Throughout the 1930s, Fred Meyer's business expanded throughout Downtown Portland and then into the outlying areas of Portland. Fred Meyer had a certain knack for figuring out what the next big thing would be. In 1928 he opened one of the first self-service drugstores in the world at a time when people usually had to buy toiletries and pharmaceutical products directly from a pharmacist. He also predicted the rise of the automobile and made sure that all his outlying stores had ample parking, many with auto service available on site. The Hollywood store which opened in 1931 had a rooftop parking lot, a first for the city and a great draw for customers for both the convenience and the novelty of it.
The stores also featured in-house brands of inexpensive, pre-packaged goods under the brand name My-Te-Fine. This brand name would become the signature motto of the company.
But Fred Meyer is perhaps best known for pioneering the concept of one-stop shopping. In addition to the grocery sections, his stores included many departments with everything a shopper might need, eliminating the need for multiple trips to several locations.
Fred G. Meyer in the mid-1930s. At this point, he had about
a dozen stores throughout Portland.
Eva C. Meyer, circa 1935. Fred and Eva were married in 1919 after meeting in a diner where Fred would do his paperwork and where Eva worked. Eva would become the Secretary-Treasurer of Fred Meyer, Inc. and was instrumental in the growth and development of the company.
This is a merchandise display at the first Fred Meyer stores
in downtown Portland on SW
Yamhill. (circa 1935)
Opened in 1928, this was one of the very first self-service drugstores in the world. The idea was so novel that wholesalers refused to sell merchandise to Fred Meyer. In order to stock his store, he bought up smaller drugstores and used their inventory.
One of the first "suburban" Fred Meyer stores, the Hollywood store on SE Sandy and 42nd opened in 1931. For years, Fred Meyerwould pay the parking tickets for customers who visited his downtown stores and got caught in no-parking zones. By paying the tickets, he found out where most of these customers lived and since many were coming from the NE sector of the city, he decided to open his next store there.
Fred Meyer opened another store in what was then an outlying part of the city, SE Hawthorne and 36th Avenues. You may recognize this storefront as the current location of the Bread and Ink Café.
Fred Meyer's stores were among the first to offer rolling shopping carts to shoppers. (circa 1936)
Some of the Fred Meyer locations included lunch counters which became popular gathering places. (circa 1937)
This is the Fred Meyer float for the 1938 Rose Festival Parade.
Fred Meyer never missed an opportunity to promote his
products. Here, a train car transporting tires for the stores' automotive
departments in 1938 sports a banner declaring their destination.
Butchers at the Hollywood store pose with turkeys for sale for Thanksgiving, 1938.
A display case advertising candies and lollipops at the downtown 6th Avenue store, 1939.
A booth promoting vegetable and fruit juices (and the juicer to make them) at Fred Meyer, 1936.
Fred Meyer sponsored a very popular radio show on KOIN Radio called "Consumer News." It was hosted by Peter Mudie (seen here in 1938) and remained on the air for 32 years.
Fred Meyer stores often promoted local produce and had an annual Oregon Apple Week celebration in the fall. This display is at the Hollywood store in 1938.
A display case at the opening of the Stadium Fred Meyer store on NW 21st and Burnside shows some of the many products prepared under the My-Te-Fine brand name, 1939.
Fred Meyer stores were a huge part of downtown Portland throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Here you can see what one store looked like circa 1935 during the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.
The Meyers traveled extensively and whenever they could they
visited the places where their store products originated. In this clip, Fred
and Eva make a stop at a grapefruit orchard during a Florida vacation. He
inspects that fruits that may soon travel to store many miles away.
As it was everyone, World War II was a challenging time for the Fred Meyer stores. The stores had to cope with smaller staffs due to employees' enlistment and they struggled to keep stores stocked due to product shortages. One of the ways they dealt with shortages was by stepping up their own in-house productions and developing local networks for supplies.
With the war also came an influx of migrants who arrived to work in the Portland shipyards. The company scrambled to meet the needs of these new residents. Fred Meyer hastily assembled stores to cater to these newcomers who were concentrated in North Portland.
