Meijer Makes a Major Bet on Motor City


Supermarket expansion in major cities is a major theme in the US food-distribution and grocery business lately, with Walmart setting up shop—or attempting to do so—in key urban markets, and even Detroit now getting a share of major new grocery stores.

And when it comes to the Motor City, Whole Foods Markets appears to have given Detroit neighborhoods near Wayne State University a shot in the arm with its recent opening. But the potentially far more significant opening will occur on July 25 when Meijer sets up shop at the intersection of the two most iconic thoroughfares in Detroit: Woodward Avenue and Eight Mile Road.

The Meijer brand is relatively unknown outside its base in Flyover Country, where it operates more than 200 supercenters in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, and served as the “local Walmart” before Walmart did. But metro Detroit denizens all have known Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer as the place to go over the decades for good prices and selection of not only CPG fare but all sorts of consumer goods.[more]

And now, after much lobbying in Detroit, Meijer plans to open its very first outlet there: a 215,000-square-foot store that will offer thousands of residents their best and closest access to Meijer’s wide selection and low prices and, specifically, to the fresh produce that lately has been lacking in many areas of the city—and in other “produce deserts” in big cities around the country.

The opening can be expected to boost Meijer as much as it does shopping in Detroit. “From the standpoint of demographics, I think it’s a brilliant location,” Dale Watchowski, CEO of developer Redico LLC, told Crain’s Detroit Business. “What it’s doing is tapping a market that was previously underserved for grocery.”

Not only that, but Meijer on Eight Mile, like Meijer everywhere, will host other “stores-within-a-store” such as a branch of local Huntington National Bank, a gas station and drive-through pharmacy. And its pledge to open there already has attracted other retailers to the new 36-acre Gateway Marketplace strip mall including Marshalls, Payless ShoeSource, Five Below and McDonald’s.

Walmart may have its reasons to steer clear of Washington, D.C., given the new “living wage” law. But Meijer seems to be very much looking forward to making a difference in retailing in—and for the residents of—Detroit.


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