Owners say business will bring up to 300 jobs, diverse services to Grafton
For more than 50 years, Meijer stores have been a big player in the Midwest retail market.
Meijer officials are quick to note they originated the supercenter concept — combining a supermarket with a department store — in 1962.
The chain, which is based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has 199 stores in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.
Meijer’s reputation for upscale marketing is about to expand into Wisconsin, starting with the construction of a 191,000-square-foot store on the east side of Port Washington Road in Grafton. In comparison, Grafton’s Costco store, located about a mile north on Port Washington Road, is about 151,000 square feet.
The local store is expected to open in 2014, and is one of four Meijer stores working their way through the approval process in the metropolitan Milwaukee area.
The store is also eyeing sites in Franklin, Wauwatosa and Sussex.
“Half of our stores are in Michigan. We have always been about slow, steady growth, not growth for growth’s sake,” said Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi.
The store owners have a contract to purchase the 33-acre parcel and will complete the transaction once site engineering and other related preparations are finished.
Guglielmi said it will take about a year to complete construction of what will be the largest retail building in the county.
“Being based in Michigan, we are used to cold weather construction,” he said.
The Grafton store plans went through an exhaustive review process by village officials and a give-and-take between store representatives and planners.
Initial plans to include a free-standing convenience store fronting Port Washington Road were dropped when village officials that that was not the image they wanted at the entry to the major retail center.
Significant attention has also been given to such details lighting and landscaping, especially around the parking lot designed to handle 681 vehicles.
The Meijer project was especially appealing to village officials because the store owners agreed to pay for virtually all of the infrastructure improvements needed to handle traffic drawn to the store.
Port Washington Road will be widened from two lanes to four lanes near the store. Traffic lights will also be added.
Ozaukee County will pay 10% of the road improvement costs because the county is responsible for Port Washington Road (which is also Highway W).
In many cases, developers ask that such major projects be incorporated into tax incremental financing districts, essentially using the new property taxes generated from the development to pay for such things as roads, lights and sewers.
Although the Meijer plans were approved by the Grafton Plan Commission on Aug. 28, that decision was revisited last week after neighbors in the nearby Hunters Crossing subdivision appealed that ruling.
The commission unanimously reaffirmed its early approval.
Village Administrator Darrell Hofland said the approval underlines the village’s commitment to making the I-43/Port Washington Road corridor a regional
The site that will become home for the Meijer store is just south of the retail block that includes the Home Depot, Target and Office Max stores.
“The village’s land-use map for the I-43/Port Washington Road corridor limits commercial development boundaries to Arrowhead Road on the north and Falls Road on the south,” Hofland said.
“The village Plan Commission’s goal is to attract and retain high-quality commercial development in favor of miles of indistinguishable commercial development.”
Hofland said the regional drawing power of the Meijer store “will help reinforce Grafton as a destination not only for shopping but for other purposes such as health care, restaurants and hospitality.”
One of the most contested aspects of the Meijer store is a plan to keep the store open 24 hours a day.
Hofland noted that the village first encountered the 24/7 dynamic when Gold’s Pick ‘n Save adopted the schedule.
He said Meijer representatives justified the around-the-clock approach because of customer demand and the need to have employees on hand to restock the shelves of the expansive grocery department.
In the wake of criticism of the 24/7 plans, Grafton police said they are comfortable with the security measures built into the store’s development agreement with the village. To curb potential crime, the store will have loss-prevention personnel on site 40 hours a week and a surveillance system that must be inspected by police before the store opens.
Guglielmi said Meijer has developed a reputation for upscale groceries and competitive pricing on merchandise ranging from clothing to electronics.
“As an example, we recently announced an initiative to carry only certified Angus beef, which is a cut above USDA Choice,” he said.
Meijer stores are also know for their fresh produce and bread that is baked on site four times a day.
Guglielmi said the Grafton store will also have a full pharmacy that will routinely host such programs as flu immunizations as part of its health and wellness emphasis.
“There is a laser-like focus on customer service,” he said.
Guglielmi said the Grafton store will have between 200 and 300 employees, with hiring to take place two or three months before the store opens.
Initial employment profiles can be filled out now at the company’s corporate Website — www.meijer.com — and completed when the local positions are posted.
The company places a premium on its employees, Guglielmi said.
“Whether they are full-time or part-time, our employees are covered by our health-insurance program from the day they are hired,” he said.
The Meijer chain can trace its roots to 1934, when Hendrik Meijer — a barber by trade — began carrying groceries at his barbershop in Greenville, Mich., in the depth of the Great Depression.
Meijer opened the first supercenter store under the name Thrift Acres in 1962. In the 1970s, it was one of the first retailers to use checkout scanners.
The Meijer chain continues to be family owned and privately operated.
The company has been included on Forbes magazine annual list of the world’s most reputable companies and the National Retail Association’s STORES Magazine Favorite 50 based on customer feedback.
Image Information: A RENDERING OF the Meijer store planned for Grafton gives an idea of the scope of the 190,000-square-foot retail center (above). The project will be developed on a 33-acre parcel (upper photo) on the east side of Port Washington Road, south of a wooded buffer separating the new store from the Home Depot/Target development. The Hampton Inn & Suites can be seen to the east. Photo by Mark Jaeger