Westlund’s apple market in Lansing celebrates the brand of the century
LANSING – When you ask Tim Westlund how his family’s small, independent grocery store hit the mark of the century, the first thing he’ll point out is all of the homes nearby.
Westlunds Apple Market is a neighborhood grocery store, he said. What you go there to buy is what you leave with, and on Lansing’s east side, he thinks this appeals to people.
“We’re not even going to try to sell you jeans or something down the aisle like the big stores,” Westlund said. “We’re not in this business. We’re a grocery store, nothing more. We can’t sell you CDs or belts or whatever. We’re groceries. We’re in and out.”
The shop dates from April 11, 1921.
From its place on East Grand River Avenue, many people stop at the 10,000 square foot store after work to pick up groceries for dinner that evening. Some long-time customers live close enough to go there.
Two families have owned it in the past 100 years. It went through four name changes and moved once – from Washington Avenue in downtown downtown to 2301 E. Grand River Ave. in the 1950s.
The Westlund family has owned it since the mid-1980s.
Today, large grocery stores surround Apple Market in Westlund, but Westlund said the longevity of its business is evidence that being small can still work in the grocery store as long as it’s done well.
“We’re a real supermarket like we used to be, you know?” he said. “Bigger grocery stores try to be everything to everyone and we just know what we’re doing.”
A family run company
When Wendy Sunstrum goes shopping at Westlund, she greets familiar faces at the meat counter, in the deli, in the bakery and at the checkout aisles.
“You’re not just another number,” said Sunstrum, who lives only a few miles away. “You are actually a person to them and they value you.”
She has been shopping there for decades. Suzanne Love too.
“I’m 73 and I can still go up there,” said Love. “It’s nice to walk in and see the owners walking around helping to fill shelves. It’s still the same business. It’s still the friendly place to go.”
The business is a family run business. Gerald Westlund started working there in the 1960s and bought it from former owner Mike Wickenhiser in 1986.
Tim Westlund, 60, was in his mid-twenties when he started working there. When his father Gerald died in 2007 after a brief battle with cancer, he took over. Today his wife Kelly, his daughter Erin and his sister Celia work there.
The store is his father’s legacy, said Tim Westlund.
Gerald Westlund lived a few minutes away and gave everything for business, he said.
“He just knew what he was doing,” said Tim Westlund. “It was second nature to him. I have said many times that I only care about the place for him.”
Growing up, Erin Westlund said that she and her cousins referred to Westlunds as “Grandpa’s Shop”. So many of her childhood memories were made with him there.
“He barely missed a day at work, and neither have I,” she said.
Tim Westlund said Westlund’s stayed true to Gerald’s belief that savings should be passed on to the business’s customers.
“That was the mindset of passing the savings on to the customer,” he said. “It’s certainly not a game changer, but that’s the mindset.”
Judging Rules Grand Ledge Schools did not violate the FOIA with requests from the ex-superintendent
What would it take to get Trader Joes, Ikea, to Greater Lansing?
One of Eaton Rapid’s best-known historic homes for sale
“Part of the continuity of life”
Westlund’s 36-strong workforce is long-lived.
76-year-old Phil Bahle has been working at the meat counter for 47 years.
“I’m one of the lucky few who have worked on a job that I really love,” he said. “We’re going to take the people who are fed up with the big stores and we take care of them and they keep coming back.”
Bahle said he knew most of Westlund’s customers, if not by name, then by their face.
Joanne Springsteen said the Westlund employees know her and they know her. These relationships are one of the reasons why she likes to shop there.
“I also like the fact that I can park 10 steps and walk to be at the entrance,” she said.
The Westlund family celebrated the business’s remarkable milestone with weekly sales, gift card giveaways and a party.
The staff will carry on as they always have, said Tim Westlund.
“For me, the 100 years are only part of the continuity of life.”
Contact Rachel Greco at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.