steady growth, expanding into five additional Midwest states and employing more than 65,000 people in 219 stores, six distribution centers and several manufacturing facilities. The company recently opened its first two stores in southeastern Wisconsin and are opening two additional stores in the Milwaukee area in August.
From the introduction of checkout scanners in the 1970s to the more recent launch of digital technologies, such as its
digital coupon program, the company continues to find new ways to help customers save time and money. Other innovations have included the introduction of shopping carts in the 1930s, automated conveyer belts in checkout lanes in 1950s, and a free prescription program that has filled more than 26 million prescriptions, saving Meijer pharmacy customers more than $387 million since October 2006.
“We always strive to bring innovation and appreciation to the Meijer shopping experience,” Co-Chairman Doug Meijer said. “The entrepreneurial spirit that launched ‘Thrifty Acres’ has now extended to the more than 65,000 team members who continue a rich tradition of bringing easy, affordable solutions to our neighbors.”