FERKAUF, EUGENE (1921– ), U.S. businessman and philanthropist. Born in Brooklyn, n.y., Ferkauf learned the retailing business from his father, who owned two luggage stores in Manhattan. After serving in World War ii, he began his own business career in 1948 with a modest retail discount store in New York. This grew into the E.J. Korvette chain of discount stores, which at the height of its success included 45 department stores and 60 supermarkets. At one point in the early 1960s Korvette was opening one big new store every seven weeks. In 1962 Ferkauf appeared on the cover of Time magazine with the banner headline "Discounting Gets Respectable" and a feature story entitled "Everybody Loves a Bargain" (July 6). However, Ferkauf and his executives found it difficult to administer the chain as it grew larger. In 1968 Korvette's merged with Spartans Industries, which abandoned the discount model. Ferkauf resigned from the combine shortly afterward. Five years later the firm was sold to Arlen Realty. Arlen later sold it to a French firm. In 1980, Korvette's ceased operations altogether.
Ferkauf was a prominent contributor to Jewish educational funds in the U.S. and Israel, and endowed a graduate school of social services at Yeshiva University, New York, a high school at Or Yehudah, Israel, and four hospitals to serve underprivileged communities in South America. Ferkauf was also a patron of the arts, as shown by his support of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts. In Israel, he and his wife, Estelle, sponsored the Administration Wing of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. Ferkauf was also the main promoter of Atid, a commercial organization set up to stimulate Israel exports to the U.S. He was made an honorary life member of the Board of Governors of the Technion in Haifa. Ferkauf wrote the book Going into Business: How to Do It, by the Man Who Did It (1977).
R. Sobel, When Giants Stumble: Classic Business Blunders and How to Avoid Them (1999); I. Barmash, The Self-Made Man: Stress and Success American Style (2003); R. Spector, Category Killers: The Retail Revolution and Its Impact on Consumer Culture (2005).
[Joachim O. Ronall /
Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)