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Long-Time NACAS Volunteer and Auxiliary Services Visionary, Ken White, Passes Away
Ken White—Planner, Designer, Author, and Publisher—died peacefully at 97 years old on May 3, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona, where he retired.
His passion for the industries he served made him an active member, sought-after speaker and trade workshop leader for NeoCon, the Institute of Store Planners (ISP-President NYC chapter), the National Association of College Stores (NACS), the National Association of Auxiliary Services (NACAS) and the American Booksellers Association (ABA).
At the close of WW2, White found work in the form of design drafting positions for various stores, including Lerner Shops. In 1945, he was hired by Raymond Loewy Associates as a store design planner. Admiring all of the “modern” projects Loewy’s firm had designed, White was inspired to begin his own design firm in 1947. He opened his first office in at 516 Fifth Avenue in New York City, calling his firm Ken White Associates. Ken White Associates would continue for over 50 years.
Starting as an industrial designer, White worked with clients including GM, Steelmaster, Hotpoint, Cris-Craft, and Art & Steel Manufacturing.
The 50s and 60s saw White’s college and university business grow with the GI Bill and then the Baby Boomers expanding the need for campus service. Ken White Associates received multiple national awards for its campus housing and dining designs.
In 1950, working with the business offices White was requested to design campus bookstores that were clerk-serviced at the time. Using his retail experience, a self-service model was developed that was highly successful. It would lead to an industry shift and a multi-billion dollar industry decades later.
The successful college bookstore business introduced White to corporate booksellers. Ken White Associates planned Barnes and Noble’s first superstores in Manhattan. That was followed by B. Dalton’s 666 Fifth Avenue flagship store. He found great satisfaction working with small and large independent and higher education booksellers around the world. Most became lifelong friends.
White’s first professional trade book, Bookstore Planning, and Design, published by McGraw Hill in 1982, was considered the standard for bookstore planning and design. White followed with the Campus Convenience Store Planning Manual in 1989, Independent Bookstore Planning and Design in 1993—still an industry standard—and the Retail Action Guide series of merchandising manuals which included Display and Visual Merchandising in 1996. These were quickly adopted into their respective industries as professional reference and educational textbooks.
The Ken White Associates, Inc. records and drawings have been archived for posterity in the Hagley Museum and Library which collects, preserves, and interprets the unfolding history of American enterprise. Eric R. Pau, Director of the museum wrote:
“the Ken White Associates records fit well alongside three other archives at Hagley: that of Raymond Loewy (Acc. 2251), who hired Mr. White in 1945 to plan store designs, the event that launched Mr. White’s interior design career; William Pahlmann (Acc. 2388), a near-contemporary of Mr. White’s, whose designs of hotels and restaurants helped define midcentury modernity; and Strawbridge & Clothier (Acc. 2117), the department store of Philadelphia that battled Wanamaker’s for local preeminence. Hagley Library is proud to be able to preserve the Ken White Associates, Inc. records, and to share this vital archive with the world.”
Ken White’s additional history and archives can be accessed at the Hagley.org website https://digital.hagley.org/2377
Ken and Adele White (deceased) were married 73 years with a loving family of 9 children, 17 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.