Joseph Altschuller               Inducted 1985 - Class of 1932

It may seem somewhat far-fetched to link the multitude of Food Town supermarkets in the Toledo area with the fact that the jobs just weren't there for metallurgists in the Depression years of the 1930's. But the association exists, in the person of Joseph Altschuller, a 1932 graduate of Woodward High School.

From Woodward, Joe Altschuller went on to the University of Toledo, where he majored in chemistry and metallurgy. But jobs of any kind were scarce when he graduated in 1936, and, after working off and on as a chemist, he returned to the business he had been raised in - the business of selling food.

Mr. Altschuller started small, by opening a grocery at Detroit and West Central Avenues in 1939. The war intervened, as it did with so many of us who were young adults then; while he was on duty with the Merchant Marine, his wife, the former Virginia Baillet of Rossford, and his parents kept the

store in operations.

 

His wartime service ended, and now the bank that owned the building occupied by his store wanted it back for its own use. So Mr. Altschuller had to start all over again, and he did this by building a market at Detroit and Glendale Avenues. This was the acorn from which grew the giant oak that is now SeawayFood Town, Inc., with its 80 or so supermarkets in Ohio and Michigan and its attendant satellite operations.

It was clear to Mr. Altschuller in those late 1940's that the food business was being dominated by the big national chains with their increasingly elaborate supermarkets and heavy advertising. Why not, he reasoned, emulate them on a local level? At his instigation, five independent market operators banded together for the advantages that come with joint advertising and purchasing. Thus was Food Town born and, like Topsy, it grew and grew.

Mr. Altschuller has been promising himself that he would retire when he felt that he had enough money. By 1958 he decided he had reached that point and so, at the relatively young age of 43, he did retire. A few years later he sold his stock in Seaway Food Town in order to diversify his holdings; by this time, he and his wife had moved to Florida.

Mr. Altschuller now devotes his time to his investments, to travel, to community work, and to philanthropies. Late in 1983 he and his wife provided an endowed fund of $250,000 to the University of Toledo as scholarship support for worthy and needy undergraduates, with preference given to employees of Seaway Food Town or dependents of employees. In accepting the $250,000 check, Dr. Glen Driscoll, V.T. president, said: "It is a wonderful experience to see successful alumni step forward to make our university the beneficiary of their success. Many generations of students will be able to move through the university with expenses underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. Altschuller."

Mrs. Altschuller, a graduate of the St. Vincent Medical Center nursing school, has established a scholarship fund there in memory of her parents. The Altschullers, who live in Coconut Grove, Fla., are the parents of two daughters, Mrs. Ellen Mintzer and Mrs. Martha Zaritsky.

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

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