Founder of Rickel Home Centers dies at 90

Alvin M. Rickel , founder of Rickel Home Centers, died Jan. 15 at the age of 90.

The home center innovator helped launch some now-familiar concepts decades ago, such as the 100,000-square-foot all-in-one home improvement store and kitchen and bath showrooms.

“People couldn’t afford to have somebody do it for them, so he encouraged the idea that even for large projects, they could do it themselves,” said Larry Rickel, Alvin’s son. “My dad always loved doing business, and he was always very involved in the day-to-day business operations at the stores.”

Rickel served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, where he got his first taste of supply chain management working as a supply sergeant in the South Pacific. After the war, he opened the first Rickel Home Center in Union, N.J. He started the business with his brothers, Bob and Mort, using a GI Bill loan.

The chain grew to more than 100 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Rickel Home Centers was purchased in 1969 by Supermarkets General Corp.

Through the 1970s and 1980s , the chain continued in the innovative tradition started by Rickel. In 1973, Rickel introduced information booths in its various major merchandise departments and in 1978, five Rickel stores installed computer checkout terminals.

In 1994, Eos Partners purchased Rickel Home Centers and Channel Home Centers, combining the two under the Rickel banner. But faced with heavy competition through out the 1990s by warehouse stores, the chain’s store count eventually dwindled to around 40, and in 1997, the company’s board of directors decided to close its doors.

After his retirement, Rickel served as a consultant to some of the warehouse home improvement chains and later purchased a store in St. Croix, where he and his wife vacationed. Rickel also remained very active in the community, including serving on the board of trustees for Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, N.J.

Rickel is survived by his wife of 62 years, Ailene; children, Kyle and Tom Einhorn and Stephanie and Larry Rickel; grandchildren, Emily and Lewis Liebert, Joshua, Lindsay and Zachary; brother, Robert; and sister, Miriam.