Highland Park, Ill.—Chicago retailer Leon Engel passed away on April 23 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 72.
Engel grew up in the specialty retail environment. His father opened a store after WWII that he worked in every Saturday from the age of 12, on, according to Engel’s wife Lynn. He graduated from Purdue University in 1960 with a chemical engineering degree, after which he began work with Liquid Carbonics. Toward the end of 1967, Engel and his wife moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., where he ran his aunt’s floor covering store for just north of a year.
In 1970, he opened Home Carpet and Linoleum Center in Chicago. “We paid someone to run the store during the week because he was working full time for the chemical company,” Lynn said. “He worked at the store nights and weekends.”
Engel was active in the floor covering community as a member of the Chicago Floorcovering Association, of which he served as president in 1987. He was also a member of the National Retail Floorcovering Association, now the World Floor Covering Association, and became one of the earliest members of the Carpet Co-op of America, changing the store moniker to Home Carpet One in 1987. He went on to own all three ProSource showrooms in the Chicago area and was awarded CFA’s person of the year in 2008.
The memorial service on April 26, saw over 500 attendees including executives from Mannington Mills, CCA Global and ProSource, employees, colleagues, friends and family. Joel Schreier, Engel’s son-in-law and current Home Carpet One president remembered his mentor. “Leon trusted me with the business he built for 30-plus years even though I had no experience—I was a lawyer. He empowered me to make decisions and never criticized the results. For example, we paid $10,000 to Shaw to get the Martha Stewart carpet line three days before she was indicted for insider trading and Leon never said a word.”
He is survived by his wife, Lynn; his daughter and son-in-law, Debbie and Joel Schreier; his daugher and son-in-law, Lisa and Mark Schulman; his daugher and son-in-law, Dana and Brad Gerstein; his mother, Lillian Engel; his brothers, James, Edward and Robert; his sister, Elena, and nine grand children.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 500 N. Dearborn St., Suite 305, Chicago, Ill., or to the Sopris Ranger District c/o Chandra All Red, In Memory of Leon Engel, P.O. Box 309, Carbondale, Colo., 81623.