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Bill Stroud, 77

Bill Stroud, 77, the much-beloved retail visionary who married merchandising skills to a warm personality and along the way helped to create a new channel of retail distribution — the big-box home fashions specialty chain — died last Thursday, April 10, after a long battle against heart disease and emphysema.

An early pioneer of the home fashions specialty store format, Wilfred C. Stroud Jr. — everyone knew him as Bill, — earned his stripes while working at The Broadway Department Stores in California, eventually becoming a merchandise manager of linens and domestics.

But itching for more, he left the company to launch a new venture, opening his first store, Strouds Linen Warehouse, in Pasadena, CA, in 1979. Only six years later, sensing a consumer need and a new opportunity, he opened a larger format "superstore" that allowed him to show off a greater breadth of product in more visually sophisticated merchandise displays. Expanding the concept, he built the West Coast company into one of the nation's largest retailers of home textiles products, generating $227.6 million in sales at its zenith. At its height, in the late 1990s, the chain operated 68 stores, occupying more than one million square feet of selling space.

But to many in the industry, who understand that good men are much harder to find than good stores, Bill Stroud the friend — generous, decent, completely honorable — was far more important than the chain of stores he built. And one of the fondest memories of the man is the annual golf outing he created to raise money for the American Heart Association, an event unique in the industry's history, which brought together competitors, rivals and friends.

Stroud was born July 2, 1925, in Portland, OR. "And I never got the Portland out of him," said his wife Joyce. After a hitch in the Navy during the waning days of World War II, — he did not see action — he graduated form the University of Oregon with a bachelor of science degree.

One of his professors, Joyce recalled, thought he had the makings of a good retailer, although he had never worked in the business, and suggested he go east for further schooling. Bill took the advice, and he graduated from New York University's school of retailing with a master's degree, and then went to work for Bloomingdale's in the early 1950s as a sporting goods buyer. In 1956, he moved to California and took the first of several jobs at The Broadway that ultimately led him to the second great passion of his life — after his wife Joyce — the home fashions business.

Joyce recalled: "He was so proud of Strouds. The people have been so good to him. "

Funeral services will be held at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 16, at Forest Lawn in Glendale, CA, with a reception following at the family's Aracadia home. He will be buried at Forest Lawn.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the American Heart Association.

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