Omaha Steaks Chairman Alan Simon took pride in putting choice cuts of meat on his customers’ dinner tables, but relatives said he took even more satisfaction in making contributions to the community.
“Alan used to tell me his hobby was community service,” said nephew Todd Simon, senior vice president at Omaha Steaks. “When he wasn’t focused on business, he was focused on making the community a better place.”
Alan Simon died Saturday of natural causes with his family by his side in Laguna Beach, California. He was 85. A private memorial service will be held Sunday in California.
Three of the major beneficiaries of his community efforts were Creighton University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, said his son, Bruce Simon, president and CEO of Omaha Steaks. Other interests included the Omaha Symphony, Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, Boy Scouts of America, Omaha Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and the Omaha Performing Arts Society.
Born in Omaha in 1934, Alan Simon attended Central High School. He earned a master’s degree in accounting from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1956. He met his wife, Anne, in Philadelphia, and they lived in Omaha and California.
After graduation, he joined the family business, which was founded in 1917 as a butcher shop in Omaha. It is a fifth-generation, privately held business that became one of America’s largest marketers of beef.
Working with his late brothers, Fred and Stephen, Alan Simon saw Omaha Steaks grow into the largest small parcel direct shipper of gourmet foods in the United States. Its 400-item product line generates revenue of about $450 million in annual sales — a total of about 4 million packages a year.
The three brothers were the fourth generation to lead Omaha Steaks. Alan is credited with creating special packaging to allow large shipments of steaks, transforming the meat shipping industry.
Bruce and Todd Simon agreed that Alan also was a thorough bookkeeper. Inventory was expected to be accounted for down to the last pound.
“Dad set up the books and oh, by the way, they were set up by the book, thanks to that master’s degree in accounting,” Bruce said. “That’s how he ran the business. He was absolutely meticulous.”
Learning from the three Simon brothers, Todd Simon said, was a mentoring program that couldn’t be topped. Alan, he said, excelled at breaking down the process of running Omaha Steaks.
“Alan was really good at explaining the process to the whole team so you wouldn’t miss anything,” Todd Simon said. “In the food business, there’s no margin for error.”
Bruce Simon said his dad was a humble person who didn’t go in for flashy cars, expensive clothes or large homes. He loved to joke and to dominate a pingpong table.
“I built a room on the third floor at our headquarters just for pingpong,” he said. “It had wrestling mats on the walls because you could really get flying around. Dad was a merciless pingpong player into his 70s, and he liked getting some of the guys from the plant to come up there. We had some really good players.”
In addition to his son and wife of nearly 65 years, Alan Simon is survived by daughter Janice Tecimer and four grandchildren.
“Dad was an incredibly loving husband, father and grandfather,” his son said. “He cared about all of us, but he also cared about other people. I think he enjoyed seeing others succeed more than anything else.”
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