Feb. 9, 2010
Charleston Businessman Al Summers Dies
By John Wallace
Special to Huntingtonnews.net
Charleston, WV – Charleston businessman Albert Summers died Sunday after several decades of developing food and real estate businesses in the Charleston area. He was 83 years old.
As the son of Lebanese immigrants, Summers grew up working in the family market. Because of the military’s demand for young men during World War II, he graduated Charleston High School on an accelerated program in just two and a half years. In May 1944, he entered the Navy at age 17. In the Navy, he was trained in sophisticated electronics.
“It was easy for me,” Summers said a few years ago. “I understand electronic theory.”
Eventually, the Navy had him train ensigns, lieutenants and captains, all of whom outranked him, but he had to determine whether they passed or failed.
“Some were smart,” he said. “Some weren’t so smart.”
After Summers was discharged as a first-class petty officer in 1947, he attended a pre-law program at Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston). Among his classmates was Robert Byrd, who went on to become a U.S. senator. But instead of becoming a lawyer, Summers joined his brother, Andy, in taking over the family business after their father’s health failed.
The Summers brothers expanded the scope of their produce marketing business beyond Charleston to Madison, Montgomery, Clay and other communities. In 1958, Al Summers built his first supermarket, which became Flowers Foodland in Nitro. In 1961, he and his brother started Empire Foods, a food distribution business based in Parkersburg that served customers from Morgantown to Bluefield and later reached into five states. In 1970, Al Summers took full control of Empire Foods. In 1979, he sold the company.
In 1964, Al Summers bought the Morris Square Building on Charleston’s East End. He went on to develop other commercial properties, including Putnam Village and Liberty Square shopping centers in Putnam County and the Greenbrooke Building in Charleston. When he remodeled the Greenbrooke Building, Summers also formed the Smith Street Association with other landlords and tenants to clean up that section of Charleston’s East End and rid it of crime. That made the area conducive for business redevelopment.
Summers made many contributions to his community, the state and his church, St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Charleston. He played an instrumental role in the development of Appalachian Power Park, Charleston’s minor league baseball stadium, by donating properties.
His wife of 48 years, Dolores Summers, survives him as do: son Thomas James “T.J.” Summers and wife Faria of Chicago; daughter Gabrielle “Missy” Summers and husband Imre Eszenyi of McLean, Va.; sister Jennie Kannam of Canton, Ohio, and grandchildren Samuel and Ava Eszenyi and Laylee, Nayla, Ellya and Mateen Summers.
A funeral service is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Thursday at St. George Orthodox Cathedral. Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

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