Fred Leeson is a Portland journalist and author who lives in Portland, Oregon. At our Friday morning meeting he presented an engaging summary of his biography My-Te-Fine Merchant—Fred G. Meyer.
For the first time, a richly-detailed biography reveals the personal and business lives of Fred G. Meyer, one of the Pacific Northwest’s greatest entrepreneurs. The brilliant, self-taught merchant changed the face of retailing with the creation of more than 60 big one-stop shopping centers in four states.
Meyer’s personal and business histories were more complex than he ever let on. This compelling account draws on recollections of Meyer’s closest associates on recordings that were locked away for more than 20 years at the Oregon Historical Society. The Meyer they knew was single-minded, abrasive, intense, brilliant and demanding — a man who was respected and feared.
The book traces Meyer’s astonishing 70-year business career that took him from door-to-door coffee sales to the massive one-stop centers that became a national model combining, food, drugs and many other departments. Another entrepreneur who visited Meyer early in the 1970s, Sam Walton, borrowed heavily from Meyer’s successful one-stop shopping concept in creating the national Walmart Super Centers.
Yet even geniuses don’t get everything right. Readers will learn about business setbacks that Fred G. Meyer seldom mentioned and fractured family matters that led him to turn his back on close relatives.
Meyer’s exposure early in his adult life to a little-known occult Christianity philosophy influenced his parsimonious lifestyle, his belief in reincarnation and his decision to leave his vast wealth in trust for public benefit. He was indeed, the book suggests, a brilliant and difficult man. Readers will walk through Fred Meyer Shopping Centers with richer understanding of the singular entrepreneur who created them and their distinctive place in the history of U.S. retailing.
The author, Fred Leeson, is a Portland journalist who worked for 37 years for the Oregon Journal and The Oregonian newspapers. This acclaimed account of Meyer’s life and its unique look at Portland history is Leeson’s third book on subjects of Portland and Multnomah County history. Options for purchasing My-Te-Fine Merchant can be found at www.my-te-finemerchant.com/