FRED MEYER

An innovator in the discount mart phenomenon of the mid-20th century, this Portland, Oregon-based chain was founded by Fred G. Meyer (nee' Frederick Grubmeyer), who originally hailed from Brooklyn, New York City.

Meyer's first bona fide retail store, known as the Java Coffee Company, and later the Mission Tea Company, opened, in center city Portland, early in the 20th century. The business relocated to the northwestern "Uptown" area in 1922. In 1928, Fred Meyer opened the nation's first self-service drug store.

The Fred Meyer business enterprise prospered during the Great Depression. A new flagship store, the company's first so-called shopping center, opened in the northeastern Hollywood district of Portland in 1931. In 1932, locations opened as far away as Salem and Astoria.

The new Hollywood store, an early car culture emporium, encompassed 45,000 square feet and featured off-street parking and an auto service center. Apparel was added in 1933, auto, housewares, bakery, candy and photo-finishing departments came in 1935.

Post-war prosperity brought a new 70,000 square foot store prototype, introduced with the Fred Meyer Rose City store, in 1949. Similar locations opened in the outlying suburbs during the early-to-mid 1950s; these strategically-placed adjacent to newly-built expressways. In 1955, the first Eve's Buffet Restaurants opened in various stores.

Seattle-based Markettime Drugs, the first Fred Meyer acquisition, was purchased in December 1959. The growth of the company then accelerated to breakneck speed. In 1944 there had been four stores, eight by 1951 and nineteen by 1963. A second corporate buyout, taking in the Roundup Wholesale Grocery Company of Spokane, was arranged in February 1964.

By 1968, there were thirty-one Fred Meyer stores in operation in three states, this number had been expanded to forty-two by 1971. These larger format, freestanding superstores each encompassed in the neighborhood of 155,000 square feet.

The next major Fred Meyer acquisition involved the purchase of eleven stores, operated by Seattle-based Weisfield's, Incorporated, in August 1975. Included were two Valu-Marts, six Leslies and three Baza'r discount outlets.

By 1980, the Fred Meyer enterprise consisted of sixty-three stores in five states and comprised the largest retail chain in the Pacific Northwest. New York City-based Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts bought the holdings of Fred Meyer in December 1981 and held the same until the fall of 1986.

In 1990, there were one hundred and twenty-two Fred Meyer shopping center stores. Expansion slowed with a retail retreat from California in 1994 but picked up speed with major acquisitions late in the decade.

In May 1997, Salt Lake City-based Smith's Food and Drug Centers were brought under the corporate umbrella, followed by Seattle-based QFC / Quality Food Centers and the Southern California-based Food 4 Less Holdings / Ralphs conglomerate, in March 1998.

Cincinnati-based Kroger merged with the Fred Meyer company in May 1999. The combined enterprise operated eighteen food store divisions, with its Fred Meyer Stores, Incorporated subsidiary consisting of one hundred and twenty-five supercenter-type stores. By now, each enveloped between 185,000 and 240,000 square feet.