Fresh thinking. That’s what is in the offing as Meijer prepares to open its first store in Detroit this week. The Michigan Chronicle got an opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at the retailer in a series of interviews with its Co-CEO Mark Murray and members of his management team to learn more about this big-hearted company with high hopes for future investment in the city of Detroit.
Murray hopes Detroit residents will embrace Meijer’s commitment to offer the best products, prices and people in the market today.
The simple premise has big implications in Detroit.
Finding quality job candidates to fill the 500 available job openings at its Detroit store location was not a problem, according to Murray, a recognized champion of diversity credited for advancing diversity efforts at on the campus of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) during his tenure as its president.
The majority of employees at Meijer’s newest store have deep roots in the community in which they will serve, and bright hopes for advancement in the high-growth company. That’s important to Murray.
Understanding that diverse candidates with strong retail backgrounds are in high demand here in Michigan and as well as across the U.S., Murray hopes that employees at Meijer’s Detroit store and other locations are able to use their early job experience as a springboard to higher level posts within the Meijer organization.
“We’re growing rapidly,” said Murray, who cites that exponential advancement opportunities exist for candidates who qualify for Meijer’s Retail Leadership Development program.
“People drive our company’s growth and are an integral part of our success story,” Murray said. “That’s why Detroit Store Director Adrian Lewis, one of the best of our best, will be at the helm of our newest location.”
Lewis, the former director of retail services of Meijer’s southern region with 25 years experience in retail and big box locations, trained and is now responsible for the growth and development of the 500 employees at its Detroit location.
The two hope that the Detroit employees who start with Meijer stay with Meijer.
“Although we never like to lose good people, we are cognizant that our ability to mentor and train employees leads to higher-level opportunities both within and outside of our organization and are proud of our role in helping motivate and train future leaders regardless their career path,” Murray said.
Meijer is a big believer in buying local. The Michigan-based business is a major supporter of Michigan State University’s Michigan Product Center, which helps Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer-responsive products and businesses in agriculture, natural resources and bioeconomy.
The majority of Meijer’s Michigan-made products are purchased from the center, as well as from farmers and suppliers located throughout the state. One exciting product available at the Detroit store is the State Fair Pale Ale, a distinctive craft beer produced by Detroit’s own Atwater Brewery to honor the Michigan State Fair.
Fresh produce, which is often locally grown and produced, is a leading contributor to Meijer’s high customer loyalty rates. And Detroit shoppers will find plenty of it at Meijer’s newest location.
“When shoppers step inside the store, the first thing that they will see is our fresh produce section filled with Michigan-grown products and what is now the largest array of produce ever offered at any Meijer location,” said Murray, who notes that the center store location is a first for Meijer, which customarily features side floor produce sections.
Shoppers will also discover that Meijer has paid close attention to local preferences throughout its store, as evidenced by its expanded health and beauty section and product selection.
“We pay attention to unique local preferences and make every attempt to deliver the type of products our customers want,” said Murray, who emphasized that Meijer is constantly seeking to purchase its products from locally owned vendors who can service its customers need.
Meijer is committed to hunger relief and supports both food banks and food pantries throughout the Midwest through its food rescue and Simply Give programs.
As a part of its grand opening of the Meijer store on West Eight Mile Road in Detroit, Meijer will host a special one-day offer for the start of its fall Simply Give campaign, according to a company spokesperson. On July 28 only, Meijer will triple match all Simply Give donations made at the West Eight Mile Road Meijer store, with all donations benefitting the Storehouse of Hope Food Pantry.
The premise of Meijer’s program is simple: to replenish the shelves of nearly 200 food pantries in the retailer’s five-state region by encouraging customers to purchase $10 Meijer Food Pantry Donation cards, which are converted into Meijer gift cards given to local food pantries.
“That means that for every $10 donation card purchase, Meijer will give $30 to the program, resulting in a donation of $40 that day,” said Murray.
To date, the program has generated nearly $6 million, or an estimated 36 million meals for Meijer partner food pantries across the Midwest since the program began in November 2008.
Health and well-being are central to Meijer’s core values and is evidenced by senior level commitment to free programs and services that help maintain community wellness.
“So much of what we do is designed to promote a healthier lifestyle for our shoppers – whether it’s helping them to live better or to feel better,” said Hank Meijer, co-chairman and CEO of Meijer. “Our Healthy Living and Wellness programs include everything from diabetes screenings and in-store food demos to prescription drug programs, immunizations and meal planning. And represent one more way Meijer can help our customers build healthier lifestyles while saving them money.”
Free in-store services include access to clinical-services pharmacists, who are also certified diabetes specialists. A dedicated consultation room will be available for customers who wish to meet with specialists committed to helping them avoid or help manage diabetes. The complimentary consultation service does not require an appointment, according to Frank Guglielmi, spokesman for the Grand Rapids-based company. Like every Meijer pharmacy, the Detroit location also will fill prescriptions for certain prescribed medications at no cost, including certain prescribed antibiotics, prenatal vitamins, metformin and atorvastatin calcium, the generic substitute for Lipitor.
The nearly question-free program does not require the release of personal information nor any additional purchase.
“We don’t know how many people would not have gotten needed medication and left a pressing health condition unaddressed without this program,” said Murray. “We just know that it has helped.”
Since its inception in 2006, the Meijer free prescription program has filled more than 14 million free prescriptions, saving Meijer customers nearly $200 million.
The 203-store chain is big on partnerships, as evidenced by the recent addition of Secretary of State (SOS) service hubs in two Meijer stores in Lincoln Park and Grand Rapids. The hubs are garnering rave reviews from customers who appreciate the ease of access, according to Murray.
A Detroit police hub, where officers can stop in to do reports, shares the same building as the Meijer convenience store and gas station in the development that is already open.
Meijer has also worked with Huntington Bank to bring in store service branches with extended hours and services to its Michigan stores.
Meijer’s $20 million investment in the Gateway Marketplace development near the old State Fairgrounds speaks to the company’s commitment to Detroit.
“It doesn’t just represent a grocery store but a major retail development,” Meijer President J.K. Symancyk said in a company statement.
“We are personally committed to the success of this location and the transformation of Detroit and hope that with this opening, our first urban store in Detroit, we will become a part of Detroit’s renewal and return to prosperity,” Murray said.
“I am confident that we will see Detroit return to a population of one million or more and, as important, that Detroiters are going to witness the expanded commitment of companies like Meijer, who will be visibly supporting continued investment in this market, stemming the tide of out-migration and attracting more people to this great city.”
“We absolutely firmly believe in Detroit,” he concluded on the eve of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which is expected to draw Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan).
Editor’s Note: The Detroit Meijer store, at Eight Mile and Woodward Avenue, will officially open on Thursday, July 25. Other retailers going into the 350,000-square-foot development include Marshalls, Petco, K&G Fashion Superstore, Dots, McDonald’s and a PNC Bank.