Ralph L. Kush­ner, su­per­mar­ket ex­ec­u­tive hon­ored for vol­un­teer­ing

The Buffalo News - - OBITUARIES - Oct. 22, 1941 – April 4, 2019 By Dale An­der­son

Ralph L. Kush­ner was in high school when he got his in­tro­duc­tion to the gro­cery busi­ness, work­ing part time at a Loblaws su­per­mar­ket.

That led to a de­gree in res­tau­rant and food ser­vice from what was then Erie County Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute and a job as man­ager-trainee in 1962 for the food whole­saler S. M. Flickinger Co., which op­er­ated Red and White gro­cery stores and Su­per Du­per su­per­mar­kets. His men­tor was Burt Flickinger Jr., grand­son of the com­pany’s founder, who be­came his life­long friend and busi­ness as­so­ciate.

Mr. Kush­ner went on to man­age and co-own nine Su­per Du­per stores in four Western New York coun­ties. He also ap­plied his ex­per­tise as a co-founder of the Food Bank of Western New York, where he served in ma­jor roles as a vol­un­teer for more than 30 years.

The Food Bank was just one of his nu­mer­ous vol­un­teer ac­tiv­i­ties. The Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter of Greater Buf­falo, where he was di­rec­tor of vol­un­teers, named its an­nual Vol­un­teer Ser­vice Award in his honor.

Mr. Kush­ner died April 4 in his home in East Amherst af­ter a lengthy ill­ness. He was 77.

Born in Buf­falo, he was a 1959 grad­u­ate of Amherst Cen­tral High School, where he was a mem­ber of the Stu­dent Coun­cil and a man­ager for the bas­ket­ball team. Af­ter a year of ac­tive duty in the Army, he served in the Army Re­serve.

In the early 1960s, he met a school teacher from Toronto, Gail Eisen, whose fam­ily had a sum­mer cot­tage in Crys­tal Beach, Ont. They were in­tro­duced by her older sis­ter, whose hus­band was Amer­i­can, and they were mar­ried in 1965.

Ea­ger to ad­vance his ca­reer in the late 1960s, Mr. Kush­ner ad­ver­tised for a man­age­ment po­si­tion in a food in­dus­try news­pa­per.

“He got a re­ply from Cal­i­for­nia,” his wife said. “He went out there and met with this fel­low who ran Jumbo Markets who of­fered him to be di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for Jumbo.”

Af­ter a year in Sacra­mento, how­ever, Mr. Kush­ner’s mother be­came ill. He brought his fam­ily back to Buf­falo and met with a friend, the de­vel­oper Nathan Ben­der­son.

“He said he had an empty store com­ing up in Cheek­towaga,” Mrs. Kush­ner said. “He said, ‘It’s a su­per­mar­ket. How’d you like to run it for me?’ All of his suc­cess from then on stemmed from that meet­ing.”

He and Ben­der­son be­came part­ners in Su­per­mar­ket De­vel­op­ment Inc., with Mr. Kush­ner as pres­i­dent. They owned and op­er­ated Su­per Du­per markets in Ni­a­gara Falls, Metro Buf­falo, Gowanda, At­tica and Sil­ver Creek.

He at­tracted no­tice na­tion­wide by clos­ing his Su­per Du­per stores early when the Buf­falo Bills played in the Su­per Bowl so that his em­ploy­ees could watch the game with their friends and fam­i­lies.

Scrivner Inc. ac­quired S. M. Flickinger in 1984 and re­branded the Su­per Du­per stores as Ju­bilee Foods stores in 1992. Mr. Kush­ner re­tired shortly there­after and be­came a con­sul­tant to Scrivner and an op­er­a­tions ex­ec­u­tive with Ben­der­son De­vel­op­ment.

He also served as in­dus­try co-chair­man of Ex­port Expo ’93, an in­ter­na­tional trade show held in Buf­falo in con­junc­tion with the World Univer­sity Games.

His ex­pe­ri­ence with wasted food in su­per­mar­kets spurred his ef­forts to help es­tab­lish the Food Bank.

“At the end of the day,” his wife said, “they had to throw away prod­ucts that were still ed­i­ble. He would see all kinds of pro­duce go­ing into the dump­sters. He couldn’t stand it. It made him so sad.”

Mr. Kush­ner be­came a vol­un­teer leader at the Food Bank and, when the agency’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor left sud­denly in 1994, he stepped in as an un­paid in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for five months un­til a new di­rec­tor was found.

He was pre­sented with a spe­cial award for his work that year and later was hon­ored with the Food Bank’s Founders Award.

In 1995, he re­ceived an award for com­mu­nity ser­vice and vol­un­teerism from the Na­tional Con­fer­ence for Com­mu­nity and Jus­tice, which cited his work not only with the Food Bank, but also with AIDS Fam­ily Ser­vice, Cra­dle Beach Camp and the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion.

He was a di­rec­tor of the United Way Man­age­ment As­sis­tance Pro­gram, a mem­ber of the Hil­bert Col­lege board of di­rec­tors and a vol­un­teer with Roswell Park Com­pre­hen­sive Cancer Cen­ter, Grass­roots Gar­dens and the Wein­berg Cam­pus.

As he and his wife be­gan win­ter­ing in Boca Ra­ton, Fla., they were ac­tive there with the Daily Bread Food Bank and Shared Care, a respite pro­gram.

Mr. Kush­ner was named Cit­i­zen of the Year in 1997 by the Western New York Chap­ter of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of So­cial Work­ers.

At their con­ven­tion in Buf­falo in 1998, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s New York Chap­ter also hon­ored him as Cit­i­zen of the Year.

In ad­di­tion to his wife, sur­vivors in­clude two daugh­ters, Su­san Wolf­son and Amy Kush­ner; a sis­ter, Norma Co­hen; and two grand­sons.

Ser­vices were held April 7 in Amherst Me­mo­rial Chapel, Get­zville.

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