NEW YORK — Max Samuel “Tom” Grumbacher, former chairman of The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., the second-largest regional department store in the U.S., died Wednesday at home in Philadelphia after a long illness. He was 93.
Drawn into the family business in 1931 by a crisis — his father’s health was deteriorating and the store, like others during the Great Depression, was struggling — Grumbacher decided to forgo a college education. He quickly rose to the position of president, which he held for 28 years, until he turned over management of the chain’s day-to-day operations to his son, M. Thomas “Tim” Grumbacher in 1967.
The senior Grumbacher remained active in the company, focusing on real estate and expansion strategies. He stepped down as chairman in 1987, but kept a seat on Bon-Ton’s board until he retired in 1996, when he was voted director emeritus.
Grumbacher is credited with steering the company’s growth through expansion and acquisitions and beginning the transformation of his family’s business from a single store in York, Pa., to a chain of 279 stores in 23 states. In March, Bon-Ton completed the $1.05 billion cash purchase of Saks Inc.’s Northern Department Store Group, which has a 142-store base in 12 states.
Committed to community leadership, Grumbacher was active in the York Chamber of Commerce, York Council of Jewish Charities, United Fund of York City and the York Family Service Bureau.
A longtime philanthropist through his M. S. Grumbacher Foundation, he supported medical research, education and cultural and civic organizations. The foundation in 1999 endowed a scholarship in his name for business students at Penn State.
Grumbacher is survived by his son, Tim, two daughters, Susan Gregory and Mary Jo Grumbacher, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Funeral services are scheduled for noon on Monday at Temple Beth Israel in York.