Carl Bennett, who transformed an $ 8,000 investment in a second-floor “Walk-Up – & – Save” store in Port Chester, NY, in 1951 into Caldor, the regional discount chain he sold for three decades later for $ 313 million, died Dec. 23 at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, he was 101 years old.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Robin Bennett Kanarek.
Mr. Bennett and his wife, Dorothy, mixed their first names and business acumen to create one of the North East’s largest and most aggressive retailers, combining discounted prices on quality branded products with a liberal return policy.
Mr. Bennett retired as President and CEO in 1985, four years after his company was acquired by Associated Dry Goods, owner of Lord & Taylor and other high-end department stores. By that time, 100 Caldor outlets in seven states had together achieved $ 1 billion in annual sales (the equivalent of about $ 2.6 billion today).
Known as “Bloomingdale’s of discounting,” Caldor has cut costs by paying suppliers quickly and thrived by stocking quality merchandise rather than irregular items and cheap products from closeouts. They provided friendly and knowledgeable service, undermined competitors like WT Grant, Two Guys and Woolco, and took over their stores when those retailers regrouped or went out of business.
But the company was wound up in 1999 after facing similar fierce competition from nationwide retail giants like Target and Walmart.
The Bennett’s were known locally for their philanthropy. They have donated more than $ 20 million to Stamford Health and Stamford Hospital in Connecticut (located on what was named the Bennett Medical Center campus in 2018) and to Jewish educational causes.
Carl Bennett was born January 27, 1920 in Greenwich, the son of Mayer Bennett, grocer and founder of Temple Sholom in Greenwich, and Rebecca (Lipsky) Bennett. The family lived above their grocery store.
After graduating from Greenwich High School, he attended New York University, but dropped out to work in his father’s store. He served in the 466th Foreign Army Quartermaster Battalion during World War II.
Mr. Bennett, who had also worked as a liquor salesman and butcher, married Dorothy Becker in 1951. The newlyweds were returning wedding gifts at an EJ Korvette store when Mr. Bennett considered opening his own discount store.
“He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life,” his daughter said, “but he totally admired his father, a grocer, and that’s how he developed his love of trading. detail.”
With $ 8,000 in savings in the military and a bank loan of $ 50,000, the Bennett’s opened a 1,200 square foot store selling toys, housewares, luggage and gifts on the second floor of a commercial building on Main Street in Port Chester.
In 1958, they opened a second Caldor, a 70,000 square foot store in Norwalk, Connecticut, which also sold clothing. Caldor went public in 1961, with Mr. Bennett as president and chairman and his wife as treasurer.
He was inducted into the Retailer Hall of Fame in 1983.
Dorothy Bennett died in 2008. In addition to his daughter, Mr. Bennett is survived by two sons, Marc and Bruce; and five grandchildren.