Bernard M. 'Bernie' Gelson, Supermarket Co-Founder
Facts and Events
About Bernard Gelson
Bernard M. "Bernie" Gelson was born 29 January 1920 in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, the oldest son of Jacob M. "Jake" Gelson (abt. 1890-1944) and his wife Lena Sachs (b. abt. 1894), both immigrants from Russia who came to America in the early 1900's. Gelson graduated from Alhambra High School and served his country as an instructor in the Army Air Forces during World War II.
Both Bernie and his brother Eugene got their first taste of the grocery business working in their parent's small Iowa grocery store for several years before the family migrated to Southern California in the 1930's. After they opened a three smaller "practice Gelson's stores" that they realized did not contain enough space for everything that Bernie and Eugene needed, their first Gelson's supermarket opened in July 1951 in Burbank, California, a 25,000 square foot store that was then modernistic in design with spacious aisles and a wide selection of products for their customers.
After Gelsons grew over the years with several additional locations and continued innovations and increased product selection were included, Gelson's became one of the premier upscale supermarkets in the country, boasting its superior service, restaurant-quality product offering and wide selection. Gelson's grew to 18 stores throughout Southern California by 2011, when it celebrated its 60th anniversary.
After brother Eugene passed away in 1982, Bernie Gelson continued to guide and lead Gelson's through the increasingly competitive retail environment with continued success until he passed away at his home in January 2005. He left a tremendous legacy behind in developing a company that still to this day is the envy of many in the retail grocery industry.
Gelsons Website: Company History
- Los Angeles, California, United States. Los Angeles Times, 13 January 2005.
Bernard Gelson, 84; Built Chain of Upscale Makets
January 13, 2005|From a Times Staff Writer
Bernard Gelson, who pioneered upscale grocery shopping in Southern California as the co-founder of Gelson's Markets, has died. He was 84.
Gelson, who had been in failing health, died Monday of pneumonia at his home in Encino, said his wife, Ellyn.
Gelson was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 29, 1920. He and his younger brother, Eugene, learned the grocery business from their parents, who ran a small store.
The family moved to Southern California when Gelson was a teenager and settled in Monterey Park, where his parents again ran a small market.
Gelson graduated from Alhambra High School and served as an instructor in the Army Air Forces during World War II.
After the war, the Gelson brothers opened a small grocery in Tujunga and then moved the store to North Hollywood. In 1951, they opened an upscale supermarket in Burbank that featured top-quality meats, produce and groceries and offered a high level of service.
The store was an immediate success, leading to a second in Encino in 1960 and a third in North Hollywood in 1965.
The next year, the Gelsons sold their firm to the Arden Group Inc., a holding company. Bernard Gelson operated Gelson's as a wholly owned subsidiary until his retirement in 1988.
Gelson's continued to expand at a measured pace in affluent parts of Southern California and now has 18 locations.
Eugene Gelson died in 1980.
In addition to his wife, Bernard Gelson is survived by his son, Joseph Gelson, and daughter, Jessica Gelson; stepchildren Jill Feinstock, Joelle Mertzel and Jordan Feinstock; a sister, Dorothy Rivin; and a grandson.
Services are scheduled for noon today at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles.
- Iowa, United States. Iowa, Births and Christenings, 1857-1947.
Iowa, Births and Christenings Index, 1857-1947
Name: Bernard M Gelson
Birth Date: 29 Jan 1920
Birth Place: Sioux City, Woodbury, Iowa, United States
Father's Name: Jake M Gelson
Mother's name: Lena Socks
FHL Film Number: 1451574
- ↑ Find A Grave.
Birth: Jan. 29, 1920
Death: Jan. 10, 2005
Los Angeles County
Co-Founder of the Gelsons Supermarket chain with his brother, the late Eugene Gelson in 1951. It started as a single upscale supermarket in Burbank, California. It was an immediate success and led to two additional stores in the San Fernando Valley. In 1966, the chain was sold to the Arden Group, with Bernard Gelson continuing to operate the company until his retirement in 1988. The chain continued its steady expansion in affluent parts of Southern California with 18 stores at the time of his death.
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