For 90 years, one company has been a leader in the food industry. Now, in the year 2012, that company, Spartan Stores, owns and operates 96 supermarkets in Michigan under the D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Supermarkets, Glen's Markets and VG's banners. The company also supplies more than 40,000 private and national brand products to more nearly 375 independent grocery locations.
In the beginning, the company that would later become Spartan Stores was organized in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on December 27, 1917 at a meeting of one hundred independent food retailers. Faced with growing competition from national chain stores, they sought a plan for survival. Forty-three of these grocers signed the Articles of Incorporation for the Grand Rapids Wholesale Grocery Company. By April of 1918, they were granted a license to form a cooperative. Together, they bought commodities so they could pass savings along to customers. The first purchase of the cooperative was a boxcar of sugar.
The collapse of the sugar market in 1921 nearly ruined the company but it fought back and by 1924 had 181 new members. By 1927, most members were riding high on an inflationary wave that boosted volume to $800,000. By the end of the 1920s, the future looked rosy. Then the Great Depression struck.
Despite the economic desolation of the '30s, the company expanded and moved into larger facilities twice. By 1934, sales surpassed the $1 million mark and membership grew. By 1937, 175 retailers had joined the cooperative.
During the war, food rationing, price controls and shortages made life bleak; however, membership and sales figures climbed for the company. In 1945, sales peaked at $4.6 million and by 1949 sales reached $10 million.
Spartan's first subsidiary was established in 1950 - the United Wholesale Grocery Company. Between '52 and '57, the Grand Rapids Wholesale Company's sales grew 120%. Contributing to that success was a health and beauty care line added in '54 along with the introduction of the Spartan brand product line with Spartan coffee. In 1953, the Spartan warrior symbol was adopted and in '57 the name changed to Spartan Stores, Inc. A new office/warehouse complex was constructed on 44th Street in 1958.
The decade began with the addition of another subsidiary - the Market Development Corporation. In 1962, Associated Grocerís Tick-Tock warehouse in Detroit was acquired. Another milestone sales figure - almost $100 million - was reached in '64. Grand Rapids Produce, Inc. was acquired and placed Spartan firmly in the perishables business. The new general merchandise warehouse opened in Grand Rapids in '67. A new warehouse in Plymouth began operation and Spartan's transportation system became part of the company in '68.
Between '71 and '79, sales more than doubled. Construction for the 76th St. warehouse/offices began in 1973 and operations at the new warehouse began in '75. The general merchandise warehouse and office building opened in '77. Spartan trucks started carrying the slogan, "The Food People." The Gem label was introduced in '78 and, to end the decade, two new subsidiaries became a reality -- Shield Insurance Agency and The Spartan Insurance Company, Ltd.
The troubled Michigan economy caused concern among Spartan members in the '80s, but the company had its first billion dollar sales year in '82. Patrick M. Quinn became president and CEO in 1985, the same year Spartan Stores, Inc. became exclusive sponsor of the Michigan Special Olympics Summer Games. In '87, the Reclamation Center opened in Charlotte, Michigan and Spartan acquired L&L/Jiroch Distributing Company, followed by the purchase of Associated Grocers (which later became Capistar) in 1989.
Associates could purchase stock for the first time in 1991,the same year Spartan reached sales of $2 billion. In 1993, Spartan acquired J.F.Walker, the nation's eighth largest convenience store wholesaler. In 1995, the Capistar subsidiary closed. Lipari Foods became the new deli/bakery supplier. Spartan appointed two outside members to its board of directors. Then current President and CEO Jim Meyer assumed the position in 1997 upon Quinn's retirement. The return to retail supermarket ownership was announced with the purchase of Ashcraft's stores. The decade ended with Spartan purchasing Glen's Markets, Family Fare and Great Day bringing the total of corporate-owned stores to 47.
Spartan Stores, Inc. merged with Seaway Food Town adding 39 supermarkets and 21 discount drug stores (under The Pharm banner) to its retail base for a total of 116 stores. Spartan Stores' stock became publicly traded on the NASDAQ National Market in August 2000.
Two new Family Fare Supermarkets opened in Wyoming and Zeeland, Michigan.
Craig C. Sturken joined Spartan as President & CEO. Jim Meyer retired as President & CEO. Spartan Stores divested of its Food Town grocery retail operations and two of its convenience subsidiaries, L&L Jiroch and J.F. Walker.
Spartan Stores acquired D&W Food Centers adding 16 supermarkets to its retail base for a total of 68 stores.
Spartan Stores acquired Felpausch Food Centers adding 20 supermarkets to its retail base for a total of 88 stores. Opened a new Family Fare Supermarket in Allendale, Michigan. Dennis Eidson, COO, appointed President and elected to Board of Directors.
Spartan Stores acquired VG's Food and Pharmacy adding 17 supermarkets to its retail base for a total of 100 stores.
Opened a new Glen's Markets in Manistee, Michigan.
New D&W Fresh Market opened Knapp's Crossing in Grand Rapids, Michigan