Back in 1970, a teenager in Michigan named Larry Levin was offered a job by his friend's father to try his hand in the retail environment. His friend's dad happened to be supermarket industry legend Fred Meijer.
Five decades later, Levin is the store director at the Cedar Springs, Michigan, Meijer, and he's celebrating his 50th anniversary of working for the retailer.
"This is just what I've always done, and I am proud of where it has taken me," said Levin. "Customers tell me they're surprised by how much they see me walking through the aisles or in the parking lot pushing carts. I tell them they see me there because 'that's where you are.' I was taught to manage by walking around and being involved. By sharing what customers and team members are experiencing, it sets you up to do your best to help."
A Grand Rapids, Michigan, native who attended kindergarten with Doug Meijer, Fred Meijer's son, Levin's first day working for Meijer was Halloween 1970. It began with him bagging groceries and collecting carts at the Meijer Thrifty Acres store on Plainfield Avenue. Soon he transferred to the Meijer store on Alpine Avenue, where he continued to gain experience.
In the years to follow, he would oversee the hardware department, general merchandise and apparel, as well as learn how to open a store, work night shifts and oversee the bottle return area. He would see the company expand from having stores in 23 locations to more than 250 stores in six states, He would also meet his wife, Kathy Clayson, when she was working at Meijer as a manager in training. He even gave her the engagement ring at the store on Clyde Park Avenue, in Wyoming, Mich.
As one of an elite group of Meijer team members to celebrate 50 years of service at a company that now employs nearly 65,000 people, Levin is still good friends with Doug Meijer, and noted that the belief and trust his "friend's dad" showed in him is the reason that he's stayed, adding that he'll always be grateful for the chances he was given by Fred Meijer.
Doug Meijer noted: "My dad believed in helping people follow their ambitions, and he empowered people to be their best. He expected anyone who worked in our stores to learn the business and earn the respect of not only your customers, but your co-workers and community as well. Levin has not only been a great friend to me, but he has made the whole company proud by reaching such a milestone."
A privately owned and family-operated company since 1934, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Meijer pioneered the "one-stop shopping" concept and has evolved through the years to include expanded fresh produce and meat departments, as well as pharmacies, comprehensive apparel departments, pet departments, garden centers, toys and electronics. Operating 256 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin, the company is No. 19 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.