Skip to main content

Business and community in hands of friends, family


When it comes to management, Meijer likes a one-two combination. By teaming a family member as chairman and someone from outside the family as president, Meijer gets the combination of institutional and outside perspectives that it feels can best drive the organization.

Family and community are important to Meijer in very specific ways. It remains a family run operation, with brothers Hank and Doug Meijer as co-chairmen, and it is still heavily involved in the social life of its headquarters’ city of Grand Rapids, Mich., where Frederick Meijer Gardens is a key institution.

Thus, when Meijer talks about family and community, it is speaking of something it lives.

When former CVS and Procter & Gamble executive Larry Zigerelli left Meijer last year, Mark Murray, a company board member and president of Grand Valley State University, was picked to replace him as president.

Meijer developed a preference for a leadership including a family member and an outside executive in the 1990s when Fred Meijer was chairman and the company operated with a president from outside the family. Today, Hank Meijer is ceo and Murray is president.

The company touted Murray’s strong leadership record and familiarity with Meijer as qualifying characteristics for his post, as well as his familiarity with the Michigan market where the company has wanted to upgrade service to the core customer as a defense against expansion by Wal-Mart.

other senior management

Doug Meijer co-chairman

Paul Boyer vice chairman

Bruce Efird evp, merchandising

In March, Murray was prominent in Meijer’s announcement that it had invested $463 million in economically pressed Michigan since 2005 including its investment in the three stores it is opening in the state this year. Total 2007 investment in construction and land will top $123 million.

Murray said Meijer would continue to support Michigan’s economy. “We’ve recently seen news of a few companies reducing their presence in the state,” he said. “We want everyone to know that Meijer will continue to invest here, confident of a solid future.”

Another Meijer initiative supporting Michigan’s economy is its promotion of E85 biofuel. An effort that also supports sustainability, Meijer struck a deal last year with General Motors and Clean-FUEL USA to open 20 fueling stations in southwest Michigan that pump E85, an 85% ethanol fuel that a new class of GM cars are designed to use. Michigan has been promoting ethanol production to boost its agricultural sector, and the state is home to one of the largest concentrations of GM E85 flexible fuel vehicles, as the carmaker has 140,000 company vehicle drivers and members of the general public using the fuel in the state.

Of course, ethanol production will help farmers throughout the Midwest, and Meijer certainly hasn’t limited its community related activities to Michigan.

In another effort with an environmental theme, Meijer plans to donate $450,000 to The Nature Conservancy for a program to reduce invasive plants. Meijer will use the Garden Centers in its five-state market area spanning Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio to educate consumers about the problem exotic plants can represent and to recommend they choose non-invasive species identified by Nature Conservancy scientists. In the Meijer garden assortment, 16% of plants, trees and shrubs will receive a tag with a special icon created by The Nature Conservancy identifying them as ecosystem friendly and “Recommended Non-Invasive.”

“By combining the power of their scientific expertise with our reach to consumers, we have a chance to make a real difference—literally on the ground,” said Hank Meijer, in announcing the deal.

“Meijer is giving us outreach and marketing exposure,” said Melissa Soule, a spokeswoman for The Nature Conservancy. “Everyone wants to do the right thing but that doesn’t mean everyone knows how.”

Helping consumers with their health issues has become another way Meijer shows support for communities. Meijer’s free prescription drug program, launched in October of last year and focused on medicines most often prescribed for children, not only set a standard with its no-fee-attached proposition but also was rolled out even before the company had developed a way to work with insurance companies for reimbursement for covered customers. The deal Meijer offered customers was: Show up with a script and covered antibiotics are free of change, insurance or not.

Still, Meijer’s interest in expanding health-related initiatives goes farther. The company has been developing in-store health clinics in Indiana and Michigan, with many slated for communities underserved by existing medical infrastructure. Meijer began in its home state, developing retail clinics in four stores in western Michigan, two in Detroit and one in the Grand Rapids area early last year. Shortly thereafter, the company announced that it would add clinics to nine stores in Indiana.

Meijer even wants to help its customers cope with high gas prices. The company has tested a program that sends customers a text message about two hours before it will raise prices on gasoline. By doing so, it gives customers a chance to fill up before the price goes up.

It may not be free medicine, but Meijer understands the challenges its customers live with and, by staying in touch with family and community, its lets them know it knows.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds