SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah-based grocery store chain that has prided itself in being closed on Sundays is changing its tune.
After closing its doors on Sundays for the past 70 years, Macey's will soon be open seven days a week at five of its stores.
"We found that the business is changing, (and) the shopping preferences, the needs of today's shoppers," said Macey's spokesman Tim Brown. "They want more convenience, whether it's online ordering or expanded hours."
The owners decided to open the selected stores on Sundays after researching shopping preferences of customers and noncustomers over the past few years, he said.
The Macey's stores in Sandy, Tooele, West Jordan, Ogden and Clinton will remain open all week beginning at the end of this month.
"Those stores are the ones that see the greatest demand for Sunday openings," Brown said. "So we set a date and decided Aug. 27 is the time to meet those needs."
The Salt Lake City-based company plans on giving employees premium pay for working on Sundays.
"No employee will be forced to work on Sundays, so this is a voluntary opportunity," Brown said. "If they choose not to because they have other commitments, we’re honoring that and we’ll staff the store with the employees who want to work extra hours and get the premium pay that comes with working on Sunday."
Some of Macey's employees aren't happy about the change.
"It was a pretty big letdown for me, because that’s why I came here, despite other options I had available," said an employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of putting his job in jeopardy. "I’m probably not going to work most Sundays. I’m not happy about it, but, I mean, I really like Macey’s and they’re a great company."
He said he and other employees heard about the change last weekend and were asked to fill out availability agreements.
"I don’t think I’m going to quit," the employee said. "I thought about it, I really thought about it, I even looked around a little bit. But I think in the end, I’ll end up staying here. I’m just disappointed about it."
In 2011, Darin Peirce, then vice president of Macey's, said Sunday closures were important for the company.
“We all believe that a very large portion of the success for the Macey’s stores over 65 years of operation is the firm commitment to Sunday closing,” he said in a KSL.com article. “We continually receive an overwhelming number of comments from customers saying they shop our stores exclusively due to our being closed on Sundays.”
Now, Peirce said newer research shows the demands of customers have shifted, and store policy is evolving to meet those needs.
"It's certainly a change from where we have been historically," he said Thursday. "It absolutely is a business decision that we've put a lot of thought and research into before making the decision."
Peirce — now division manager at Macey's — said being closed on Sundays did contribute to Macey's success in the past, but times change.
"(Being closed on Sundays has) certainly, like many other things that Macey's has done, helped make it successful. There are many things we've had to change and adapt and evolve throughout the years," he said. "This is one of those that we see today, and today's consumer wants something a little different from Macey's."
Customer Stacey Kratz said she lives close to a Macey's in Sandy and shops there several times during the week. She and her friend, Lisa Petersen, agreed the reason they shop at Macey's is partly because it's close by — and partly because the store is closed on Sundays.
"I’m sure I’ll still shop there," Kratz said. "But it is kind of the end of an era. You do feel a little melancholy about it. But if I only shopped at stores that didn’t open on Sunday, I would have nowhere to shop."
"Being a Christian, you would like to keep the Sabbath day holy. I always felt like I was supporting a company that held those same values," Petersen said. "It's a bit disappointing to me. I'll continue to shop there because it is my neighborhood store and I love the people who work there."
A South Ogden shopper, Mary Ellen Syrett, said she worked as a Macey's employee for over a decade. She shops at Macey's specifically because the store closed on Sundays, even when she felt prices were lower at other places.
"I'm mad, hurt and sad because of the decision Macey's is making to open stores on Sundays," she said. "Unless we speak up, it will become just another example of the almighty dollar becoming more important than the value and beliefs that we hold dear."
Sandy resident Grace Williams worked at Macey's until a couple weeks ago when she left to attend college. She said her religious beliefs urge members to avoid working on Sundays.
"I don't agree with it, but it doesn't mean that I don't like Macey's," she said. "I think they're one of the best places out there to go shopping because they're super nice and their values are still really good."
Brown said many Macey's employees have expressed support for the decision, saying the change is long overdue and they're looking forward to more hours and premium pay.
Cassi Moore works as a manager at a Macey's in Tooele. She said she's excited to open the store on Sundays and serve people who might only be able to shop on that day.
"I think it's really great. We are finally going to be able to compete with all of our competitors here in Tooele on Sundays," she said. "One of the really great things that our company is doing for us is it's all voluntary. That's definitely helped in the transition with our employees because if they choose not to work, they don't have to. And those that do, they also get to benefit."
"Successful businesses are good at meeting the needs and demands of their customers, and that’s what this is," Brown said. "It's responding to today's evolving world and retail grocery."
No other Macey's stories are currently slated to open on Sundays, he added, though research on consumer preferences and demands continues in stores across the state.
"We'll adjust and respond accordingly when it makes sense," Brown said. "Some people want to shop on Sundays. That's some of the feedback we've gotten from customers. If others don't want to, they obviously don't have to."
Any store fronts with old signage reading "Closed Sundays" — like the Macey's in Sandy — will be taken down in the coming weeks before Aug. 27, Brown said.
Macey's is making other "fresher" changes as well, he continued, like building smaller stores and offering online shopping. Earlier in July, the Sandy and Pleasant Grove locations started a home delivery pilot program.
The local grocery store chain has closed on Sundays since 1947 when its founder, Walt Macey, disagreed with his business partner about staying open on Sundays.
According to lore, President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told Macey he would refuse to shop in his store if it continued to be open on Sunday, the 2011 KSL.com article states.
In what became known as the "Save-A-Nickel-Market," Macey and Dale Jones split responsibility for the three stores they ran in Salt Lake City's Rose Park area. The larger store went to Macey while his partner took the two smaller stores.
Macey's store was first named "Macey’s Rose Park Economy Store," but was later changed to just "Macey's." His store, open six days a week, grew while the other two stores, open all week, eventually went out of business, the article states.
Associated Food Stores purchased the franchise in 1999. Macey's is now 12 stores strong, with locations in Logan, Ogden, Clinton, West Jordan, Sandy, Orem, Provo, Spanish Fork, Lehi, Pleasant Grove, Providence and Tooele.
"The family no longer has ownership of the company and did not make any decisions regarding this change, but they are aware of the store's need to cater to customers," Brown said.
"The Macey’s family has continued to reinforce their desire for Macey’s to continue to succeed now and in the future," he said. "They are supportive of whatever it takes to have Macey’s continue to be successful and grow."