BRADLEY — Fred Meijer, a man who helped build his family business into a chain of highly successful Midwest grocery stores, placed his priorities on more than just profits.
Meijer was fond of saying he wasn’t interested in having the family name on a store that wasn’t also part of the community where it had established roots. Throughout the past year, Bradley and the surrounding region has discovered that is more than just idle chatter.
Since Meijer opened a supercenter on Illinois Route 50 in Bradley on May 17, 2018, it also has established itself as a vital community member in numerous ways.
Among those who have received cash and in-kind contributions from Meijer throughout the past several months are Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, Kankakee Community College, Olivet Nazarene University, the Bradley-Bourbonnais Little League, the Bradley Lions junior football program, River Valley Special Recreation Association and local food banks, among others.
“Anything we can’t use, we donate,’’ said store director Dan Komer of the grocery goods that regularly make it to the food banks.
Meijer also has provided a boost to the local economy by providing jobs, about 250 to 300 in all. Many of the workers who filled these positions were employees who were displaced when the Kmart and Ultra stores closed.
For these many contributions, Meijer has been named the Large Business of the Year by the Daily Journal as part of its annual Progress Awards.
While Meijer can’t disclose revenue results from its initial time in Bradley, Komer said it’s safe to say it’s been a successful early run.
“We’re very pleased with our first full year,’’ Komer said. “It’s been fantastic. The community has welcomed us with open arms since Day 1.’’
Meijer has made it easy to be treated in a welcoming way. You can conveniently shop there around the clock, as the store is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week with the exception of Christmas, which is the only day the store closes. You also can use its self-checkout line, and if you don’t want to visit at all, home delivery is available.
The store not only offers a full line of grocery items, it offers most any and all other household goods you might seek, including clothing, outdoors gear and pet supplies.
“From apples to Apple products in electronics, we have it all,’’ Komer said.
When it comes to apples of the eating variety, Meijer likes to establish an advantage over its competitors through one simple goal, a desire to stock fresh products.
“We’re known for freshness,’’ Komer said. “You can find it in our produce, meat, seafood.’’
Meijer is headquartered in Walker, Mich., near Grand Rapids, and its stores are located in Michigan and other Midwestern states. The central locations put them within a relatively short distance of the vendors who supply fresh products.
“Being Michigan based, we have a lot of buying power,” Komer said.
Komer has based himself locally, and that distinction doesn’t only apply to his role as store manager.
He already was familiar with the area as he grew up in nearby Crete and attended Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, but has since better familiarized himself by regularly attending local economic development meetings and other community functions.
“You want to be involved beyond the store,’’ Komer said. “We want to be part of the resurgence of this county.’’