NEW YORK — Irwin Zazulia, a 28-year veteran of May Department Stores Co. who spent 20 years as president and chief executive of May’s Washington D.C.-based Hecht’s division, died Tuesday morning of cardiac arrest, the company said. He was 61.

He was credited with catapulting Hecht’s from a local chain to a regional retail force, growing it to 74 stores from 21 and managing four complex mergers involving integrating Thalhimers, Miller & Rhoades, Wanamakers and Strawbridge’s into Hecht’s. When he retired in 2000, Hecht’s annual sales were $2.5 billion. The division, now called Hecht’s/Strawbridge’s, operates 80 stores in Washington, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Tennessee.

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