Murray Bernard Koffler, the founder of Shoppers Drug Mart and a noted philanthropist, has died at 93.
Koffler, born in 1924, took over his father’s two Toronto pharmacies when he was just 17 years old, following his father’s death.
He died on Sunday, Nov. 5, at his home in Toronto. He is survived by Marvelle, his wife of 67 years, his five children and many grandchildren.
Koffler graduated from the Ontario College of Pharmacy in 1946, and in 1956 opened his first retail drugstore in a shopping centre. He developed the Shoppers Drug Mart concept in 1961, applying the principles of mass merchandising and self-service at his stores.
He was also a co-founder of Four Seasons Hotels.
He supported a wide variety of causes, founding the Council on Drug Abuse, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition and the Koffler Centre of the Arts, and supported organizations including the Toronto Symphony, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute. He was a co-founder of Temple Emanu-El.
He was an Officer of the Order of Canada.
By 1975, he ran the largest drugstore network in Canada, with 250 stores from Victoria, B.C., to Grand Falls, N.L. He later sold the chain to Montreal-based Imasco and it is now owned by Loblaw Companies, with more than 1,300 locations.
“Murray Koffler was not only the author of one of Canada’s great business success stories, he was a well-respected standard bearer for the retail and pharmacy industries,” said Mike Motz, president of Shoppers Drug Mart.
“His legacy is reflected in our stores, our associate-owner concept, our commitment to patient care and service, and the philanthropic spirit behind our support for women’s health.”
Murray and his wife, Marvelle, were visionaries whose work in founding the Marvelle Koffler Breast Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital set a new standard for patient-centred breast cancer care, said director Dr. Pamela Goodwin.
Goodwin said that when she was having trouble finding funding for drug trials investigating the link between obesity and insulin and breast cancer, Murray Koffler reached out to the head of a Canadian pharmaceutical firm and, in 10 minutes, was able to arrange for the drug and placebos to be provided at no cost to the hospital, an arrangement that continues to this day.
“He was available, he was a problem solver, he was very effective in everything he did and he understood each little piece of the puzzle,” said Goodwin.
“This is a man who cared deeply about the right thing being done.”
Koffler, Ray D. Wolfe and Albert Latner purchased the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) in 1971 and reconstructed it as a community newspaper, according to Wolfe’s daughter Elizabeth Wolfe, now president of CJN.
“Murray Koffler was one of the great leaders of his generation,” she said.