Charles E. Shorday Sr., 92, of Abington, longtime supermarket entrepreneur, veteran, and philanthropist, died Wednesday, Nov. 29, of renal failure at Crescent Fields at Huntingdon Valley senior living community.
Mr. Shorday began his entrepreneurial career in 1951 when he bought his stepfather’s small grocery store at the corner of Madison Avenue and Nemoral Street in Warminster. Five decades later, in 2002, he retired from the supermarket business having operated 23 stores in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties.
Mr. Shorday was adept at business relationships, paid close attention to the needs of his customers and employees, and attracted many mentors and friends. He founded Townco Inc. in 1957 and C.E.S. Operating Co. in 1972 to oversee his stores, and served for a few years in between as vice president for retail operations for supermarket wholesalers Perloff Brothers.
Some of Mr. Shorday’s stores were known as Foodtown, Great Scot, Town and Country, Thriftway, and Shop ‘n Bag. His favorite store was Shorday’s on Old York Road in Abington, and his company motto was: “We treat you like family.”
Mr. Shorday was an engaged owner who wrote personal letters to “Mr. and Mrs. Consumer” in many of his newspaper advertisements. He promoted “Egg Wednesday” in the 1970s, promised to “battle inflation with low prices” in the 1980s, and predicted in every ad that “You will be satisfied.”
The Inquirer published a story in 1984 about his sadness in closing a Shop ‘n Bag store in Hatboro, and he told the newspaper in 1996 that he reluctantly sold his Great Scot Market on Rittenhouse Square because “I became aware that I wasn’t doing justice to the store or the area.”
Some local grocers and retail lifers trace their success to a start in one of Mr. Shorday’s stores. In 1996, Food Trade News named him one of the top supermarket developers in the second half of the 20th century.
Drafted into the Army in 1951, Mr. Shorday was stationed in Greenland as a company clerk for much of the Korean War. His wife, Joan, ran the small grocery store in Warminster while he was away, and he never failed to credit her afterward as his lifelong partner and inspiration.
Away from work, he supported the Willow Grove YMCA, and the naming of the Shorday Atrium and Shorday Center for Advanced Gastrointestinal Surgery at Abington Hospital, and Shorday Quiet Study Room at Abington Library recognize his contributions there. He was active with food banks, lobbied for empathy and medical care during the AIDS epidemic, and supported school and community events.
“He believed in second chances, in providing opportunities for others, and in paying it forward,” his family said in a tribute.
Mr. Shorday received an award from the Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown for transporting hospital workers and donating food during the blizzard of 1996. He also earned recognition for his civic and charitable work from the Golden Slipper Club, Abington Lions Club, and other groups. “He knew what it was to want, to work hard, to win, and to lose,” his family said.
Charles Edward Goens was born Nov. 16, 1931, in Doylestown. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother’s second husband adopted him. He took the name Shorday and grew up in Hatboro and Warminster.
He played football and graduated from Southampton High School. He worked in local fields during the summers and after school to earn money to help out at home before joining his stepfather in the grocery store.
He met Joan Miller at a teen firehouse dance, and they married in 1951. They lived in Abington and had daughters Lynn and Susanne, and son Charles Jr. It was, the family said, “a marriage that was full of love, laughter, sacrifice, and joy for the next 70 years.” His wife died in 2021.
Mr. Shorday read newspapers practically every day and liked biographies and nonfiction best sellers. He and his wife had winter homes in California and Florida, and he doted on his grandchildren and ever present puppies.
He made it home for dinner almost every night but often returned to work afterward. His favorite song was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
“His incredible work ethic is blueprinted within me,” said his daughter Susanne. His daughter Lynn said: “He was compassionate, generous, principled, and resilient.”
His son said: “He responded consistently to events. He knew who he was, and he always put his family first.”
In addition to his children, Mr. Shorday is survived by five grandchildren, one great-grandson, and other relatives. Three brothers died earlier.
Services were held Saturday, Dec. 9.
Donations in his name may be made to the Sisters of the Redeemer, Sr. Ellen Marvel, 1600 Huntingdon Pike, Meadowbrook, Pa. 19046; and Abington Police Athletic League, 1166 Old York Rd., Abington, Pa. 19001.