STOW — Shoppers enthusiastically greeted the Tuesday morning opening of the new Meijer supercenter in Stow.
The 155,000-square-foot store, which has a supermarket on one side and general merchandise on the other, opened at 7 a.m., with the grand opening celebration taking place just after 9.
The Stow site off Kent Road was among three that the Michigan retailer opened Tuesday in Northeast Ohio, with the other stores in Avon and Mentor. This is Meijer’s first venture into Northeast Ohio. The Greenville, Mich., company opened its first Ohio store in 1981 in the Columbus area and now has 42 in the state.
“I like Meijer. I’m familiar with them,” said Diana Kinsey, who said she just moved from Stow to Hudson. Kinsey came to the store to get cleaning items for her new home.
Kinsey said she was impressed with the store. “It’s very nice,” she said. “It’s clean and bright.”
The grand opening included Meijer President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Keyes and also Doug Meijer, Meijer co-chairman and grandson of Hendrik Meijer, who co-founded the business in 1934 with his then 14-year-old son, Fred.
Doug Meijer spoke to the gathering and said the retailer wants to be special and take care of people’s needs.
He mentioned his father, Fred, who pioneered the one-stop shopping supercenter concept and who was the Meijer company chairman until his death in 2011.
“As my dad, Fred, said, we need you. You don’t need us,” Meijer recalled.
Stow appears to be a good fit for the store, he said afterward.
“It’s just our kind of community,” he said. “We like to serve everybody. And as part of our natural growth, this is a great place to be. We hadn’t served Northeast Ohio yet. And we waited a long time to do this.”
Meijer, who is a billionaire, recalled he got his start in the family-owned business as a child putting sticker prices on produce and merchandise in what was then called the marking room at the back of the stores.
“Way before bar codes and scanning and computers,” he said.
“My dad and grandfather started in the Depression back in 1934. And I started at 12 working in the stores,” he said. “I had a great dad and grandfather and just the work ethic.”
Times, technology and the business have changed over the years, he said. Meijer, while a strong believer in stores, also is online and offers delivery services so that people can shop from home, he said.
“We try to be everything to everybody,” he said.
Betting on region
The opening of three Northeast Ohio stores on the same day is a major bet on the market now and for years to come, Keyes said.
“We’ve got two more opening next year and even more sites that we’re actively working on,” Keyes said. “We’ve been investing in brick and mortar, but we’re also investing in digital. Both are important. We’re excited to invest in stores and in digital experiences.”
The Meijer store was built on what had become a run-down shopping plaza in a part of Stow that is heavily populated with retailers. It is open 24 hours, seven days a week; it will close only on Christmas.
The store ramps up the competition to nearby Acme, Aldi and Giant Eagle supermarkets and clothing and merchandise stores Macy’s, Kohl's and others.
Keyes said Meijer stores typically draw customers from a 3- to 6-mile radius, while also bringing in people from farther away.
“These are big stores and are really centers of a community, so people will tend to drive to come to the store, but we serve the local community very well,” he said.
Employees regularly paused from work to say hello to shoppers as they entered and wandered around the store. Some of the employees already had been at work for hours before the official 7 a.m. opening.
Among them was Emily Seifert, a 19-year-old Stow resident who unpacked corn from boxes to put on display.
“I come in at 2 a.m.,” she said. “I get the produce right off the trucks.”
Shopper Bisa Harris said she had been waiting weeks for the Meijer store to open.
“It’s very pretty in here. They did a great job,” she said.
The 37-year-old Stow resident said she has shopped in Meijer stores in Michigan.
“I came in for the produce. I ended up buying some pants,” Harris said, adding she also bought some items for her daughter, Makayla, 8.
As part of the grand opening, Meijer donated $5,000 to the nonprofit Bulldog Bags organization, which provides free food to qualified students for weekend meals, and $25,000 to Stow-Munroe Falls schools.
And the first 200 customers to enter the store after 7 a.m. Sunday will receive a Meijer mystery gift card with a value of $5, $10 or $20.
The Stow store includes Addicted Coffee & Ice Cream, a family-owned business based in Lakewood. Addicted is known in part for making large milkshakes ornately decorated with cookies and other sweet treats, with one shake typically feeding multiple people.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