Back in October 1970, when most teenagers were getting ready for Halloween, Levin was putting on a shirt and tie for his first day at work. The busy holiday season was just about to start, so his friend’s dad offered him the chance to give the job a try and find out whether he had what it takes to work in a retail environment. His friend’s dad was Fred Meijer, who co-founded the Meijer company with his father in 1962.
Five decades later, he’s the store director at the Cedar Springs Meijer, celebrating his 50th anniversary of working for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer.
“This is just what I’ve always done, and I am proud of where it has taken me,” Levin said. “Customers tell me they’re surprised by how much they see me walking thru the aisles or in the parking lot pushing carts. I tell them they see me there because ‘that’s where you are.’ I was taught to manage by walking around and being involved. By sharing what customers and team members are experiencing, it sets you up to do your best to help.”
A Grand Rapids-native who attended Kindergarten with Doug Meijer, Larry’s first day working for Meijer was Halloween 1970. It began with him bagging groceries and collecting carts at the Meijer Thrifty Acres store on Plainfield Ave. Soon he transferred to the Meijer store on Alpine Ave. where he continued to gain experience.
In the years to follow, he would oversee the hardware department, general merchandise and apparel, as well as how to open a store, work night shifts, and oversee the bottle return area. He would see the company expand from having stores in 23 locations to more than 250 stores in six states, He would also meet his wife Kathy Clayson, when she was working at Meijer as a manager in training. He even gave her the engagement ring at the store on Clyde Park Ave. in Wyoming, Mich.
As one of an elite group of Meijer team members to celebrate 50 years of service at a company that now employs nearly 65,000 people, Larry is still good friends with Doug Meijer, and says the belief and trust his “friend’s dad” showed in him is the reason why he’s stayed, and it is why he’ll always be grateful for the chances he was given by Fred Meijer.
“My dad believed in helping people follow their ambitions, and he empowered people to be their best,” said Doug Meijer. “He expected anyone who worked in our stores to learn the business and earn the respect of not only your customers, but your co-workers and community as well. Larry has not only been a great friend to me, but he has made the whole company proud by reaching such a milestone.”