By Riley James
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
OKEMOS—Imagine not having a Meijer in Meridian Township. Imagine having to drive longer than 10 minutes just to shop at Meijer. Imagine how much different would the community be.
About an average of 50,000 shop at this Meijer per week, according to Chris Wilson, the store director of the Okemos Meijer. He said the Okemos Meijer is one of the busier Meijers in the area.
“As a company, 6 percent of our total profits go to charity corporate wide,” said Wilson. “Each store is given a donation budget at the beginning of the fiscal year…I try to help out everybody as long as they meet our donation criteria.”
The Okemos Meijer has a free prescription program where they give away about one million prescriptions, and they also donate heavily to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
Because Meijer is a corporate business they are required to pay property tax to the government.
According to Julie Brixie, the Meridian Township treasurer, Meijer gave the township government $57,473.56 in taxes this past year.
“[Meijer] is a big tax payer. $57,000 is a pretty helpful,” said Brixie.
Having a Meijer in Meridian Township has other benefits to the community besides the tax gain.
“[Meijer] is a very popular destination for many people living in the area; it’s a regional draw. People come here from surrounding areas to shop. It’s a huge benefit, and you can get relatively low prices for most of the things that they have,” said Brixie.
According to David Closs, the chairperson of supply chain management at MSU, having a Meijer in Meridian Township also creates many jobs within the community due to the multiplier effect.
“For every job Meijer has they bring in two or three other jobs, so the Meijer job multiplies into two or three other jobs that are in the area. And I think [Meijer] keeps a lot of jobs in the environment that would not exist without Meijer,” said Closs.
Meijer is seen as a more upscale supermarket when compared to other, corporate supermarkets, like Walmart or Kroger, according to Closs.
“Meijer is a little more upscale than [Walmart]. I think the community in Okemos is going to feel more comfortable going to Meijer and buying the products there because I think Walmart is targeted towards lower demographics. The demographics in Okemos are much more attracted to Meijer,” said Closs
Closs thinks people would be willing to drive 20 or 30 miles to spend their money at a chain business they trust, but also adds that Meijer is set up so you don’t have to drive that far.
“How many [grocery] stores are six miles away from my store? There are stores all over the place. People will travel a long ways if there is not one close by. There are only a few Meijers in the Upper Peninsula [of Michigan], and I bet people [that live in the upper peninsula] will travel far to go to those locations,” said Wilson.
Local businesses tend to have higher prices, so people are more likely to go to chain supermarkets for the low prices.
“Chains compete on price. Since their costs are lower than local businesses this makes it hard for local merchants to compete,” said Richard Simonds, a professor of finance at MSU.
Although Meijer is a big tax payer of Meridian Township, local businesses are more helpful towards the community.
“When you have a local business they give a lot more money back, because often the people who own the business may live in our community…They hire people in our community, they are taking their profits and buying houses, cars, and essentially putting the money right back into the community,” said Brixie. “With a chain store, the profits from [the store] go to Grand Rapids, in [Meijer’s] case…Meijer is not spending money in our area, but they are spending a lot of money in Grand Rapids.”
Even though Meijer’s profits is being sent to Grand Rapids, Brixie loves having a Meijer in Meridian Township because of all the benefits and attraction the store brings.
“Right now [Meridian Township] is really enjoying all of the chains wanting to locate here in our community…We get this energy of all of the different businesses, and [Meridian Township] is a place where chains want to come,” said Brixie. “If [Meijer] shut down then that would be a challenge because it is a really big building with a specific use. And it might pose a challenge to get a replacement into the spot.”
Wilson also enjoys being the store director in the Meridian community.
“[Meridian Township] is a great location, and we are great partners with the township…We partner on a lot of different things whether it’s police and fire, we always donate to the local fireworks…we have a good working relationship and we have had that relationship since this store was built in 1969,” said Wilson.