Irwin Zazulia, 61, CEO, president of Hecht Co. who oversaw its growth

March 12, 2003|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Irwin Zazulia, the retired Hecht Co. president and chief executive officer whose business savvy helped turn the department store chain into a retailing powerhouse, died yesterday at Anne Arundel Medical Center after suffering a heart attack while bicycling. The Annapolis area resident was 61.

Born in Newark and raised in Roselle, N.J., Mr. Zazulia attended Rutgers University and majored in liberal arts. After graduating in 1963, he took his first retail job at Stern Brothers in New York, where he won accolades for his performance and his division's quarterly returns.

In 1971, Mr. Zazulia joined May Department Stores, the parent company of Hecht's, in Washington as a divisional merchandise manager of ready-to-wear. In 1976, he was promoted to executive vice president at Hecht's, responsible for the total merchandising effort. He rose to vice chairman in 1978 and two years later was named president and CEO.

Under Mr. Zazulia's two decades of leadership, Hecht's more than tripled in size, growing from 21 stores to 74. His management of four complex mergers, as well as the company's growth in the Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia markets, are credited with propelling the company's expansion.

He retired in 2000 from Hecht's, which now operates 80 stores in eight states in the eastern region from Tennessee to Pennsylvania.

A 20-year resident of the Annapolis area, Mr. Zazulia was involved with several charities and boards. He was appointed to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., in 1999 and served on the Georgetown University Board of Regents Career Committee.

He also served on the Wish Friends board in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, was active with the National Capital Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and was on the corporate advisory board of Second Genesis, a Bethesda-based charity that offers drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

In 1998, he was honored as Second Genesis Man of the Year. A year later, he received the Symbol of Caring from Georgetown University Hospital, where he supported the Vincent T. Lombardi Cancer Center.

His first marriage, to the former Nina Foer, ended in divorce.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Taylor Funeral Home, 147 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis.

Survivors include his wife of 24 years, the former Judy Turner; two sons, Glenn Zazulia of Denver and Nicholas Zazulia, an eighth-grader at Indian Creek School in Crownsville; two daughters, Allyson Zazulia of St. Louis and Emily Zazulia, a freshman at Harvard University; a brother, Arnold Zazulia of Florida; and three grandchildren.

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