Fred G. Meyer
|Fred G. Meyer|
February 21, 1886
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||September 2, 1978
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
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 Brooklyn, he worked in his father's grocery store as a boy. Leaving home at the age of 19, he traveled through the American West and spent time in Seattle and the Yukon before settling in Portland, Oregon, in 1909, where he founded a horse-drawn coffee service for lumber camps around Portland. It was named the Java Coffee Company (changed to Mission Coffee Company in 1915), and had a store that was originally located near Union Station until construction forced it to relocate around 1912. 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, with his brother Harry, he founded a grocery store at Southwest Fifth and Alder in downtown Portland, Mybros Public Market. The store's name was soon changed to "Fred Meyer" after differences of opinion between the two brothers led to Harry Meyer's departure from the partnership, and over time, Meyer expanded this business 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 Foundation. The latter is sponsored by now Kroger-owned subsidiaries of Fred Meyer Stores and Quality Food Centers.
- "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.
- "'Horatio Alger' epic: Fred Meyer career Oregon legend" (September 3, 1978). The Sunday Oregonian, pp. D10–D11.
- MacKenzie, Bill (April 24, 1988). "Retired Fred Meyer chairman [Oran B. Robertson] recounts career". The Sunday Oregonian. p. E1.
- 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.
- "The Kroger Co. - Corporate News & Info: Charitable Giving". Retrieved 2008-04-10.[dead link]
- 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)