Fred Meyer, his family and employees did what they could to support the war effort. They hosted war bond auctions, picnics for GIs, victory garden shows and more. Fred Meyer even donated the decorative metalwork from his downtown 6th Avenue store to be used in shipbuilding.
This store was opened quickly in an existing warehouse in North Portland in order to provide a grocery store for the 14,000 new residents of University Homes, a housing development for people working in the wartime shipyards. This picture was taken soon after opening in 1943.
This is how the 6th Avenue Fred Meyer store in downtown Portland appeared before the beginning of World War II.
Workers remove the decorative metalwork that appeared on the façade of the 6th Avenue store. The metal was then donated to the war effort and went towards building ships.
A World War II era billboard displays an advertisement for the every-expanding My-Te-Fine brand.
Fred Meyer sponsored several War Bond Auctions throughout the war years in order to raise money for the war effort.
Because of widespread food shortages during the war, citizens were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens, that is, home vegetable gardens to supplement their diet. Fred Meyer hosted classes and shows for these Victory Gardens. In this picture, judges evaluate home-grown onions, 1943.
Another consequence of wartime disruptions was a shortage of eggs which Fred Meyer stores needed for everything from mayonnaise production to baked goods. During the war, they regularly ran ads in local papers offering to buy local farmers' eggs.
Fred Meyer began opening production plants to supply their stores in the 1930s. By the 1940s the production plants included a bakery, dairy, candy-making factory, a mayonnaise kitchen and egg-packing facility. Having independent supply and distribution networks mitigated the effects of wartime shortages. This is the bakery on SE Hawthorne and 11th Avenues, circa 1941.
A woman packing egg crates at the egg packing facility, circa 1942.
Women working at the Fred Meyer dairy plant kitchens, circa 1945.
Man working at the Fred Meyer candy-making facility, circa 1940.
Fred Meyer was dedicated to the war effort during the Second
World War and often hosted bond drives, fundraisers, scrap metal collections
and more at his stores. Here he hosts a picnic for GIs on leave.
The Postwar Boom and Beyond, 1946 – 1978
After the War, Portland continued to grow. The postwar boom led to a rapid and dramatic expansion of the Fred Meyer brand. Families began moving into the rapidly developing suburbs and Fred Meyer stores soon followed. In the suburbs where land was plentiful and cheap, the stores grew into supercenters, sprawling department stores, which had groceries, but also hosted a wide variety of goods from automotive parts and garden supplies to apparel and jewelry.
Fred Meyer seemed to have a knack for predicting where the next big area of development in the Portland area would be. He would often buy a parcel of land cheaply before the area was populated. Then once houses and other business moved in, he would build his supercenter in the midst of bustling commercial center.
By the mid-sixties, Fred Meyer had his sights set beyond the Portland area. The company first purchased the Markettime chain in Seattle, Washington and then began acquiring many other smaller chains around the Pacific Northwest. By the end of the sixties, they had over 40 stores in 4 states.
At the Grand Opening of the new Hawthorne store in 1951. Fred Meyer would open many new stores over the next few decades and they were always big events – and always involved big cakes!
The Grand Opening of the Interstate store in 1953. Eva Meyer looks approvingly at the grand cake.
Another big opening and another big cake. Fred and Eva Meyer joined by radio personality Peter Mudie preside over the cake-cutting at the new Gateway Shopping Center in 1954.
Fred Meyer understood that car culture meant that ample parking was a must. Hollywood store, circa 1955.
Head of Fred Meyer's Restaurants, Pauline Lawrence, demonstrates the new Radar Range oven at the Burlingame store in 1956. This new, high tech microwave oven was the first installation of its kind in the Western U.S.
Radio personality, Peter Mudie, celebrates the Fred Meyer Cheese Festival by climbing atop the world's largest cheese, 1959.
Fred Meyer enjoys a small bite of the world's largest cheese with the Clark County Dairy Princess at the grand opening of the Hazel Dell store in 1962.
President of the Fred Meyer company (and Fred's stepson), Earle A. Chiles poses with some of the company's own products including My-Te-Fine Milk and Eve's Frozen Pie (which was named after Fred's wife). (circa 1962)
This photo spread shows the growth of the kinds of products now being produced by Fred Meyer, Inc. By the early 1960s they were making everything from chocolates to vitamins.
