Alex Grass, one of the founders of rite aid and a pioneer of chain drugstore retailing, died Thursday in Harrisburg, Pa., following a 10-year battle with lung cancer. He was 82.
Rite Aid made its debut in 1962 solely as a health and beauty aids merchant under the name Thrif D., and with Grass at the helm, it expanded into one of the largest and most productive drugstore chains in the nation.
“Alex was a major contributor to the chain drug industry,” said Harvey Alstodt, former president of Del Cosmetics. “He was very interested in the business and was very hands on during meetings. The company did well under him and he was great at increasing productivity. Grass was always looking to test different store formats.” In beauty, for example, Rite Aid was among the first to stock prestige fragrances in the Eighties.
“Pharmacy and society have lost a leader with the passing of Alex Grass,” said Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, president and chief executive officer of National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
In addition to founding Rite Aid, Anderson added, Grass engaged actively in international, national and local endeavors. These include serving as chairman of the NACDS, participating in many community organizations and contributing to the vitality of institutions worldwide. One example is the University of Florida, where he graduated from the law school and established an endowment to advance the University’s Center for Jewish Studies. Another example, among many more, is The Hebrew University in Israel, where the Alex Grass Center for Drug Design and Synthesis at the School of Pharmacy carries on his legacy.
“Through his business and personal activities, he advanced the health and wellness of patients and consumers, and of his neighbors in the community and around the world. On behalf of all of his friends at NACDS, we extend our condolences to Alex’s family and join them in celebrating his amazing life,” Anderson said.
Grass stepped down as chairman and ceo in 1995. His son, Martin, ran the company until he was ousted in 1999. He is in prison until January for conspiracy stemming from an overstatement of Rite Aid’s earnings.