Categotry Archives: Business


Arnold Gridley

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Categories: Business

Arnold Stirewalt Gridley, the inventor of the “motorized cable car,” died on May 8 of kidney failure. He was 92.
The San Francisco native worked in his family’s businesses — a rice farm and a bar — before expanding into real estate in the 1930s.
A part-time inventor and entrepreneur, Gridley purchased several old California Street cable cars at an auction in 1958 and transformed them into motorized vehicles that could be driven on any street. By replacing the regular metal wheels with a truck chassis and engine, he was able to remove the need for cable tetherings.
Gridley was the owner of the largest collection of motorized cable cars in the world and the founder of Cable Car charters, the first San Francisco motorized cable car company. His 60-car fleet, which retained its traditional cable car appearance, was used in parades, movies and in all the Rice-A-Roni commercials.
For his funeral last week, Gridley’s casket was driven to the cemetery in a procession of motorized cable cars.
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Jack Eckerd


Categories: Business, Military, Politicians, Writers/Editors

jeckerd.jpgJack Eckerd decided to become a millionaire by the time he was 20. After graduating from Culver Military Academy in Indiana and serving as a pilot for the Army Air Corps during World War II, Eckerd moved to Florida and started working on his version of the American Dream.
In 1952, Eckerd borrowed $150,000 from his father, purchased three run-down drugstores in Tampa and turned them into a multibillion dollar empire. The Florida-based chain spread across the South and by 1975, consisted of 465 drugstores in 10 states. At that point, Fortune magazine tabulated Eckerd’s worth at $150 million.
Eckerd Corp. was sold to J.C. Penney for $2.6 billion in 1997. Even before he divested of his retail responsibilities, Eckerd was a generous philanthropist. He gave $10 million to Florida Presbyterian College (which was renamed Eckerd College in 1978), founded Eckerd Youth Alternatives, a non-profit organization to help troubled and at-risk youth, and contributed funds to the Ruth Eckerd Hall, a performing arts center in Clearwater, Fla., that was named after his wife of 57 years.
Eckerd also tried his hand at politics. The Republican ran for the Florida governorship twice and once for the U.S. Senate, but lost all three elections. He did serve as head of the General Services Administration from 1975 to 1977.
Eckerd co-authored two books: “Eckerd: Finding the Right Prescription” with Paul Conn, and “Why America Doesn


Marvin Runyon


Categories: Business, Government

mrunyon.jpgAs the U.S. postmaster general from 1992 to 1998, Marvin Runyon worked diligently to make the nation’s mail system profitable.

Runyon’s first goal was to treat the United States Postal Service as a business geared toward making money and pleasing customers. With this in mind, he eliminated 23,000 management jobs, hired more letter carriers and counter employees and stressed the use of computer automation in order to speed mail delivery. Runyon also responded to past incidents of workplace violence by creating a training program to help employees deal with stress.

To get the postal service out of the red, Runyon restructured the organization’s debt and boosted sales by featuring pop culture icons like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and James Dean on stamps. He pushed for a postage price increase that raised the cost of first class stamps from $.29 to $.32. By the time he stepped down in 1998, the government agency was making $1 billion in profit.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Runyon served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He graduated from Texas A&M University and took a job as an assembly worker at the Ford Motor plant in Dallas. Working his way up the corporate ladder, Runyon eventually became the company’s vice president of assembly and operations.
After 37 years with Ford, Runyon retired in 1980 and became the chief executive of Nissan’s North American operations in Smyrna, Tenn. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan named him chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority. There Runyan earned the nickname “Carvin’ Marvin” for cutting the payroll by 30 percent.

The Justice Department briefly investigated Runyon in 1997 for conflict-of-interest allegations. He proposed a plan to install Coca-Cola vending machines in all 40,000 post offices, but failed to disclose his ownership of Coke stock. Although Runyon did not face criminal charges, he ended up paying $27,550 to settle the matter. For the past few years, he taught business classes at Middle Tennessee State University and ran the Runyon Group, a business consulting firm.

Runyon died on May 3 of lung disease. He was 79.


Carl Samuelson

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Categories: Actors, Business, Hollywood

To thousands of budding thespians, Carl Samuelson was a kind and caring father figure.
Samuelson and his late wife Elsie partnered with drama coach Jack Romano to found Stagedoor Manor, a performing arts camp in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y. Performers who trained at the camp include Josh Charles, Jon Cryer, Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mandy Moore and Natalie Portman.
The 2003 film, “Camp,” was loosely based on director Todd Graff’s experiences at Stagedoor Manor. It was filmed on location and featured a cameo of Samuelson.
Prior to launching the camp in 1975, the Bronx native worked in advertising, real estate and Hollywood marketing and promotion. In the 1990s, he produced several South Florida theater productions, such as “Annie Warbucks” and “Me and My Girl.”
Samuelson died on April 20 of natural causes. He was 77.


Alex Madonna


Categories: Business, Military

Alex Madonna, the owner of the landmark Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Calif., died on April 22 of a heart attack. He was 85.
The California native opened his own construction company before he graduated from high school. During World War II, Madonna served in the Army Corps of Engineers, building roads and landing strips in the South Pacific. When he returned to the states, Madonna’s construction firm built or repaved most of Highway 101 and constructed the bridge above the Twitchell Reservoir. In 1958, Bridges magazine named it the most beautiful bridge in the country.
That same year, Madonna and his wife Phyllis opened the Madonna Inn, a kitchy, Swiss chalet-style hotel. The central coast establishment, which was known for offering 109 rooms decorated in different themes, advertised its presence to travelers with a flashing, hot pink neon sign.
Tourists with a fetish for red leather walls often reserved the blood-colored “Tack Room.” A gigantic waterwheel moved dancing Bavarian figurines along one wall of the Old Mill room. And the Caveman Room, with its solid rock floors and walls, appealed to those looking to indulge their Neanderthal tendencies. A cafe made entirely from copper and a waterfall urinal in the men’s restroom also drew crowds.
Besides the inn, the “host from the coast” owned a shopping center in Santa Maria, several thousand acres of property and cattle and horse ranches in California and Oregon.

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