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Bernard Gelson, 84; Built Chain of Upscale Makets

January 13, 2005|From a Times Staff Writer

Bernard Gelson, who pioneered upscale grocery shopping in Southern California as the co-founder of Gelson's Markets, has died. He was 84.

Gelson, who had been in failing health, died Monday of pneumonia at his home in Encino, said his wife, Ellyn.

Gelson was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 29, 1920. He and his younger brother, Eugene, learned the grocery business from their parents, who ran a small store.

The family moved to Southern California when Gelson was a teenager and settled in Monterey Park, where his parents again ran a small market.

Gelson graduated from Alhambra High School and served as an instructor in the Army Air Forces during World War II.

After the war, the Gelson brothers opened a small grocery in Tujunga and then moved the store to North Hollywood. In 1951, they opened an upscale supermarket in Burbank that featured top-quality meats, produce and groceries and offered a high level of service.

The store was an immediate success, leading to a second in Encino in 1960 and a third in North Hollywood in 1965.

The next year, the Gelsons sold their firm to the Arden Group Inc., a holding company. Bernard Gelson operated Gelson's as a wholly owned subsidiary until his retirement in 1988.

Gelson's continued to expand at a measured pace in affluent parts of Southern California and now has 18 locations.

Eugene Gelson died in 1980.

In addition to his wife, Bernard Gelson is survived by his son, Joseph Gelson, and daughter, Jessica Gelson; stepchildren Jill Feinstock, Joelle Mertzel and Jordan Feinstock; a sister, Dorothy Rivin; and a grandson.

Services are scheduled for noon today at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles.

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