Greetings all, and I hope everyone is ready for Spring to come in full force and with it the full slate of dinners, outings and shows. We’ve been spared for the most part as far as winter goes, but those sporadic blasts of freezing temps and precipitation certainly make us anticipate the warmer weather that much more.
I was really disheartened to learn that Joel Perlmutter passed away March 3 at the age of 80. Joel was the CEO of Perlmart, Inc., operators of seven ShopRite supermarkets along the Jersey Shore. Joel began his life in the food business at his father Julius’ small supermarket Community Food Market in Toms River, NJ. Joel’s dad and uncle (Ben Goldstein) had started a retail food business which began as G&P Markets in Lakewood, NJ in the 1930s and continued with the opening of the new 10,000 square foot Community Food Market. It was in that same year they joined the Wakefern Food Corporation and then changed their corporate name to Perlmart, Inc. The company continued growing through the years, and Joel ascended to CEO and was assisted by his brother Michael Perlmutter and partner Jim Haslett. He was one of the nicest and most deeply caring people I’ve ever known and I will fondly remember him, especially for two particular moments. Nearly 19 years ago, my wife Susan and I were blessed with our first born child. Shortly thereafter though, we learned our son had a heart condition and he was rushed to Hackensack University hospital where he remained for a few weeks while a cardiology team worked on his case. I didn’t really share the news with many at the time, so you can imagine my amazement when a card arrived at my office with a beautiful handwritten note of empathy, encouragement and support while dealing with the news of my newly born son’s condition. The card and words of encouragement were from Joel. Obviously I knew Joel from covering the industry, but I wasn’t necessarily “close” with him. The note was so touching and kind and it was that incident that started my awareness of what an extraordinarily kind and generous man he was. The second instance happened when I was with my old company Modern Grocer. We had an annual Publisher’s Award that we gave out to a food retailing executive every year and in one particular year former Wakefern president and COO Dean Janeway was the recipient. I thought I was going to Dean’s office to make the presentation, when I was intercepted by then SVP and now president and COO Joe Sheridan who informed me that they were in the process of having their owners meeting in the corporate board room and he’d like me to address the owners prior to seeing Dean. To say I was a little caught off guard would be an understatement, but as Joe said, “Come on Gallagher, you have the gift of gab and you’ll think of something to say.”