GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Midwest retailer Meijer on Friday announced the debut of a new commercial featuring photos of local children riding its iconic penny pony, Sandy. The 30-second commercial will begin airing within the retailer's five-state footprint — Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky — in June and a 60-second version of the commercial is online now. Meijer shoppers can also watch the ad on TV walls in the store's electronics department.
"Ever since Meijer first opened its doors in 1934, we've been a family store — family-owned and dedicated to providing families with the best shopping experience possible," stated Nicole Laughlin, VP brand development for Meijer. "For decades, a ride on Sandy has been a very important part of that Meijer experience for millions of families. That's something we're incredibly proud of."
Meijer selected 28 photos for the TV spot from more than 3,200 submitted during the Star with Sandy photo contest hosted on its Facebook page earlier this year. Four additional children were chosen for the 60-second version.
For many families, Sandy is the highlight of their routine shopping trips and a reward for their children's good behavior. Amanda Stark, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was thrilled to learn her 2-year-old son, Braevin, would appear in the commercial.
"At least once a month when we go grocery shopping it's a good incentive for Braevin. I tell him that if he's good that he will be able to ride Sandy," Stark said. "I'm just so proud of him that he won."
Sandy, the iconic mechanical pony, debuted at the opening of Thrifty Acres in 1962. The late Fred Meijer was inspired by a supermarket in Nebraska that offered 10-cent pony rides, but wanted to provide a more reasonable option. The price of one penny per ride has since become symbolic of the affordable shopping experience at Meijer.
"My dad believed in making things affordable for our customers and that included Sandy," Meijer co-chairman Hank Meijer said. "Riding Sandy is a memory shared by so many children and parents who shop at our stores. But the real magic happens when those children grow up and bring their own kids back for a ride."
Sandy has been a fixture at the front of all Meijer stores across the Midwest for decades, and is often the last thing a child remembers on the way out of the store.
"I've been shopping at Meijer for years. It's a family tradition," said Sheri Miller, of Shipshewana, Ind. Her 6-year-old daughter, Katie, will co-star in the commercial. "Katie never leaves without riding Sandy. It's her favorite part of the store."