Elliot E. Arking, 68, who owned several Roger Wilco liquor stores and a popular internet wine business, died Sept. 4 at home in Moorestown from frontotemporal dementia, a progressive neurological disease.
Mr. Arking was a Brooklyn boy, born and raised in the Flatbush section. He graduated from Lincoln High School there in 1967, and served in the U.S. National Guard.
At first, Mr. Arking worked for his father, Edward, in the jewelry business. But even as a young man, Mr. Arking wanted to be his own boss, so he moved south and struck out on his own, buying and running fast-food stores in New Jersey — Burger Kings, at first, then branching out to other franchises: Ground Round; Wendy's; All-in-One Linens. He also opened Nickleby's, a restaurant and packaged goods store in Medford.
In the 1980s, Mr. Arking urged his younger brother, Joseph, to move to South Jersey to join him in business. Together, the Arking brothers bought Roger Wilco liquor stores in Camden and Burlington Counties. Later, they started and ran Creativity, a craft store that grew quickly but eventually went bankrupt.
His business ventures were emblematic of the kind of person Mr. Arking was, his son Jamie said.
"Make mistakes," Mr. Arking would tell his children. "Own them. Learn from them. Move on. Make different mistakes."
Mostly, he had successes.
In 2006, the Arking brothers, who owned two Roger Wilco stores, pivoted to e-commerce, opening WTSO — Wines Til Sold Out — an online, flash wine sale site the family still runs.
Work brought him great satisfaction — Mr. Arking never felt himself above stocking shelves at one of his stores — but the light of his life was his family. Negotiating a business deal, he could be tough. At home, his nickname was "Fluffy" because of his generosity and over-the-top, exuberant love for his four children, eight grandchildren, and his wife of 48 years, Andrea Brandt Arking.
"He was always very, very warm," Jamie Arking said. "He would always hug you, kiss you."
He could be a serious man — Mr. Arking insisted that his children live lives of purpose, making meaningful contributions to the world, they said — but he was also the kind of father who took the kids for chocolate milk and comics even when he knew it would ruin their dinner. Their joy was his joy.
He liked to sail boats, ski, and drive fast cars. (A fast car even helped him win his wife, who, on their first date, was wowed by the confident teenager who called her "honey" and squired her in an MG.)
Mr. Arking relished travel, good food, good wine and the movie The Big Lebowski. He would quote it often, and laugh every time, Jamie Arking said.
"He was impulsive in a good way — 'Let's go on a trip next week!' He lived life to the absolute maximum that he could," said Valerie Arking Summerfeld, a daughter. On one vacation, after a full meal, he insisted on driving Summerfeld and one of his grandchildren for takeout roast beef sandwiches, going into rhapsodies about them.
"He just kept saying, 'Hold this sandwich! It's so dense!'" Summerfeld remembered. The family was crying they were laughing so hard.
Around 2013, Mr. Arking's behavior began to change; he became withdrawn and flat. He was ultimately diagnosed with FTD, a group of brain illnesses that affect 60,000 people in the U.S., destroying the parts of the brain responsible for emotion, language and decision-making. FTD generally presents in patients much younger than the better-known Alzheimer's disease — Mr. Arking was 63 when he was diagnosed — and once symptoms surface, patients typically rarely survive more than a decade.
His family cared for him at home for the rest of his life.
In addition to his wife, son, daughter, brother and grandchildren, Mr. Arking is survived by another son, Jonathan; and another daughter, Alexis.
Services were Sept. 6.