Retail design pioneer Charles E. Broudy, who set the look for thousands of Gap, GapKids and babyGap stores in the Eighties and Nineties, died of cancer on Aug. 21 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He was 79.
Broudy designed everything from the store facades to the interiors and determined how the clothes were displayed, exerting enormous impact on the expansion of some of the most visible U.S. specialty chains.
For 43 years, Broudy, who lived in Penn Valley, Pa., ran his own Philadelphia-based architecture firm, Charles E. Broudy & Associates, which in 2002 merged with SPG3, another architectural firm.
“His projects reflected his own vision, but he knew who he was working for,” said Bob Cassway, vice president of SPG3. “He knew how to listen to his clients and that was the secret of his success.
“He was the kind of guy who could parlay one job into 50,” Cassway said. “He could design one store and the next thing, he was doing every store for the retailer. He worked for Ann Taylor for years and years and did the same thing for
“He was very driven and never wanted to stop working,” said his wife, Judith Broudy. “He loved it and even when he was traveling on vacation he would go into stores constantly, always looking for new ideas on facades and how to present merchandise. He was intense, but low-key intense.”
“Chuck was our partner in the repositioning of the Gap in the early Eighties,” said Millard “Mickey” Drexler, president, chief executive officer and chairman of J. Crew Group and ceo of Gap Inc. from 1983 to 2002. “He was an under-the-radar guy who was extremely creative and thoughtful about designing specialty stores. He understood clean, simple and timeless, and to this day his designs still look very current.”
Drexler added that, aside from creating the Gap prototype in the early Eighties, Broudy subsequently developed babyGap and GapKids prototypes, and that several rounders and table fixtures developed by Broudy have become industry standards. “He understood that it was really the products the customers should see, not the design,” Drexler said. “He was a wonderful guy to work with.”
Broudy’s first big retail assignment was for Villager, where he designed stores and received industry recognition, attracting other retail clients. He also worked for the Up Against the Wall chain, and Ann Taylor, where he first met Drexler in 1980, who at the time was Ann Taylor’s president.
Broudy tended to design in a modern clean style but demonstrated his versatility by tackling Boyds of Philadelphia, where he adapted an opulent historic building for the retailer’s luxury offerings. Broudy also designed much of the Gap’s San Francisco headquarters, the Nan Duskin and Johnston & Murphy retail stores, Petro-Canada, storefronts along two blocks of Chestnut Street in Philadelphia and museum stores for the Smithsonian Institution, the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.
He lectured at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and other institutions, coauthored three books on retail design published by McGraw Hill, held three U.S. patents for innovative design including a “pants wheel” and painted watercolors.
Earlier in his career, Broudy was the designer of a World’s Fair Pavilion for IBM and three U.S. International Trade Fair Buildings. He has also enhanced local Philadelphia landmarks, including the Reading Terminal Market, and the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Chestnut Street. He was a graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he was named to the “Drexel 100,” honoring the institution’s top 100 graduates, and sponsored a Drexel architectural scholarship named on his behalf. He was also a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a past president of its Philadelphia Chapter, and served in the Army during the Korean War.
In addition to his wife, Broudy is survived by two sons, Joshua and Matthew, a brother, Martin, and a sister, Bebe Richman.