GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The rising cost of food and gas prices due to inflation continues to challenge budget buyers across the U.S.
In West Michigan, the average cost of a gallon of unleaded gas is $4.36. A two-gallon jug of milk costs $2.86 and a pound of ground beef will cost upwards of $6. But there is one thing at Meijer grocery stores across the Midwest that hasn’t changed in price: Sandy the mechanical horse, children’s favorite checkout activity.
“Sandy has been around as long as we’ve been around,” said Chris Schwandt, store director of Rockford’s Meijer.
Sandy the Penny Pony galloped into Meijer’s first big Grand Rapids store in 1962.
“It came with a 10-cent sign on it, painted right on that horse,” Hank Meijer, son of Meijer founder Fred Meijer and current Meijer CEO, said. “My dad looked at that and said, ‘No way.’ That seemed like too much money for a parent to put that child on the horse just for a few minutes of fun.”
Since that day, Sandy the Penny Pony has cost only 1 cent — a small price to pay to make a memory to last a lifetime.
“You know moms are up here distracted, doing their thing, and it was nice to have the pony there to provide some entertainment,” Schwandt said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices are expected to increase between 9% to 10% this year. The cost of power and cleaning materials continue to rise and yet the price of a childhood memory remains the same.
Meijer would not release the current costs to run all 250 Sandys across the Midwest but said the pony is almost certainly operating at a loss.
“It’s probably more than a penny with the way things go these days,” Schwandt said. “Just the electricity alone probably is crazy, but that is not why we do it.”