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Retailer Sid Levitz dies at 78

Sidney A. Levitz, who played a key role in the growth of Levitz Furniture and then pioneered the development of computer management systems for furniture retailers, has died at age 78.

Levitz had been ill for the past four years.

Sid Levitz was a prominent member of the family that reshaped the face of furniture retailing in post-World War II America.

He was the youngest of seven children born to R.B. and Sarah Levitz of Lebanon, Pa. R.B. Levitz went into the retail business in 1910, operating a general merchandise operation that sold everything from groceries to jewelry. In the mid-1920s the business expanded into furniture, where the family would make its mark.

Sid and his three brothers, Ralph, Leon and Sam Sr., all worked with their father in the business from childhood into their adult lives.

Sid began his furniture career after completing service in the U.S. Army, which included a two-year stint in Japan after World War II ended. He started as general manager of the original R. B. Levitz store, while his three brothers were developing what became known as Levitz Furniture Corp., which capitalized on its warehouse showroom concept to became the nation's largest furniture store.

Sid Levitz led the expansion of Levitz Furniture in the late 1960s into the mid-1970s in the western United States, and served as the company's president during that time.

He developed an integrated computer management system for Levitz that launched the next phase of his career. Seeing the potential in this new technology, he started a new company after he left Levitz.

He founded S.A. Levitz Inc. with his sister Razelle and relatives Dan and Mitchell Selznick and Sammy Levitz, making computer systems available to other large chains and independent furniture retailers around the country. That company later became known as GERS.

With the computer business doing well, Sidney and his two sons, Billy and David, along with the Selznicks, Sammy Levitz and Harris Blickstein, opened Cousins Home Furnishings in California, which later became a 24-store chain that covered Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego. That company grew rapidly after it became a public company. It featured sharp values, low margins and high inventory turns. Sales eventually topped $120 million. The retailer was later acquired by The Brick Furniture Warehouse of Edmonton, Alberta.

After the sale of Cousins, Sid returned to the retail technology sector, spurring the further growth of that field.

From 1995 to 1996, Sid Levitz served as a consultant to another large furniture retailer, The RoomStore of Dallas, which was owned by his brother, Leon, Gary Levitz, and Gary's son, Michael Levitz.

In 1997, Sid launched into yet another furniture venture, this time with his sons in partnership with Dan Selznick and Phillip and Alan Levitz. They opened The RoomSource in Sacramento, Calif., to augment their successful Roomstore of Phoenix operation.

Sid Levitz retired in 1998, but continued to consult for son David's company in La Jolla, Calif., which markets imports from South America and other developing countries.

Sid Levitz is survived by brothers Leon Levitz and Sam Levitz Sr.; two sons, David Levitz and William "Billy" Levitz; a daughter, Susan Levitz, and two grandsons. His wife, Roberta, preceded him in death.

A celebration of his life will be held in about 30 days in La Jolla, Calif.

Persons wishing to contact the family can do so through MRL Worldwide Corp.

The e-mail address is stonedgeinc@inetmail.att.net.

Roberta and Sidney A. Levitz were married for more than 50 years. Roberta died in 1998 and Sid died this month.

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