In 1962, when Fred Meijer was working in the grocery business started by his Dutch immigrant parents, he developed the concept of the retail superstore. Three decades later he was at the head of one of the largest private companies in America, with more than 200 huge outlets combining grocery and discount items. He was also by then a major philanthropist in his home region of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Even when his parents were pouring everything into their small business and had little spending money, Meijer remembered that his parents made art and culture experiences for their children a priority. “I had piano lessons, clarinet lessons, and violin lessons. I was encouraged to sing in choirs. No matter how hard up we were, things like that came as a part of life.” In 1995, Meijer gave the Grand Rapids public a gift of art in nature: the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. It is a high mix of 158 acres of horticultural and lakefront beauty with more than 100 pieces of large outdoor art created by prominent modern sculptors. The nonprofit attracts over 600,000 visitors annually. Thanks to Meijer’s gifts plus the contributions of 23,000 members from the surrounding community, it is comfortably endowed to provide years of rich programming organized by its 200 staff members and 800 volunteers.
- About the gardens, meijergardens.org/about