By Dawn Pearson
‘Mom and Pops’ have been Zionsville’s retail foundation forever. From the one-of-a-kind stores on Main Street, out to Boone Village, to local artisans and restaurateurs, they are what makes Zionsville unique and original, other than the bricks.
Since 1955, the place to buy hardware was Akard’s. The store is well-known and woven into the community. The proprietors went to high school here, raised their families here and are fully vested in this town.
So what impact will the opening of the new Meijer store in Whitestown have on Akard’s? According to Leigh Ann Akard, who owns the store with her father, Steve Akard, the impact could be devastating, but they will work to keep the “big box” from hurting their business.
“We just really try to keep it (Akard’s) local. What people don’t realize is that we still have buying power and are competitively priced, yet being a co-op means we are independently owned,” she said. “We are good for the community and the community is good for us. What money is made here stays here, as well as the taxes paid here.”
Her concern with Meijer and any other development coming to Zionsville is that consumers often give in to the big boxes. “If they go to Meijer for groceries, they say, ‘Oh, look at these shoes’ or ‘I can get my furnace filters or hoses here today’ and they don’t come down to Boone Village,” Akard said.
“Boone Village is strong because of what we offer all together; we all depend on each other and this is true for Main Street, too,” she said. “The big boxes will take away business from all of us.”
But Akard’s is going to do what it’s always done and what has made it so successful through personalized customer service.
“We are able to respond to needs as they arise and are local. When Meijer opens, we will keep ourselves fresh and new with the pulse on what our customers’ needs and wants are,” she said. “We are able to do anything a big box can and more. Their products are based on and purchased by someone who doesn’t live here in Zionsville, but some other community. We fill our shelves based on our local customers’ needs.”
Frank J. Guglielmi, senior director of communications for Meijer headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich., said the store is on schedule to open late this spring and that the formal ribbon cutting will be about a month prior to the grand opening.
“The Meijer store in Whitestown Township will open in late spring 2014. The gas station will open about 30 days prior to the store. The store will employee approximately 250 people and we’ll be announcing details about the hiring process in the coming weeks,” Guglielmi said.
Guglielmi described the store this way: “It is a full-size supercenter with more than 100,000 items. In addition to more than 600 types of fresh produce, the store will also have a fresh bakery, a meat counter with custom cuts available and a deli counter. The store will also include a full-service pharmacy, garden center and electronics department, among other things.”
“The addition of Meijer will have a monumental impact on Boone County. The location of the Meijer facility will create an economic boost not only from customers in Whitestown and Boone County, but also travelers along I-65,” said Joe LaPage, director of marketing and communications for Boone County Economic Development. He added, “We won’t know Meijer’s full impact on brick-and-mortar until it opens its doors in 2014. The hope is always that all businesses can coexist and continue to thrive.”
“Instead of resting on our laurels, we will reintroduce ourselves,” Akard said. “We have or niche and are department-strong; we take in feedback to grow, for example, by adding new flower selections that will be exclusive to us. That’s something the big boxes can’t provide their customers: service, convenience and selection.”
For more details on Meijer, including its philanthropic efforts and free medication program, please go to the newsroom at http://newsroom.meijer.com/.