Former CEO of Jewel Donald S. Perkins Passes at the Age of 88

Former CEO of Jewel Donald S. Perkins Passes at the Age of 88

Donald (Don) S. Perkins, pioneer of the dual grocery store-drugstore format and a cultivator of leaders, passed away in his home last week at the age of 88.

Don was the CEO of Jewel, now Jewel-Osco, for ten years, though he was with the company for almost 30 years. During that time he was involved in several acquisitions, including Osco Drug in 1961, Boston-based Star Market in 1964 and Pacific Northwest grocer Buttrey in 1966, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Strongly believing and promoting the idea of a marriage between grocery and drug stores, he oversaw the launch of the Jewel-owned convenience store chain White Hen Pantry, as well as the company’s 1980 acquisition of the Sav-on Drugs California pharmacy chain.

"That became a very powerful engine for Jewel," Richard G. Cline, former Jewel Chairman and CEO, said in the report. "The trade term was 'combo stores,' and it was a great strength of Jewel. It was a kind of convenience retailing where a consumer could get a lot done in one visit. There was a great degree of complementarity of people shopping for food and people shopping for merchandise — not only drugs and cosmetics but certain items and general merchandise and in particular, seasonal items."

According to Richard, Don’s other passion was people. In fact, he developed a bench of leaders who later went on to take top positions at various companies.  

"Don had great faith in people and was willing to take risks with them and give them challenges to help them grow and move as far along as they could," Richard said.

Keeping his promise to only serve a decade as CEO, Don stepped down from his position with the company in 1980. Upon retiring, he explained to the Chicago Tribune:

"I get asked all the time, 'How can you leave Jewel and retire at this time?'” Don said back in 1983. "I could have stayed on until I was 65, but we would have lost a generation of management and spent too much time building good management. One of my favorite lines is: I can show you a company hurt more by someone staying too long than by someone staying too short."

And he did so much in the short time he stayed. During his time in the chair, Don oversaw several successful initiatives to push Jewel’s growth, including unit pricing and open dating of perishable items and helping the company to be the first grocer to offer generic foods.

Of course he couldn’t stay too still. After reaching the age for mandatory retirement on the boards of some large public companies he was serving, Don continued to dabble in business by serving on the advisory boards of a few smaller firms that had no age limits.

In 2008, Don co-wrote a memoir with his daughter entitled, "A Calm Temperament Expectant of Good." His first wife, Phyllis, passed in 1983. He is survived by his second wife, Jane; another daughter, Susan; a stepson, Frank Phillips; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth Phillips-Sorich; a brother, Bob; a sister, Joan Gerrard; seven grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

A memorial and celebration of his life will take place at 3 p.m. May 16 at Shoreacres, 1601 Shore Acres Road, Lake Bluff.

AndNowUKnow would like to offer our sincere condolences to Don’s family, friends, and all affected by this loss.