Melvin Weitz, who ran a chain of 17 high-volume Melmarket Foodtown stores on New York’s Long Island, died June 4 at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 91 years old.
Born in 1923, Weitz began his food industry career by delivering milk to his Brooklyn neighbors as a 6-year-old to help support his family during the Depression, before getting a job at a local grocery store by the age of 10. During World War II, he served with distinction in the U.S. Navy, earning a Purple Heart.
After leaving the military, Weitz worked as a manager for the Big Apple Supermarket chain in New York, eventually rising to become president of the company, before leaving to start his own business. Creating larger, better-stocked stores than his competitors -- each Melmarket Foodtown Supermarket measured more than 60,000 square feet when the industry average was about 42,000 -- Weitz grew his company, Melmarkets Inc., from a single Foodtown location into a small empire across Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island.
"When it comes to sheer profitability, Melmarkets has few peers," a November 1992 Forbes article noted. "That high average checkout number is the key." Weitz’s customers spent twice as much per transaction as the national average, thanks in large part to his practice of piling high and selling low. Additionally, each spring, for six weeks, Weitz opened a temporary 65,000-square-foot kosher-for-Passover supermarket, a precursor to today’s trendy pop-up stores. Other innovations he adopted early on were on-site bakeries, freshly roasted chickens in the deli sections, free samples, club discount cards and low-priced bulk merchandise.
Weitz stepped down after The Stop and Shop Cos. purchased Melmarkets in 1995.
Weitz's survivors include his third wife, Ellen; his older brother, Phil; four children from previous marriages; two stepdaughters; and 14 grandchildren. Weitz's family requested that any donations in his name be made to the charity of the donor's choice.