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Morris Sidewater, Founder and CEO of Charming Shoppes, Dies at 98

July 7, 2011
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Morris Sidewater

Morris Sidewater, 98, a Philadelphia native and longtime resident of Hollywood, Fla., died on June 2. Sidewater, who was known to friends and family as "Moe," was the founder and retired CEO of Charming Shoppes, Inc., the national retailer of women's apparel.

Sidewater's career as a businessman and entrepreneur spanned six decades. A graduate of West Philadelphia High School, he later attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania at night, while working during the day as a buyer, first for Frank and Seder and then M.E. Blatt.

Along with his brother Arthur, he opened his first store on Sept. 13, 1940 on Frankford Avenue. Originally, he called the store Charming Shoppes and later the name was changed to Fashion Bug, as the company is still known today. Under his leadership, Charming Shoppes became a public corporation in 1971, and by the time of his retirement in 1988, it had approximately 1,000 stores and annual sales of $1 billion.

Sidewater, always on the cutting edge of technology, pioneered using computerized point-of-sale registers in his stores. For his accomplishments, the Wall Street Transcript honored him as Retailer of the Year in 1986 and 1987. After he retired, he and his wife spent more time in Florida, where he pursued his other passion, golf.

Sidewater worked with many charitable organizations. He was active on the boards of Beth Jacob School, Dropsie College, Brith Sholom, the Epilepsy Foundation of Philadelphia and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

He served as a board member of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Entrepreneurial School and Penn's Center for Judaic Studies. He was also a trustee of the Annenberg Research Institute, the Brith Sholom House and the Middle East Forum, of which he was a founder. He was a member of Har Zion Temple for more than 60 years.

For his gift to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Sidewater and his wife, Evelyn, received its prestigious Founder's Award in 1994. On that occasion, he asked that his gift be used to develop educational programs to teach all children, regardless of race, color or religion that "we must remember that indifference to one another is a sin that can never be tolerated."

Sidewater was predeceased by his wife, Evelyn, of 73 years, who died in 2009. He is survived by two sons, Samuel Sidewater and Steven Sidewater; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Contributions in his memory may be made to the American Heart Association or Cancer Research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

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