Fred G. Meyer
|Fred G. Meyer|
February 21, 1886
|Died||September 2, 1978
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Ashes scattered from a bridge over the Salmon River near Wemme|
|Education||Fifth grade, primary school|
|Spouse(s)||Eva Chatfield Meyer (Eva Chiles)|
|Children||Earle A. Chiles (stepson)|
|Parents||Conrad and Sophie Dorothea Vorverk Grubmeyer|
|Relatives||William and Henry (who also moved to Portland) and five other siblings|
Fred G. Meyer (February 21, 1886 – September 2, 1978) was an American businessman who founded the Oregon-based Fred Meyer store chain, which had 63 stores in four western states at the time of his death. He was known for successfully introducing several innovative marketing concepts.
Born Frederick Grubmeyer in Germany in 1886,[n 1] Meyer came to the United States with his parents and older brother, William, at a very early age. The family settled in Brooklyn, where Meyer later worked in his father's grocery store. Leaving home at the age of 19, he traveled through the American West, prospecting for gold near Nome, Alaska. Relocating to Seattle in 1906, he worked for a small grocery and the Grand Union Tea Company until 1909, when he moved to Portland, Oregon.
In 1910, Meyer's brother William and his family moved to Portland. William and Fred managed the Mission Tea Company, which rented a stall at the City Public Market. Thereafter, Fred established a separate business using horse-drawn wagons to deliver coffee, tea, and spices to Portland residents and groceries to nearby logging camps and farms. By 1911, Meyer was managing Mission Tea, and after a dispute with William, he acquired a new partner and renamed the business the Java Coffee Company. Sometime after arriving in Portland, Frederick Grubmeyer shortened his name to Fred G. Meyer; a 2001 Oregonian article said the change was made "for convenience and maybe to save money on signs".
In 1922, he joined forces with his brother Henry, who had also moved to Portland. Together over the next few years they incorporated four businesses, including Mybros Meat Market, Oregon Piggly Wiggly, Pioneer Market Company (which leased space to vendors), and Mybros Inc., all in downtown Portland. Differences of opinion between the brothers led to Henry's departure from the partnership, and over time, Meyer expanded Mybros into the Fred Meyer chain of supermarkets and department stores. A "self-service drugstore" that Meyer opened in 1928 in downtown Portland was considered the first of its kind in the nation.
Meyer introduced innovative marketing concepts; he is often credited as one of the originators of the "one-stop shopping" concept, when in 1931, he built the Hollywood Fred Meyer, his first full-block megastore on Northeast Sandy Boulevard at 42nd Avenue in Portland (now a Rite Aid since the store's relocation to Hollywood West in 1988).
Fred G. Meyer's wife, Eva, died in 1960. Their marriage had lasted 40 years. Eva Meyer, also known as Eve Meyer, was also secretary-treasurer of Fred Meyer Inc. until her death. The couple had no children together, but Eva had one son from a previous marriage, Earle A. Chiles (namesake of the Chiles Center), who also worked as an officer of the company.
Meyer was opposed to zoning, specifically naming the model of Houston, Texas, as a successful example. He continued to work regularly until his death, even after suffering a major stroke in 1972. In 1974, his company expanded into the savings and loan business with the establishment of Fred Meyer Savings & Loan, which had 29 locations (in Fred Meyer stores) by 1978. He was named Portland's "First Citizen" in 1976.
Fred Meyer died on September 2, 1978, at the age of 92, at his Portland home. He died in his sleep, but had been dealing with chronic heart disease and breathing difficulties in his last few years. In its obituary, Portland's The Oregonian described Meyer as "the venerable merchant whose name and shopping-center empire have been linked for almost 70 years with the city's growth". Oregon Governor Bob Straub was quoted as saying, "Oregon has lost one of its great citizens."
Although known for living frugally, Meyer gave to many charities, in particular the Salvation Army, and became known for his philanthropy. Upon his death, his stock in Fred Meyer established the Meyer Memorial Trust, leaving behind $60 million to be used for "religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes." The Meyer Memorial Trust is distinct from the Fred Meyer Fund, controlled by Kroger, which now owns Fred Meyer Stores.
Notes and references
- Some sources say or imply that Meyer was born in Brooklyn. However, Leeson notes that Meyer gave his name as "Fred Henry Grubmeyer" and his birthplace as "Germany" on his Selective Service registration in 1918. He was a naturalized citizen "because his father had become a U.S. citizen before Fred Grubmeyer reached maturity."
- Leeson, p. 232
- Leeson, p. 19
- Leeson, p. 33
- Leeson, p. 30
- Leeson, p. 17
- "Fred Meyer, Retail Empire Builder, Dies at 92" (September 3, 1978). The Sunday Oregonian, p. 1.
- "Meyer Noted for Market Innovations" (September 3, 1978). The Sunday Oregonian, p. D10.
- Jordan Wankoff, David Salamie, Christina Stansell (1993). "International Directory of Company Histories, Volume 64". International Directory of Company Histories. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
- Nokes, Gregory R. (May 1, 1988). "Store Chain's Founder Started with Little Capital, No Formal Education". The Sunday Oregonian. p. L1.
- Terry, John (December 16, 2001). "Ubiquitous Genius, Generosity Endure". The Sunday Oregonian. p. C11.
- Leeson, p. 32
- Leeson, page 17
- Leeson, pages 19–20, 26
- Leeson, 27–28
- " 'Horatio Alger' Epic: Fred Meyer Career Oregon Legend" (September 3, 1978). The Sunday Oregonian, pp. D10–D11.
- Leeson, page 28
- MacKenzie, Bill (April 24, 1988). "Retired Fred Meyer Chairman [Oran B. Robertson] Recounts Career". The Sunday Oregonian. p. E1.
- Leeson, pages 49–54
- MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915–1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press. pp. 628–629. ISBN 0-9603408-1-5.
- "Meyer Memorial Trust — About Us". Retrieved 2008-04-10.
- Culverwell, Wendy (February 10, 2015). "Meyer Memorial Trust Suspends Grantmaking, Shifts Efforts to 4 Targets and Nixes Clark County". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
- Leeson, Fred (2014). My-Te-Fine Merchant: Fred Meyer's Retail Revolution. Portland, Oregon: Irvington Press. ISBN 978-0-9960626-0-2.
- Fred-Speak (sayings of Fred G. Meyer) at the Wayback Machine (archived June 11, 1998)
- Early Years of Fred G. Meyer's business ventures in Portland, Oregon at the Wayback Machine (archived June 11, 1998)