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Got a number of emails yesterday about MNB’s appreciation of Feargal Quinn, the Irish retailing legend who passed away this week at age 82.

From MNB reader Norman Rich:

Great tribute to a wonderful human being and retail genius. Never forget the first St. Patricks Day card he sent me and probably everyone else on the FMI board. To be in his company was a delight.

MNB reader Beatrice Orlandini wrote from Italy:
<>b>What a loss!

Your article kept ringing many bells.

You may not be aware of the fact that I first "met" you on a videotape, given to me by Anne O'Broin, of the interview with Feargal in 2000.I translated it and had it dubbed in Italian and it was shown numerous times around the country that year.

I bought the rights (for clients of mine) for the Italian version of “Crowning the Customer,” which I translated. It was a great success, could not have been otherwise and - I agree - that it is still a must read for anyone doing retail.

I, too, had the privilege of visiting Superquinn with Feargal. He even bagged my groceries once.

I brought so many groups of Italian retailers to visit those stores that at one time the manager of the Lucan store told me I was getting to be part of the furniture.

My father, who had been with him one of the founders of Eurocommerce, still got the St. Patrick's card every year. I did not see one coming this year, though.

Feargal was a good friend to many of the best retailers I ever got to know.

Whichever way you look at it, it's a huge loss.

From MNB reader Neil Raphel:

Thanks for putting into words what so many of us felt about Feargal..

He was an inspiration to me as well as many, many other people. I remember him sitting around the hotel lobby at an FMI Convention talking to a few people. As people wandered in more and more people stopped to hear Feargal, because his stories were so entertaining. Within a half hour, scores of people were listening to him. His quick wit was enchanting, but it was always laced with compassion.

His book “Crowning the Customer” was one of the first business books we distributed (we received the American rights from the Irish publisher). Feargal was very supportive, and I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) about how many supermarket owners ordered cases of his book to hand out to employees.

When we visited Ireland with our kids, Feargal arranged for his sons to entertain us and even babysit our kids. Ben was in second grade when we went to Ireland and his teacher told him he had to interview someone in Ireland because he was missing some school. He wanted to interview Feargal but we never could seem to find the time. Ben was disappointed the interview wouldn’t take place, but, of course, Feargal showed up at the airport the day we were leaving and spent some quality time with Ben. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

We also got St. Patrick Day cards from Feargal. And, recently, he sent a really nice condolence card when my dad died. I’ll miss the cards and I’ll miss Feargal.

And from Neil’s mom, Ruth Raphel:

There were huge announcements over the different produce counters in Feargal’s supermarkets with the names of the farms where the products were grown and when they had arrived in the store. Also, I did not know about meal-ready products until we visited his stores in Ireland. He was so ahead of the industry!

The Quinns lived in a beautiful home by the Irish sea. Murray did many speaking sessions in Ireland. One time we were invited to dinner at the Quinns; but Murray had his Swiss sponsor with him, the sponsor was invited also and it turned out to be a wonderful evening.

He and his family were special people and dear friends.

From another reader:

Thank you for your wonderful array of memories and thoughts of Feargal (as we all knew him.)

He was a very special person. Visionary. Customer-centric (in the truest sense of the word.) Inspirational. Compassionate. Values-based. Integrity-driven. Teacher. Lover-of-life. A pleasure to be with.

I had the honor of consulting with Superquinn for a decade. I have often said since that if I had my retailing life over again I would have have wanted to have worked for Superquinn.

Here's a wee story which reflects Feargal’s sense of humor (and integrity). For a number of years, to give himself some “free” time, he spent a few hours one afternoon a week riding his horse. To cover himself honestly, he named his horse “Business” … and so his assistant could always tell callers … I’m sorry, this afternoon he is away on business this afternoon.

Feargal built a unique food retailer while maintaining a unique sense of humor.

Like so many, many others, in so many diverse fields, I shall miss this special influence and friend.

Feargal—you will always be remembered.

From another MNB reader:

A very nice tribute to Mr. Quinn.  I remember your columns about him and how he was always innovating and trying new things.  One of the grocery chains in the Sacramento region is called Nugget Markets.  They are still family owned.  I love how they call their customers "guests."  It creates a whole different atmosphere  among your employees when you treat the people who buy from you as your "guests."  Every time I am in one of their stores the employees seem happy and will ask you if they can help you.  They were doing this long before secret shopper programs became the norm in the grocery business.  Nugget seems to employ the type of person who likes to serve the customer.  Whole Foods does a great job on the customer service front as well.  Sorry for the loss of your friend, he was a great man.

A lot of people have learned from Feargal Quinn.

MNB reader Gary Harris wrote:

Thanks for this, Kevin. These remembrances of yours are a special gift to your readers to give us insights into folks we’ve heard about but never had the pleasure to meet. You give their names the additional dimension of humanity, who they were, what they believed, and their legacy to our industry. We’re fortunate to have your insights on these folks. Unfortunately for you, you’re getting good at this.

Thanks. I’ve done way too many eulogies and obituaries lately.

And finally, from MNB fave Glen Terbeek, who knew Feargal well and spent much time in his stores over the years:

Great article re: Feargal! Well done.

He will be missed!

Already is.
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