Vincent “Jim” Genuardi, 88, who built the Genuardi’s Family Markets supermarket chain with his four brothers from his parents’ 1920 horse-drawn produce wagon into 33 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware with 7,000 employees, died of complications from Parkinson’s disease on Oct. 12 in Gladwyne, Montgomery County.
“My dad was the kind of man who had time for everyone,” said his daughter, Lisa Genuardi Wilson. “He was unassuming and unpretentious. He valued hard work above all else and was never impressed by titles. He was a warm, generous man who believed in the ‘American Dream,’ and believed himself to be an example of it.
“He loved a good joke and his golf game,” she said. “He was a huge fan of the Flyers. He was part of the committee within the National Grocers Association that paved the way for beer and wine in supermarkets. He spent a lot of time way back in the late ’80s in Harrisburg, fighting for the rights we have in select (grocery) stores today.”
John Vuotto, of Collegeville, who worked for Genuardi’s Family Markets for 48 years, said Mr. Genuardi was a dedicated committee member of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association in Harrisburg to get the no-pricing bill passed.
“Remember when groceries had to price each individual item and if there was one item that was wrong, you would get double your money back?” Vuotto said. “We had all these guys pricing each item of goods every night.”
Vuotto said that Mr. Genuardi “was a pioneer for using bar codes. That was at the beginning of the computer era. We were also the first company where every manager in the store was food certified. That was huge.”
Vuotto started working for Genuardi’s fresh out of Bishop Kenrick High School in 1967, when Mr. Genuardi’s parents, the chain’s founders Gaspare and Josephine Sciafani Genuardi, lived near their original store, founded in 1954 in Jeffersonville, Montgomery County.
“I was the meat manager of that store,” Vuotto said. “Mrs. Genuardi would call and say, ‘I want an Italian veal cutlet. Make it nice.’ And you darn well better have made it nice.”
Vuotto laughed, remembering. “They were all an incredible, community-oriented family,” he said. “All the brothers had their own expertise area. Jim was groceries, Charles ran produce, Joe ran frozen food, Tom ran meat, and Frank did real estate.
“I started out as a ‘chicken boy,’” he said, “cutting up chickens into legs, breasts, and so on, worked my way up in the meat department, and was director of personnel relations at the end. I closed the last store in Audubon in 2015, 15 years after Genuardi’s sold their stores to Safeway.” (Although owned by Safeway, that last Genuardi’s survived until 2015 because of the legalities of a long-term lease.)
Vuotto, 68, whose wife, Emily, worked in customer service for Genuardi’s for 30 years, said, “Jim was a very hardworking man with a personality second to none. Every time he bumped into you, he’d tell you a joke. People loved going to work for Jim every day.”
In addition to his daughter Lisa Wilson (husband Nicholas) of Bala Cynwyd, Mr. Genuardi is survived by his wife, Evilee (Kitty) Genuardi, of Gladwyne; his sons David Genuardi (wife Maribeth) of Fort Washington, and Jim Genuardi (wife Debbie) of Gwynedd Valley; his brothers Tom Genuardi (wife Gloria) of Blue Bell and Sal Genuardi (wife Eleanor) of Newport Beach, Calif.; and his sister, Rose Scotti, of West Norriton.
He is also survived by two stepsons, 10 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be private.