Stanley Goldstein, Who Helped Make CVS a Pharmacy Giant, Dies at 89

Stanley P. Goldstein, who in the early 1960s helped start a retail chain named Consumer Value Stores, which, after shortening its name to CVS — because, he said, fewer letters meant cheaper signs — grew into the largest drugstore chain in the United States, died on Tuesday at his home in Providence, R.I. He was 89.

The company, which is headquartered in Rhode Island, announced his death. Family members told The Providence Journal that the cause was cancer, diagnosed about a month ago.

Mr. Goldstein was frequently described as informal and no-nonsense — much like the airy, brightly lit outlets that he, a brother and a third founder opened in 1963 to sell cut-price toothpaste, aftershave, Band-Aids and other personal care products.

When he retired as chief executive in 1998, the company had more than 4,000 stores. Today, it has more than 9,000 outlets in the United States and its territories, and its revenues are larger than those of Exxon Mobil, Microsoft and Ford.

Mr. Goldstein, who graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1955, at first had little enthusiasm for retail sales, a business that he knew, from the experience of his father, Israel Goldstein, was cutthroat. Instead, he became a stockbroker.

But when Mr. Goldstein’s father died, his brother Sidney persuaded him to help take over the father’s struggling enterprise, which had begun by selling bags and other paper products to grocery stores and had branched out to offer sundry health and beauty aids, displayed near the cash registers.

The business barely broke even because big wholesalers had begun selling the same merchandise to grocery stores, undercutting the Goldsteins.

The brothers, along with Ralph Hoagland, a product of Harvard Business School who had worked for Procter & Gamble, came up with a new approach: a stand-alone store specializing in discount personal care items.

The first Consumer Value Store opened in a low-income neighborhood of Lowell, Mass., a former manufacturing hub that the Goldsteins and Mr. Hoagland figured would welcome reduced-price merchandise. A sign told customers that they could save even more money by bagging their own purchases. A second store followed, in Haverhill, Mass.

For the sake of trimming costs on signage, the name was soon abbreviated. “All those letters cost a lot of money, so we shortened it to CVS,” Stanley Goldstein recalled in The Providence Journal in 2017.

The chain rapidly expanded to 42 stores, including the first with pharmacies. In 1969, the company was sold to the Melville Corporation, a retailing giant whose chains included Thom McAn shoes, K-B Toys and Marshalls discount clothing.

That year, Mr. Hoagland, whose politics were shaped by the 1960s counterculture, left the company after an article in The Boston Globe angered some Melville directors by reporting that he had given money to a faction of the antiwar Students for a Democratic Society. Mr. Goldstein became CVS’s president, the title Mr. Hoagland had held in the early years.

“Ralph was the wild man who’d push the envelope,” Mr. Goldstein later recalled of CVS’s early days. “Sid was quite conservative. And I was in the middle.”

Stanley Goldstein was born on June 5, 1934, in Woonsocket, R.I., one of four sons of Israel and Etta (Halpern) Goldstein. The family home was the ground floor of a three-family building known in working-class New England at the turn of the last century as a triple-decker, a structure that largely housed immigrants, who had been arriving in waves.

He married Merle Katz in 1960. She survives him, as do two sons, Larry and Gene, and four grandchildren. His brother Sidney, who retired from CVS in 1987, died in 1995.

CVS grew rapidly by buying regional drugstore chains and opening new locations. It became Melville’s largest division, and Mr. Goldstein’s role with the corporate parent expanded. In 1986, he became president and chief executive of Melville, which was based in Rye, N.Y. A year later, at age 52, he was named chairman.

But in 1995, Mr. Goldstein determined that Melville had grown unwieldy and needed to be broken up. Marshalls was sold to the corporate parent of T.J. Maxx. The shoe and toy stores were spun off. As chairman, he retained CVS, changing the name Melville to CVS Corporation, and moved its offices to Woonsocket, R.I.

After stepping away from active leadership, Mr. Goldstein remained on the CVS board through 2006.

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