Bob Pergament, co-creator of Pergament Home Center, dies at 89

July 5, 2019

By Khristopher J. Brooks | Newsday

Robert “Bob” Pergament, who alongside his late father, Louis, and late brother Murray helped create the wildly successful home improvement store Pergament Home Center, died of congestive heart failure on Monday at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. He was 89. 

Born in Brooklyn, Pergament spent his childhood days, starting at age 12, working at his father’s candy store. He later worked in his father’s hamburger restaurant. The Pergament family discontinued the candy store and hamburger restaurant then created Pergament Home Center, where Bob Pergament spent his entire career. 

“Bob and his dad and brother started the [retail] category of home improvement a whole generation ahead of Home Depot and Lowe’s,” said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director for the Strategic Resource Group, a Manhattan-based consulting firm. “Pergament’s best stores, by far, were on Long Island.” 

The Pergament family opened their first Long Island store in Franklin Square in 1946.

Flickinger said Bob Pergament knew the “detail of retail.” He spent considerable time grooming store leaders and department managers. He was also a brilliant merchant and marketer, Flickinger said. 

In its heyday, Pergament Home Center had 42 stores across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and sales of $375 million. Bob and Murray Pergament sold the chain to two investor groups for about $175 million in 1989. At its height, Pergament Home Center had 26 Long Island-based stores and its headquarters in Melville, but the chain closed in 2001. 

“Bob will go down as one of the most legendary retail leaders and great company/corporate philanthropists of the 20th century,” Flickinger said.

In a Newsday interview last month, Bob Pergament said the chain did well in part because he noticed women were taking on home repairs while men were overseas during World War II. Pergament said that’s when the store began selling do-it-yourself items and latex-based paint.

“The women had to learn how to fix the pipes and fix the toilet,” Pergament said last month. “I said, ‘Wow!’ We have to be inclusive to women.”

Bob Pergament, who was in charge of marketing the company, is also credited with creating the store’s popular slogan: Be Confident, Shop Pergament.

“I was thinking: ‘What rhymes with Pergament?’” he told Newsday.

But Pergament’s life wasn’t all about the family business. He was also a “well-balanced guy” who took his son to Mets and Islanders games and was philanthropic toward Jewish causes, education and hospitals, family members said.

“My father was really an incredible father,” said son Arthur Pergament, 58. “He was larger than life, and he had a wicked sense of humor.”

Arthur Pergament said his father “was the king of the one-liners” who knew how to make people smile even in uncomfortable situations. 

“I remember when he got up to speak at one of his best friend’s funeral — Syd Horowitz’s funeral — right here at Temple Beth El,” he said. “He looked around the room and gazed at people before he spoke. His opening line was ‘Am I in the right place? Sydney didn’t have this amount of friends.'”

After selling Pergament Home Centers, Bob Pergament moved to Boca Raton, Florida, with his wife of 63 years, Lois. He lived his final days managing his 86-unit apartment complex called the Royal Poinciana South and teaching people how to start their own businesses.

Pergament’s funeral services were held Wednesday. His shiva will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, from 4 to 9 p.m. on Sunday and from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday at 62 Wooster St., Apt. 3B, in Manhattan. 

Pergament is survived by wife Lois Pergament, 85, of Boca Raton, daughters Debra Pergament, 61, and Lori Dorman, 59, and son Arthur, 58, all of New York City. 

khristopher.brooks@newsday.com Twitter:  @americanglow

Khristopher J. Brooks is a Detroit native turned New Yorker who has covered the Town of North Hempstead since January 2017.