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Former Meijer President Passes Away

Mentored by founders, Earl Holton led retailer during a time of rapid expansion from 1980-1999
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Earl Holton
Longtime Meijer President Earl Holton, 1934-2024

Earl Holton, former president of Meijer, died on Friday, May 10 at the age of 90. The Michigan-based retailer announced the passing of the longtime company leader, who served in the president role from 1980 to 1999.

Like many Meijer and grocery industry executives, Holton started in the business as a store clerk while still a teenager. He worked his way up to store and district manager and later, more top positions, and stayed on with the organization as an advisor through this year.

According to his obituary, Holton met founders Hendrik and Frederik Meijer while stocking shelves during his first job with the company. “Even from those early days, Earl always credited Fred as his business and life mentor,” the death notice declared. 

That sentiment was echoed by current Executive Chairman Hank Meijer. “The entire Meijer family is saddened by the loss of Earl, who played a key role in the growth and development of Meijer and was a trusted confidant of my father during a pivotal period in our company’s history,” he said. “The impact Earl made on Meijer was only exceeded by the impact he made on this community, which he loved dearly and supported through numerous philanthropic initiatives. Our thoughts and prayers are with Earl’s family during this difficult time.”

Added Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes: “Without Earl’s leadership, Meijer would not be the company it is today. His impact on our business can still be seen, and his impact on our culture will last even longer. He was never satisfied with just meeting customers’ needs, he always wanted to exceed them. Earl’s counsel has been truly invaluable to me, but I will miss our friendship the most.”

Holton was active in the community, serving on the board of Old Kent Bank & Trust, (now part of Fifth Third Bank), CMS Energy, Steelcase Inc., Spectrum Health Group, Grand Valley University Foundation and Goodwill Industries. He also served as trustee of Albion College and Grand Valley State University.

Services will be held at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park on May 16. That space was especially important to Holton, who co-chaired the capital campaign for the facility’s creation.

Privately owned Meijer operates 500-plus supercenters, Meijer Grocery, neighborhood markets and Express locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company is No. 23 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named the company one of its Retailers of the Century and one of its 10 Most Sustainable Grocers for 2024. 

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