I like history. I love food history. I love hearing stories of the past. I have always believed that the past is the answer to our future. It's easy to see the way when you have the strength of history behind you.
When Meijer Stores asked me to come to the headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan I thought to myself "Why me? There isn't even a Meijer Store close to my house and the only time I have shopped there is when I am visiting my parents in Sandusky." It was a quick day trip, in and out in 24 hours so I agreed to make the journey. They flew me out to Grand Rapids and I arrived on a Monday evening. I went to my hotel, googled some restaurants, and found myself having dinner at a nice Tapas restaurant called San Chez. I had a few ciders and headed back ready for a full day's schedule of all things Meijer.
The next morning I found myself in a really cool space called Grid70. Grid70 is a shared space between Meijer and some other companies. There is a test kitchen, offices, a lounge, a white board room, and other cool stuff that I didn't get a chance to check out. My day would be spent in the Meijer test kitchen. Throughout the day I would find myself tasting and testing the new Meijer organic line of food called True Goodness. More on that later.
One of my favorite moments of the day was meeting Hank Meijer, the grandson of Hendrik Meijer, the man who created the first Meijer grocery store. Within moments of Hank sitting down with a table full of bloggers, I knew we were in for a treat. Turns out Hank is a great storyteller and we were in for a great story, the story of his family business. After a series of failed attempts in the dairy industry, Hendrik Meijer purchased a small space next to his barber shop in hopes of renting it out and becoming a landlord. The Great Depression stepped in and smacked Hendrik's dream down. Hendrik kept on keeping on and after approaching several grocery stores as possible tenants for his space he found himself at a grocery wholesale store. Because they were wholesale they had no interest in leasing Hendrik's building but suggested with his good credit to put in his own grocery store.
That was in 1934. Eventually the grocery store they opened would grow to be the first ever grocery store super center (i.e. the first store to sell groceries, clothes, lightbulbs, anything else you may find in your modern day Target). Back then people thought they were nuts.
Today it's a billion dollar empire.
Hank, the grandson and CEO of the stores told this tale beautifully and I must admit it made me that much more interested in shopping at Meijer.
Now if they would only open a store in Cleveland!
Disclosure: I was compensated by Meijer for my time and travel expenses, but all opinions are my own.