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James Nicholas Sumas

1933 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
James Nicholas Sumas Obituary
James Nicholas Sumas

Morristown - James Nicholas Sumas - Owner, Operator and Chairman Emeritus of Village Super Market, Inc. James Nicholas "Jimmy" Sumas, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend devoted to his loving family and extended work family at Village Super Market, Inc., the company he led for most of his life, died peacefully Saturday in his hometown of Morristown, New Jersey. He was 84.

An icon in the supermarket industry, Jimmy led by example and helped define the landscape of the grocery business by dedicating his passion, heart and soul to his work. His tireless work ethic, brilliant understanding of the marketplace, and intuitive grasp of customer needs made him a natural leader. He helped turn his family's neighborhood grocery store into a company that today owns and operates 30 ShopRite supermarkets in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland.

Jimmy was born in Newark, New Jersey on Oct. 24, 1933. He was the first son to Greek immigrants Nicholas and Athena Sumas. Jimmy was a lover of baseball (a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan) and an avid poker player. As a youngster, he got his first taste of the supermarket industry while working in his father Nick and Uncle Perry's market in South Orange and attending Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. He continued his education at Seton Hall University, earning his business degree in 1955. Jimmy served his country in the U.S. Army for the next two years. In 1957, he came home to dedicate himself to his family and to his work in the family business, which a decade earlier had joined the new supermarket cooperative Wakefern Food Corp.

Jimmy had passion and a natural mind for the grocery 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. Late last month, the Sumas family opened its 30th ShopRite store and the first ShopRite in the Bronx, New York. Jimmy's beloved wife of 59 years, Helen, and grandsons Teddy and Beau joined the family in cutting the ribbon at the store on Bruckner Boulevard. As Village's ShopRite locations expanded, so did Jimmy's dedication to doing the right thing by the customer, offering the best products at the best possible value. He took pride in the fact that families who couldn't afford much could shop in his stores and still provide quality food for their loved ones.

Jimmy was elected Village's Chairman of the Board in 1989 and named CEO in 2002. He served as vice president, treasurer and a director of the company since its incorporation in 1955.

Jimmy was also a longtime member, mentor and guiding force at Wakefern Food Corp., the largest retailer-owned cooperative in the United States, where he 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, allowing him to interact with other leaders in the supermarket industry, 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, combining his vast knowledge and quick wit to provide a valuable lesson to those willing to listen. Countless people recall these interactions with love, fondness, and respect.

Jimmy also served as vice chairman of Wakefern and was a member of its Board of Directors for over 30 years. He was chairman of both Wakefern's Grocery committee and its Advertising committee. In addition, he served as vice chairman of Wakefern's Sales and Merchandising committee and of ShopRite Supermarkets, Inc. Jimmy was also a member of Wakefern's Trade Name and Trademark, Strategic Planning and Customer Satisfaction committees.

Always known as "The Boss," "Mr. Jimmy," or "Mr. Sumas," he was a true mentor to so many ShopRite store managers and Village associates across decades of service. Often calling younger associates "buddy" or "kid," he always commanded both love and respect. Those lucky enough to learn from him treasure those moments and consider him a legend. Over the course of his lifetime, Jimmy and his wife Helen remained constant and loyal supporters to the Ss. 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." He 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 would not have been possible without his guidance and support.

Jimmy 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 his sister-in-law Harriet Pallantios (Pete), along with a very large extended and loving Greek family. He is predeceased by his brother Sturgis Sumas. A beloved patriarch and leader to so many, he will be forever missed and always remain in the hearts of those he touched.

A funeral ceremony will be offered on Friday, July 13 at 11 a.m. Ss. Nicholas, Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church at 80 Laurel Avenue in Roseland, New Jersey, with entombment to follow at Somerset Hills Memorial Park in Basking Ridge. Condolences and memories may be shared at

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Ss. Nicholas, Constantine, and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, c/o Mortgage Fund, in Roseland, New Jersey in honor of his memory.
Published in Courier News on July 13, 2018
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