Carl Bennett, entrepreneur and philanthropist and founder of Caldor department store, died peacefully in his home in Greenwich, Connecticut on December 23 at the age of 101.
He was the devoted husband of the late Dorothy (Becker) Bennett. Together, this dynamic team created a discount chain of department stores that spanned from the 1950’s to the mid 1980’s until he sold the company of 120 stores, all located in the northeast, to Associated Dry Goods.
Born, January 27, 1920, in Greenwich, CT, to Mayer and Rebecca (Lipsky) Bennett. He was raised above his father’s grocery store located on Steamboat Road, Bennett Grocers, with his two sisters and two brothers. Bennett credited his love of retailing from his father who encouraged him at an early age to be his own boss. He graduated from Greenwich High School and attended New York University. He served in WWII from 1942-1945 in the 466th Quartermaster Battalion.
Upon returning home from his tour of duty, he became is wholesale liquor salesman for Connecticut Distributors in Norwalk, CT. Through family connections, he met Dorothy Becker, of Forest Hills, New York. They soon married. While they were shopping together at E.J. Korvettes Department Store, Carl realized his dream–to open his own discount store, combining his name with Dorothy’s—Caldor.
Carl had saved $8,000.00 from his military duty. Realizing he needed more money to open a store, his father suggested he go to Union Trust, a local Greenwich bank. There, he met Harold Rider, the president, who believed in Carl’s vision in discount retailing and loaned him $50,000.00. The Bennett’s opened their first store in 1951, in a walk up loft in Port Chester, NY. They soon expanded to Stamford, Norwalk and Riverside, Connecticut. “The customer is always right” and “Where shopping is always a pleasure” were his mantras for the company. In 1961, Caldor became publicly traded on the American Stock Exchange and he moved his company headquarters to Glover Ave. in Norwalk, Connecticut. In 1983, Caldor reached 1 billion dollars in sales. He received Israel’s Prime Minister Award for distinguished service in 1973, and was awarded Discounter of the Year in 1982. Bennett was inducted into the Retailer Hall of Fame in 1983 along with Sam Walton, who was his good friend, and the founder and chairman of Wal-Mart.
He and his wife Dorothy, were partners in the truest sense. They were dedicated to family and their shared commitment to their community, education, health, medical research and the State of Israel. They gave generously to Stamford Hospital (Bennett Cancer Center), Fairfield University (Bennett Center for Judaic Studies), Greenwich Hospital, Jewish Senior Services (formerly known as the Jewish Home for the Elderly), in Fairfield/Bridgeport, The Weitzmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel and Yeshiva University.
Bennett is survived by his three children: Marc of Stamford, Robin (Joseph Kanarek) of Greenwich, Bruce (Jennifer) of Rochester, NY and five grandchildren. He was predeceased by Dorothy in 2008, his siblings Frank, Sarah (Potash), Esther (Brandwein) and Harry, and his grandson, David Kanarek.
Anyone who knew Carl was aware of his famous quote for the last twenty years of his life, “Enjoy life while you can.”
He was a wise man who inspired us with his resilience, passion, honesty, integrity and kindness.
Funeral services will be private. Donations in his memory should be directed to the Bennett Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital, Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield University, Jewish Senior Services (Bridgeport) or Greenwich Hospital.