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Remembering Frank Denny

Frank Denny as a "lion tamer" in a 1987 issue of National Home Center News.

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Credited for nurturing the warehouse home center business during its emergence in the 1980s, Frank Denny died last month. He was 79.

Denny was president of W.R. Grace and Co.'s home center division. When Kmart bought Home Centers of America in 1984, Denny was tapped to oversee its expansion under the brand name Builders Square.

The pages of National Home Center News (the forerunner of HCN) from the 1980s provide ample evidence of Denny's influence on the industry. In a Dec. 7, 1981, NHCN editorial, Denny was described as an influential executive who worked at a torrid pace. "What Denny has developed for Grace is a modern, clean, fairly priced, basically self-service merchandising concept for the novice and not-so-novice DIYer," wrote NHCN.

A 1987 article about Denny's leadership at Builders Square included an illustration portraying the veteran executive as a circus performer attempting to tame the industry's fastest-growing home center chain. The article's headline: "Taming the Beast."

Denny graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and in 1958 moved to California, where he bought close-out lots of lumber for a discount outlet called Angels. Three years later, he became a partner of the company.

He later helped convert an El Paso lumberyard into what became the Cashway Home Improvement chain.

A message from Denny's family said he died July 2, "after the usual tough fight he was known for throughout his career."

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