This map from 1965 shows the growing expansion of Fred Meyer stores throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Moving into the 1970s, Fred Meyer stores added more and more departments, including music and electronics.
Fred G. Meyer, circa 1976 at about 90 years old. Fred continued to work at the company until shortly before his death in 1978 at the age of 92.
Fred Meyer loved the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. He and his wife Eva had a home in Wemme, Oregon on Mt. Hood which they called "Eve's Eden." They would stay in the rustic surroundings as often as they could, swimming, gardening, hunting and otherwise playing and enjoying the outdoors. In these clips, you'll see: Fred Meyer and his groundskeeper, Jack Fisher, fell a huge tree on the property; Fred and Eva Meyer playing on a giant seesaw at nearby Camp Arrah Wanna; Fred and Eva riding a tandem bicycle together ; and Fred washing dishes at their outdoor kitchen where he's joined first by his stepson, Earle A. Chiles and then by Eva.
After Eva's death in 1960, Fred Meyer preferred to stay in Portland. His business empire grew exponentially in the years following and he would later say, "After the Missus passed on, I had nothing better to do. I enjoyed life with her and without her there wasn't much to do so I opened more stores."
Fred Meyer was interviewed on KATU news by Gerry Pratt in 1976 when he was nearly 90 years old. He discusses current events, the development of his business and his personal philosophies.
Fred Meyer after Fred Meyer, 1978 – 2010
Fred G. Meyer passed away in 1978, but his store and his legacy lives on. The company continued its expansion, acquiring more small grocery chains throughout the West. The kinds of goods sold at the stores continued to expand as well and new stores included electronics departments, home improvement sections and exercise equipment.
By the mid-nineties, Fred Meyer's stores merged with another national chain, Kroger, Inc. to become the largest grocery store chain in the country. The Fred Meyer name is still used for the stores in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, there are now over 130 stores with the Fred Meyer name. And to think, it all started with a man delivering coffee on horseback!
One of the first stores to open after the death of Fred Meyer, the Beaverton location was the largest and most ambitious store to date. The site was a testament to Fred G. Meyer's prescience in the real estate market: he had bought this land decades earlier when there was little development anywhere nearby. When the store opened, it was perfectly located at the intersection of Highway 217 and the Beaverton-Hillsdale highway. (1979)
As seen on the cover of the Fred Meyer employee newsletter, huge crowds gathered at the grand opening of the Beaverton store not only to see the state-of-the-art new facility, but also to catch a glimpse of Farrah Fawcett who hosted the celebration. (1979)
The Fred Meyer apparel departments continued to keep up with the latest fashions. This is a display from around 1986 at the Hawthorne store.
The departments in Fred Meyer stores began to change and expand, too. Every new Fred Meyer store had a stand-alone jewelry store.
The Fred Meyer electronics departments evolved with the advent of personal computers. Here a girl is seen testing out a Commodore 64 computer, circa 1985.
Fred Meyer continued to expand its production facilities as well as its stores. Here, a baker oversees an automated doughnut machine. (1981)
The fitness craze of the 1980s also made its way to Fred Meyer stores. Here a store employee demonstrates how to use the exercise equipment available for sale. (1986)
Fred Meyer stores had become so much a part of life in Oregon that this couple decided to wed in the Eugene store where they met. (1986)
A new mascot, Fred Bear, was introduced in the 1980s and would make frequent appearances at the stores to promote events and openings.
The company continued to expand into more cities and states. One of the biggest leaps was to Alaska where they opened several stores in the 80s and 90s that are still in operation today. (1996)
At the grand opening of the Wasilla, Alaska store in 1996 then-mayor Sarah Palin gets the honor of the cutting the cake with the traditional grand opening knife.
Fred Meyer, Inc. also took over a chain of stores in Arizona called Smitty's Marketplace. They used marketing phrases similar to those used for Fred Meyer stores, but added some southwestern flair.
This list of top-selling items at Fred Meyer stores in 2008 shows both the wide variety of items for sale and how much the retail landscape had changed since the start of the Fred Meyer stores nearly a century before.