Take a Penny, Leave a Penny: How Meijer’s “Sandy” Inspired a Generation of Generosity
If you grew up in Michigan, you know that no trip to Meijer was complete without a ride on our favorite pony "Sandy." The iconic brown pony located near the front checkout is practically synonymous with the Meijer name itself!
Sandy has been around for as long as I can remember, but I didn't realize she wasn't always a permanent fixture at the Michigan-based grocery chain. Did you ever wonder how Sandy came to be?
History of Meijer
The first Meijer store was opened in 1938 in Greenville, Michigan by Hendrik Meijer and his 14 year old son Fred. Despite having to battle tough economic conditions due to the lingering Great Depression, Meijer's grocery store was so successful that they were able to open a second location in Cedar Springs in 1945.
In 1962 Meijer opened the first Thrifty Acres store in Grand Rapids creating the first "supercenter" one-stop-shopping that we've come to know and love today. Meijer truly revolutionized the retail industry!
With the opening of the first Thrifty Acres store, 1962 was the first time Sandy came dashing into the hearts of Meijer shoppers. At the time, trips to the grocery store were not only about buying goods but were also considered a social outing. As Hendrik "Hank" Meijer describes it,
Supermarkets had become...real destinations for American families. And when we built the first big store there was an opportunity to really increase that sense of 'this is a place to come, a place to play, a place to socialize'...
Thus the Meijer family thought it was only natural to find a fun new way to entertain children.
When Sandy was originally purchased by the company, she came painted with a sign saying the cost was 10 cents per ride. Hank's father said there was no way he was going to charge hardworking families 10 cents a ride for just a moment of fun. The price was then lowered to just one penny, making Sandy affordable for all families.
Pay It Forward
Now that generations of families have come to know and love Sandy, what Hank Meijer says is most fascinating is the amount of people who will leave a penny on the horse for Sandy's next rider. Hank says,
...perhaps there's a lesson there about generosity that our children begin to learn. That someone helps them ride Sandy, they're going to help someone else ride Sandy.
I'm not crying, you're crying! I know she's just a mechanical horse but I guess I forgot how a simple gesture can make a world of difference, and Sandy is the embodiment of that.
The next time you're headed out of Meijer, take a look in Sandy's direction to see how many pennies have been left for future riders. Maybe even take a moment to dig some pennies out of your pocket and pay it forward yourself-- I know I will!