Wakefern Says Goodbye to Longtime Member James Sumas

July 13, 2018
Keasbey, NJ (July 13, 2018) – Wakefern Food Corp. and ShopRite mourn the loss of James Nicholas Sumas, longtime patriarch of Village Super Market, Inc., which owns and operates 30 ShopRite supermarkets in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland.

“Jimmy,” as he was affectionately called, was an influential member, mentor and guiding force at Wakefern Food Corp., the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States. He died peacefully July 7 in his hometown of Morristown, New Jersey. He was 84.

An icon in the supermarket industry, Jimmy led by example and helped define the landscape of the grocery business by dedicating his heart and soul to his work. His tireless work ethic, understanding of the marketplace, and intuitive grasp of customer needs helped him turn his family’s neighborhood grocery store into a company powerhouse with 30 ShopRite supermarkets in four states.

He also played a key role at Wakefern by helping guide the cooperative during its early, formative years and shape the cooperative into a regional leader. At Wakefern, Jimmy was a trusted advisor who served on numerous committees and was generous with his time in mentoring and nurturing other members of the cooperative. He became Wakefern’s Grocery committee chairman in 1957 and commanded that post for nearly 60 years.

Jimmy, pictured with his family in one of their ShopRite stores, also served as vice chairman of Wakefern and was a member of its Board of Directors for over 30 years. In addition, he served as chairman of Wakefern’s Advertising committee and vice chairman of Wakefern’s Sales and Merchandising committee and of ShopRite Supermarkets, Inc. Jimmy was also a member of Wakefern’s Trade Name and Trademark, Strategic Planning and Customer Satisfaction committees.

He loved teaching others about the industry and combined his vast knowledge and quick wit to provide valuable lessons to those willing to listen.
 
 “Jimmy really represented the entrepreneurial family business spirit that defines Wakefern,” said Wakefern Chairman and CEO Joseph S. Colalillo. “He loved his family and associates and was passionate about the values and the importance of our cooperative. But most importantly, Jimmy loved to teach and mentor others and he helped all of us to grow. He wanted everyone to succeed not only because he cared about the business, but also because he cared about people. Jimmy will be greatly missed here at Wakefern.”

“Jimmy Sumas was a force of nature at Wakefern, where he was the heart and soul of our marketing and merchandising philosophies. He instilled that soul in generations of Wakefern associates and members, and his teaching and training had a very human and genuine touch,” added Wakefern President and COO Joe Sheridan.

Jimmy was born in Newark, New Jersey on Oct. 24, 1933. He was the first son to Greek immigrants Nicholas and Athena Sumas. As a youngster, he got his first taste of the supermarket industry while working in his father Nick and Uncle Perry’s market in South Orange and attending Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. He continued his education at Seton Hall University, earning his business degree in 1955. Jimmy served his country in the U.S. Army for the next two years. In 1957, he came home to dedicate himself to his family and to his work in the family business, which a decade earlier had joined the new supermarket cooperative Wakefern.

Jimmy quickly began to lead the Sumas family into its growth phase by opening ShopRite supermarket locations for more four decades.  Late last month, the Sumas family opened its 30th ShopRite store and the first ShopRite in the Bronx, New York.

He was elected Village’s Chairman of the Board in 1989 and named CEO in 2002. He served as vice president, treasurer and a director of the company since its incorporation in 1955.

Jimmy is survived by the love of his life – his wife Helen Sumas (nee Dillon), his daughter Dr. MariaElaina (Mia) Sumas (Patrick Baker), his daughter Stephanie Sumas, his son John James Sumas (Dr. Alexandra Liggatt), and his grandsons Theodore-James Sumas and James Beau Sumas. He is also survived by his brother Robert Sumas (Deana) and his sister-in-law Harriet Pallantios (Pete), along with a very large extended and loving Greek family. He is predeceased by his brother Sturgis Sumas.

Condolences and memories may be shared at farmerfuneral.com.
 
About Wakefern Food Corp.
From a small, local cooperative that began with eight grocery store owners, Wakefern Food Corp. has grown into the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States. Founded in 1946, the cooperative comprises 50 members who today independently own and operate 350 supermarkets under the ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, Price Rite and Dearborn Market banners in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hamphshire and Virginia. Together with its member companies, Wakefern employs more than 70,000 people, and is one of the largest employers in New Jersey. For more information, please visit www.wakefern.com.
 

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