Retail Pioneer Fred Meijer Passes
January 24, 2012,
Meijer was born Dec. 7, 1919, into a retailing family. His father, Hendrik, was a Dutch immigrant barber who opened a grocery store in 1934 in Greenville, Mich.
Meijer worked in the store from the start, helping his father build the small neighborhood store into a chain of supermarkets. In 1946, he married Lena Rader, a cashier in the original store.
In 1962, under his leadership, he opened the Meijer chain's first "Thrifty Acres" store, a huge onestop shopping discount emporium, in Grand Rapids.
"As the company grew he was always an advocate of promoting people from within, an outspoken champion of civil rights, and a zealot for low prices," the company said. "Fred - and he was, to his employees, simply ‘Fred' - was known for his competitive spirit and a keen sense of his own humble origins."
In industry affairs, he was said to be one of the longest serving directors of the Food Marketing Institute (formerly the Super Market Institute), and winner of its Sidney Raab award for outstanding service.
In Grand Rapids, Meijer played a key role in the early years of the local Urban League and Goodwill Industries, and is credited with helping lead downtown urban renewal efforts. In 1984 he worked with a group of civic leaders and friends of President Ford to build the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on the west bank of the Grand River. In those years he also served on the Cleveland District Board of the Federal Reserve.
More recently, he was an active member of the Improvement Association.
Meijer's most significant civic contribution lay with the creation in 1994 of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, "a blend of his passion for sculpture and Lena's for gardening," the company added.
Meijer remained committed to the retail business and continued to attend meetings at the company's offices and served as chairman emeritus of the company until his death.
Meijer is survived by his wife of 65 years, Lena, their three sons, Hank Meijer, Doug Meijer and Mark Meijer, and seven grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in memory of Meijer.