Meijer opened its superstore in Flossmoor Tuesday with a gift to the community — two donations of $25,000 each to Flossmoor School District 161 and Park Forest School District 163.
“My dad taught us that giving back is just something you do,” said Mark Meijer, a board member with the Michigan-based chain of grocery and superstores, at the grand opening ceremony.
“The fun of being in business is how we can help people, employing those who live locally and shop locally.”
The Tuesday morning event was “the biggest retail ribbon cutting we’ve ever had in this village,” said Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun. “Adding Meijer to our community is a terrific fit, an excellent addition to Flossmoor and a huge benefit to the entire surrounding south suburban community.”
Construction of the 192,000-square-foot store started in May 2015. It offers groceries, a pharmacy, a Starbucks, clothing and housewares, a garden center and an automotive center.
But the project dates back 20 years, Braun said, to the establishment of a tax increment financing district created to boost development of the site. Braun said it had taken years of hard work by village staff and previous village board members including former Mayor Roger Molski – who made the original contact with Meijer — to bring the project to completion.
Braun also thanked state and county officials, several of whom attended the ribbon-cutting, for helping make the Meijer superstore a reality.
Mark Meijer recognized the effort as well.
“Your team made it happen,” he said to Braun. “We’re thrilled to be part of this community.”
Store director Becky Beketic said Meijer gives 6 percent of net profits to charitable organizations.
“We chose two school districts where our team members live and work to support today,” she said.
District 161 Superintendent Craig Doster thanked Meijer and said the $25,000 donation would help fund the district’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program. Joyce Carmine, superintendent of District 163, applauded Meijer for bringing jobs to the community and said the district would use the $25,000 donation to purchase books to give to students.
Among the shoppers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Susan Farbstein, a Flossmoor resident who has been traveling to the Meijer store in Highland, Indiana for years.
“I’m here because it’s a mile from my house, and also because blueberries are on sale,” she said.
Farbstein said she became a Meijer fan years ago when her daughter was a student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
“It was her birthday and I wanted to get her a cake. I called the Meijer store there and they said they could bake one for her. So my daughter went and picked it up. It was a huge sheet cake, enough for all the kids on the dorm floor.
“I love Meijer,” Farbstein said. “You can’t beat their produce.”
When the store opened its doors for the first time, at 7 a.m. Tuesday, about 12 customers were waiting outside, said Meijer Public Relations Manager Joe Hirschmugl.
“They came inside the store and our team members applauded them,” he said.
The new store hired about 280 employees. It is expected to provide substantial tax benefits for both the village and local school districts. Flossmoor officials have said that Meijer is expected to annually generate $250,000 in property taxes and $500,000 in sales tax for the village.
Meijer invested $13.58 million in its Flossmoor project, according to a document submitted by the village to the Illinois Comptroller’s office last year.
Public Outreach Manager Patty Houlihan contributed to this story.