When Farmer Jack was the go-to grocery store in Metro Detroit

Farmer Jack in Taylor, Michigan in 2006.
Farmer Jack in Taylor, Michigan in 2006.

While Kroger and Meijer have been around in Michigan for a long time, there's another grocery store chain that many Metro Detroit families depended on.

Farmer Jack, a Detroit-based grocery store chain, used to be one of the go-to stores for Metro Detroiters, especially in the 1990s. 

The chain has been closed since 2007, but at its peak, Farmer Jack operated more than 100 stores in Southeast Michigan.

Though the backstory of Farmer Jack dates back to 1924 when Tom Borman and Sam Burlak opened Tom's Quality Meats in Detroit, the chain didn't peak until the 1990s when A&P converted all of its Metro Detroit stores to Farmer Jack stores.

In 1996 the 100th Farmer Jack store opened in Chesterfield Township.

A&P continued opening Farmer Jack stores in Southeast Michigan through the early 2000s, including stores in Waterford and Dearborn Heights.

Through the 1990s, Farmer Jack was A&P's most profitable store. It wasn't until 2002 that signs of trouble began to bubble to the surface.

Store expansion into surrounding markets like Flint and Saginaw turned out to be a big mistake. 

In addition to the failed expansion, competitors like Kroger, Kmart and Meijer were remodeling, rebranding and cutting prices -- something Farmer Jack didn't invest in. Layoffs and store closures began in 2002-2003.

In 2001, Farmer Jack led Metro Detroit in market share. By 2002, Kroger led the market and Meijer began its climb.

In 2003, Farmer Jack started to close stores and offer voluntary buyouts to senior employees. Many stores were converted into A&P's Food Basics, in a last ditch effort to compete with Save-A-Lot.

In 2005, A&P officially listed Farmer Jack for sale. There was a conditional sale to Spartan Stores in place, but the deal fell through.

Related: Memories of Livonia's Wonderland Mall

The chain made one last push to profitability in 2006, but it wasn't enough. In March 2007, A&P announced plans to sell or close all stores.

Many of the remaining stores were sold to Kroger and other smaller chains. A&P stopped paying rent and filed for bankruptcy years later. 

To this day, there are some former Farmer Jack buildings that remain vacant in Metro Detroit.

Customers may remember Farmer Jack's famous jingle, "It's Always Savings Time at Farmer Jack," which filled the commercial airwaves for years.

About the Author: