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Leo Kahn, American entrepreneur, co-founder of Staples, died from complications from a series of strokes he was , 94.


Leo Kahn was an American businessman and entrepreneur who is credited as the co-founder of Staples Inc. died from complications from a series of strokes he was , 94. Kahn is also considered a pioneer of the natural and health food supermarket industry, founding the Fresh Fields and Nature’s Heartland chains, which are now part of Whole Foods Market.

(December 31, 1916 – May 11, 2011)

Biography

 Early life

Kahn was born in Medford, Massachusetts, as the youngest of two brothers.[1] His parents, who were immigrants from Lithuania, owned a wholesale food distributor.[1] Kahn graduated from Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts.[1]
Kahn received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1938.[1] He then obtained a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City in 1939.[1] He worked a reporter in New Bedford, Massachusetts,[2] and practiced public relations for political campaigns until he was drafted into the U.S. military in 1941 as the U.S. entered World War II.[1] He was stationed in North Africa, Europe and Asia as a navigator for the Army Air Forces.[1]
He and his brother, Albert Kahn, took over the family’s wholesale business following the end of World War II.[1] Leo Kahn became the sole owner of the business when Albert left the company to become a professor at Boston College.[1]
Kahn married his first wife, Dorothy Davids, in 1963 and had three children.[1] The family resided in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, until Dorothy Kahn’s death in 1975.[1]

 Purity Supreme

Leo Kahn continued to operate his family’s wholesale food distributor. However, he also launched a new grocery retailing division, which became known as Purity Supreme.[3] The company initially opened small groceries, but then expanded to supermarkets.[3] The Purity Supreme company also included the Heartland Foods Warehouse, which was called “the first successful deep-discount warehouse supermarket in the country” by Inc Magazine.[3]
One Kahn’s biggest rivals was Thomas G. Stemberg, the owner of a competing New England supermarket chain called First National Supermarkets. At one point, Kahn and Stemberg engaged in a price war over the lower price for Thanksgiving turkeys.[3]
Kahn sold Purity Supreme to the Supermarket General Corporation in 1984 for $80 million.[3] Through the transaction, Kahn became the chairman of Supermarket General.[3] Privately, Kahn regretted selling Purity, saying he missed the interaction with his employees.[1]
Leo Kahn died at the Springhouse care facility in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston from a series of strokes on May 11, 2011, at the age of 94.[1]

 

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