Joseph Gerald Fogel
BORN EAST LONDON, JANUARY 13, 1924. DIED AUGUST 3, 2015, AGED 91
THE BUSINESSMAN and philanthropist Joseph Gerald Fogel was one of the last English JPs to take the title Judge. A kind and modest man of immense integrity, he practised briefly as an architect on leaving the RAF and then, with his brothers, was among several Jewish families whose retail businesses were lionised by the City after the Second World War. This year Fogel was selected by the J C as one of its 50 mensches.
The brothers founded the DIY specialist Home Charm Stores, forerunner of Texas Homecare. Fogel also founded patrons’ committees at charities such as Ravenswood and then Chai. He continued working at the cancer care charity until after his 90th year, always preferring to donate anonymously. He was a loyal member of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue.
Fogel was educated at Upton House Central School, Hackney, in 1936, and was barmitzvah at Lee Bridge Road Synagogue. After the family moved to Finchley he trained as an architect at the then Regents Street Polytechnic. The decision proved significant. His study of building methods, on which he lectured after the war as an RAF Education Vocational Training Officer, and his design work during the post-war construction boom, inspired his part in a distribution evolution, in which decorating materials were sold direct to the public in wallpaper shops.
Fogel volunteered for the University of London Air Squadron, was called up in October 1942, and in 1943 joined the RAF. He wanted to be a pilot but owing to deficient eyesight he trained as a navigator. He attended training centres in Canada, first Manitoba and later Winnipeg. In 1944 he went to Germany before returning to London. He was posted to Northolt to train for the special operations flight crew, where he was promoted to officer rank as a flight lieutenant. Later he became a commissioned officer.
Fogel flew Air Ministry courier missions to Europe,tasked with providing Field Marshall Montgomery with his battle orders. The crew had to fly without radar, often in appalling weather conditions to avoid interception.
After the war Fogel joined the family business, Supremus Tile, and in 1952, he found empty double shops in Peckham and Dalston, whose format was a fireplace shop adjoining a wallpaper and paint shop. By the end of the 1950s this became the multiple store Home Charm Stores, one of Britain’s early and well-known DIY businesses, which he ran with his two brothers and later, his nephew.
They revolutionised the high street by bringing in modern wallpaper and paint establishments. Gerald’s speciality was site finding, lease negotiation and shop design. The business became the forerunner of the first out-of-town superstores of the ’80s. By then the company was trading as Texas DIY.
Joseph Gerald Fogel: he pioneered the out-of-town superstore revolution Along the way they had added Dixelda, a warehouse business.
In 1972 these enterprises were fused together in a public company of which Gerald was the first chairman and his brother Manny, the managing director. The flotation raised nearly £250,000 worth of fresh capital. After 27 years he stood down as chairman, continuing briefly as a director.
The family sold its interests to Ladbroke in 1987. Less than a decade later the business was sold to Sainsbury plc and eventually became part of Homebase. Gerald wrote to Lord Sainsbury to congratulate him in 1995, and David Sainsbury replied, expressing his hope that the business could continue in the family entrepreneurial tradition.
Fogel helped his younger son, David, to set up Hobbies and Models, later Toystack, which was eventually sold to Hamleys, where David served as a director. Apart from his business interests, Fogel launched a West End club called The Pandora. As a founder member he broke the ban on under-18s, when he invited two beautiful 17-year-old identical twins, Jacqueline and Benita Newman to the club. He married Benita in 1950 at Finchley Synagogue. They started married life in Golders Green but later, he bought and designed their house in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Appointed a Justice of the Peace in April, 1972, Fogel served on the Enfield bench, became chairman, and retired in 1993. He was also appointed a judge despite his lack of formal legal qualifications, an occasional procedure enabling a few distinguished magistrates to assist with the work of the Crown Court. He stepped down in January 1996, aged 72. Fogel was an active member of Ajex, the Jewish ex-servicemen’s organisation and marched with them on Remembrance Days. He is survived by Benita, their sons Steven and David, and several grandchildren.