SUNBURY, Pa. — Robert Weis, one of the nation’s most successful food retailing executives over the past half century, has died, Weis Markets reported earlier this week.
Weis, 96, was the principal figure in the growth and continued success of Weis Markets. He was the former chairman of Weis Markets, a food retailer operating 163 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia.
A lifelong resident of Sunbury, Pa., Robert Weis was born on June 10, 1919 to Harry and Stella Freeman Weis in the town where his father and his uncle, Sigmund, opened their first store, known as Weis Pure Foods, in 1912.
In the years that followed, the two brothers opened stores throughout Central Pennsylvania. Early in his life, Robert Weis worked in his family’s stores where he stood on a box to operate a cash register in his younger years and later bagged produce and delivered groceries to customers.
Weis attended Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pa. After graduating from Yale University in 1941, Weis was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was subsequently assigned to the U.S. Army Air Force officer training program, ultimately attaining the rank of captain.
At the end of World War II, Weis and his cousin Sigfried returned from the armed services to work for their respective fathers’ company. Early in his career, Weis worked in various positions including operations, distribution, marketing, procurement, human resources, real estate and store construction. Ultimately, he would oversee the company’s finances, real estate and store construction.
In 1965, Weis Markets became a publicly traded company. At the time, their company operated 52 stores and employed 2,000 associates with revenues totaling $111 million.
In the subsequent decades, Weis helped oversee Weis Markets’ growth and expansion into six states. In 1995, Weis became chairman of Weis Markets. Since 2009, Weis has acquired 11 units, upgrading more than 100, and opening nine new stores.
In 2001, after a multi-year dispute with the heirs of Sigfried Weis, who attempted to force a sale of Weis Markets, Weis directed a repurchase of their stock. He subsequently became the company’s largest shareholder.
Weis and his wife, Patricia, were married for 57 years. They are the parents of three children: Jonathan Weis, who serves as Weis Markets’ chairman, president and CEO, and is married to Analisa Barreto Weis; Colleen Ross Weis of New York City, who is a 20th century decorative arts specialist and married to Martin Laiks; and Jennifer Weis Monsky, also of New York City. Jennifer is executive editor at St. Martin’s Press and married to John Monsky.
Weis is also survived by nine grandchildren and a sister, Ellen Wasserman of Baltimore.
During his life, Weis served as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of Susquehanna University, where he held an honorary doctorate of letters. He was a past president and member of the Board of Trustees of Sunbury Community Hospital, past president of the Sunbury Chamber of Commerce, a past director of Susquehanna Bancshares, a Bank Holding Company in Pennsylvania and Maryland and a former chairman of the First National Trust Bank of Sunbury.