James Nicholas Sumas, Businessman and Philanthropist, 84

James Nicholas Sumas was 84. Photo: (Legacy.com)

MORRISTOWN, NJ – Owner, operator, and chairman emeritus of Village Super Market, Inc. James Nicholas Sumas, 84, of Morristown, NJ, beloved husband, devoted father, loving grandfather, loyal brother, friend to countless people, and mentor to so many, passed away peacefully in Morristown on July 7.

James, or Jimmy as he was affectionately known by so many, is survived by the love of his life, his wife, Helen Sumas (nee Dillon); his daughter, Dr. MariaElaina (Mia) Sumas (Patrick Baker); his daughter, Stephanie Sumas; his son, John James Sumas (Dr. Alexandra Liggatt), and his grandsons, Theodore-James Sumas and James Beau Sumas. He is also survived by his brother, Robert Sumas (Deana), and sister-in-law Harriet Pallantios (Pete), along with a very large extended and loving Greek family. Jimmy was predeceased by his brother, Sturgis Sumas. Jimmy loved his family, his church, and his “Village Family” more than anything. He made it a point to lead by example, never complain, and always do his best no matter the circumstance.

Sumas was born in Newark, NJ, on October 24, 1933. He was the first son to Greek immigrants Nicholas and Athena Sumas, with roots in Kozani on his father’s side. He was a lover of baseball (a lifelong Cardinals fan) and an avid poker player. As a youngster, he loved working in his father, Nick, and his Uncle Perry’s market while he attended Columbia High School. Always working and thriving in the family’s grocery store, Jimmy continued his education at Seton Hall University, earning his business degree in 1955. He then decided to serve his country and enlist in the U.S. Army for the next two years.

In 1957, Sumas came home to dedicate himself to his family and his work. He had passion and a natural mind for business and quickly began to lead the Sumas family into its growth phase by opening ShopRite supermarket locations throughout the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and beyond. As Village ShopRite expanded, so did Jimmy’s dedication in doing the right thing by the customer – offering the best products at the best possible value. He took pride in the fact that families that couldn’t afford much could shop in his stores and still provide quality food for their loved ones.

Over the course of his lifetime, Sumas and his wife, Helen, remained constant and loyal supporters to the Saints Nicholas, Constantine, and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, always believing in the church’s vision “To provide a loving community where all are one with Christ through worship, learning, outreach, and fellowship.” Jimmy continued his father Nicholas’ legacy by serving as president of the church and presiding over the merger of St. Nicholas of Newark and St. Constantine and Helen of Orange. The construction of the new church in Roseland, NJ, would not have been possible without his guidance and support. The Nicholas J. Sumas Library for Children at Saint Basil Academy in Garrison, NY was built through the generosity of the Sumas family.

Jimmy Sumas was elected as the Village chairman of the board in 1989. He was named chief executive officer in 2002. He served variously as vice president, treasurer, and as a director of the company since its incorporation in 1955. In late June of this year, the Sumas family opened its 30th ShopRite store and the first ShopRite in the Bronx, NY.

An icon in the supermarket industry, Sumas helped define the landscape of the business by dedicating his passion, heart, and soul to his work. This tireless work ethic, brilliant understanding of the marketplace, and intuitive grasp of the customer’s needs made him a natural leader. At Wakefern, Sumas was always one of the most trusted forms of counsel on the Board of Directors. He became Wakefern’s Grocery Committee chairman in 1957 and commanded that post for nearly 60 years. This was a position that he loved – it allowed him to interact with other leaders in the supermarket industry, other ShopRite members, and his colleagues at Wakefern. He loved educating those at the Grocery Committee in a way that only he was able to do, by combining his vast knowledge with his quick wit to provide a valuable lesson to those willing to listen. Countless people recall these interactions with love, fondness, and respect. If you ask anybody at Village Super Market, they would tell you that Jimmy is a legend. If you were lucky enough to learn from him, you considered those moments special.

Always known as “The Boss,” “Mr. Jimmy,” or “Mr. Sumas,” he was a true mentor to so many store managers and Village associates across decades of service. Often calling younger associates “buddy” or “kid,” he always commanded both love and respect – something many people try to accomplish but only a small number actually do. He was a patriarch and a beloved leader to so many Village and Wakefern employees. He will forever be missed but will always remain in the hearts of those he touched.

Relatives and friends attended the visitation on Wednesday, July 11 and Thursday, July 12 at Ss. Nicholas, Constantine, and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, 80 Laurel Ave., Roseland, NJ. The funeral was held on Friday, July 13 at the church, followed by entombment at Somerset Hills Memorial Park in Basking Ridge, NJ. Funeral arrangements are entrusted to Farmer Funeral Home of Roseland. Condolences and memories may be shared at farmerfuneral.com. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Ss. Nicholas, Constantine, and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, c/o Mortgage Fund, in Roseland, NJ, in honor of Jimmy’s memory.

(From the Star-Ledger)

1 Comment

  1. Upon graduating from college…was an executive intern for General Foods Inc. , the largest food distributor in the world.. or might be better known…as the producers of Maxwell House coffee……which is now consolidated in what is called Kraft foods inc. today

    Part of my internship …..was for two years …work in the Sales Division of General Foods… and assume the position as accoujnt manager of the retail food chains …like Shoprite!

    In this capacity…..I was responsible for managing the sales and promotion of the General Foods products with Mr. Sumas and his adminstration, as well as , working with his store managers to coordinate the approved programs and promotions ….Mr. Sumas had approved for Shop-Rite, but ultimately Wakefern!

    Therefore, as an American of Greek Descent, I had the privilege of be associated with one of the most brilliant businessman in the entire U.S, and be a mentor to me ….by association …..as to how one should ethically conduct themselves in their business dealings and relationships….and more importantly, to never lose the important values of respect and humbleness in dealing with fellow human beings!

    Mr. Sumas and his family….were “GIANTS” in the industry and community….and was a model ….about what made our Greek Heritage famous…and brought here in the early 1900’s by the immigrants from Greece!
    Yes , Mr. Sumas was not only passionate, but a man of integrity and genuine honesty.! He made me proud…..to say to those from the outside …and from the executive CEO .levels of General Foods Inc….”You Know ….He is of Greek Blood!
    There are few left…who have the courage and fortitude to successfully build not only a business, that provided many families with jobs and income to raise their families, but to be able to never forget what was most important…and it was not money….but his family!

    It is this legacy….that the passing of Mr. Sumas….should be remembered, and was the basis and foundation for my personal business ethics and how I would never lose sight of what was most important….when I would assume a position of responsibility! ..

    Mr.Sumas and his family business partners…. had a major impact and reached for wider…than New Jersey
    and I can say for sure…for at least one young Greek American, I am proud to say…I met James Nicholas Sumas…a real Greek American! May his memory, be eternal!

    Michael Gianakos

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