Fred Meijer, the billionaire and chairman emeritus of supermarket giant, Meijer Inc. , died Friday morning, according to a statement released by his family. He was 91.
According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, Meijer passed away at the Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids after suffering a stroke in his home early Friday morning.
“The Meijer family thanks everyone for their thoughts and prayers and requests their privacy be respected at this difficult time,” a statement issued by Meijer, Inc. said.
As Newser.com reports, Frederik Meijer was just 14-years-old when his Dutch immigrant father, Hendrik, decided to enter the grocery business in Greenville, Michigan during the Great Depression in 1934.
After the success of the Greenville store, Frederick and his father added general merchandise to their inventory, launched Meijer Thrifty Acres in 1962 and in doing so, pioneered one-stop shopping, now the staple of competitors like Wal-Mart.
Frederick inherited the company two years later, after his father’s death, and then in 1984 renamed all of the Thrifty Acres stores to just Meijer. As of today, the retailer operates 197 stores and has over 60,000 employees across Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
In 2011 the Meijer “hypermarket” chain was ranked No. 13 on Forbes’s list of “America’s Largest Private Companies” and Frederick Meijer was ranked as the 60th richest person in the U.S. with a net worth of $5 billion.
Frederik Meijer, survived by his wife, Lena, and sons Hank, Doug and Mark, was known for saying, “Customers don’t need us, we need them.”
His company still goes by that motto today.