The following obituary is courtesy of Eaton Funeral Homes.
Daniel F. "Bud" Roche, of Marco Island FL and Needham, the retired co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Roche Brothers and Sudbury Farms Supermarkets and the founder of the Hans Kissle Salad Company died on Wednesday, September 4, 2013. He was 85 years old. Bud was a graduate of Boston English High School and a veteran Sergeant of the US Marine Corp. An avid golfer, Bud was a member of Charles River Country Club of Newton and the Island Country Club in Marco Island.
"And then there's Buddy…" That's how Buddy Roche was introduced when he was inducted into the Food Industry Hall of Fame in 1992. He was being honored for the company he and his brother Pat had founded 40 years earlier. Roche Bros., along with it's sister company Sudbury Farm's, had become one of the premier supermarket companies in New England with 16 stores, close to 4,000 associates, serving 300,000 customers a week. It had grown from a meat market with just the two brothers into the 7th largest food chain in New England.
Every one in the room that night knew Buddy, if not personally, at least by reputation. He was one of the originals in the New England food business. When he and Pat had opened their first meat market in Roslindale, future industry innovator Steve Mugar was running Star Market and the father of the New England food business, Sydney Rabb, had just changed the name of his stores from Economy Grocery Stores to Stop & Shop.
Buddy was there at the beginning. After the dinner just about everyone came up to offer congratulations for the honor he had just received. It was a grand night but he could see the industry changing again. Most of the family businesses were gone or sold to the big chains. Of course, there was as much opportunity as there ever was but that was for a new generation to figure out. As he sat there smiling and shaking hands he couldn't believe how far he'd come from that "nervous as hell!" day when he was 24 and opening that first store with his 23 year old brother. He remembered it like it was yesterday; it was in the fall - October 16th.
The year was 1952, only a few years after The War had ended. Buddy had been home after serving as a marine sergeant in China. He had used the GI Bill to go to meat cutting school and had found a job as a meat cutter for First National Supermarkets. Pat had recently graduated from Boston College and begun work with the Swift Meat Packing Company. Buddy sometimes gets what he calls "jiggy" which loosely translated means unsatisfied – he wanted more. He had recently left First National and started working as a salesman for the Durkee Spice Company. One day Buddy noticed the Singer Sewing store in Roslindale square was moving to a new location and he started thinking about the kind of meat market he would put there. He started talking with his "greatest listener", his mother, about it. He knew that having Pat as his partner would make a big difference; Pat could make it work – smart, organized, responsible. But still funding was a problem.
It was his mother (Ma) that made the dream come true. Who else could it be – his true hero, his greatest friend. Elsie is what he refers to, if asked, as his second mother. His first mother, Cis (Collins) had died when he was 10, leaving his dad P.J. to raise him and his three brothers; Jimmy 11, Pat 9 and Jack 6. As with any child who loses his mother at a young age, he remembers it as the hardest time of his life. P.J., who had come from County Cork Ireland, was a crane operator working in the Boston Railroad yards. He wasn't sure what he was going to do, it was 1938 in the midst of the Great Depression and he didn't know if he could keep the four boys together. A couple of years later, when PJ met Elsie Nagel, there were more than a few prayers in that household that were answered. Buddy has said, "She was my best friend and most steadfast supporter, she was a true blessing".
Around the kitchen table one night it was Elsie who told Buddy and Pat that PJ and her had decided to put a second mortgage on the family's triple-decker home at 153 Rowe Street in Roslindale to give the boys seed money to start Roche Bros. This was no easy decision for an immigrant family, whose home was their only security. Buddy is still convinced that it was Elsie who "motivated" P.J. to do it.
October 16, 1952… Buddy remembers every inch of that 445 square foot store at 50 Corinth Street. He also remembers there were four other stores in the square vying for the same customers. But the boys had "schmaltz", a combination of smarts, personality and standards. They had spent the previous few days walking the neighborhoods stuffing 2000 invitations into mailboxes. The first customer that came to the door that morning (twenty minuets before they were supposed to open) was Dan Hourihan, who bought two pounds of hamburger and wished them well. The rest was a blur but by the end of the week they had $2,400 in the till and more importantly, some added confidence in themselves.
It was a busy little store. Everybody loved "the boys" and the boys loved them right back, everyone was familiar. It helped that Buddy kept a big list of names behind the meat counter. He knew if he called someone by name they would never go anywhere else. Buddy and Pat put in what they remember as 100-hour weeks, although they still found time for a social life. Pat had been dating Barbara Travers and Buddy had met Eileen Sullivan on a Cape Cod weekend. Eileen came from West Roxbury.
On June 16, 1957 Daniel Francis Roche (Buddy) married Eileen Patricia Sullivan at Saint Teresa's church in West Roxbury. They went to the Pocono's for their honeymoon but Buddy was a nervous wreck – back in Roslindale a crew was busy breaking down a wall so they could expand into the neighboring store. He and Pat were building what would become their first Roche Bros. Supermarket.When he got back he spent the next 50 years making that market and those that followed, as super as he could. Buddy loved innovation and was always looking for something new to get a wow out of the customers. When they built their first store from the ground up in 1966 on Chestnut Street in Needham, they put in a full service snack bar and had baggers bring the customers bags right to their car.
The company wasn't the only thing growing. Buddy and Eileen's first child Danny was born in 1958, quickly followed by Jay in 1959, Patty in 1960 and Brenda in 1963. The family moved to Needham in 1966, the same year they built the store in the town. It was because that store on Chestnut Street was so successful that Buddy thought Needham was his lucky town and he would never think of living anywhere else (Florida came later).
They opened up their first "big" store (28,000 sqr.ft.) in Westwood store in 1970. It boasted a sit down restaurant, the first hot and cold prepared foods section in a supermarket, a full size bakery and a florist. Other stores and other innovations followed. Soon came the first supermarket Salad Bar. They were one of the first stores to merchandise big bulk displays of high quality produce. They made a deal to sell restaurant quality Foley Fish and they single handedly brought back the service meat case.
It was Buddy's reinvention of Potato Salad that deserves special mention. In the 1970's when everyone was selling a commodity potato salad for a low price it had become so bad that Buddy wouldn't even buy it at his own store. He would make his own recipe at home. He liked bigger, firmer pieces of potato with some fresh onion and he used a "dressing" of vinegar and mayonnaise. Everyone loved it, so he decided to start making it in the stores – it was a huge hit. There was so much demand that they started a separate company and called it Hans Kissle to keep up with supply. Soon Hans Kissle was selling not only potato salad but all sorts of improved "homemade" salads to all the major chains in New England. If you have bought potato salad from a supermarket lately chances are it is based on Buddy's original recipe.
As the stores got better and better the one thing that remained the same was how much they cared about their customers and that priority being passed on to the people they worked with. Buddy once said, "From the very beginning it wasn't luck. I call it divine intervention that we bumped into the right people early on… that we are fortunate enough to have come with us. And have the same drive and desire and wanting to take care of the customers."
In 1986 Buddy faced another tough time in his life, his 25 year old daughter had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Patty lost her fight a year later and passed away on September 13th 1987. Buddy and Eileen faced their tragedy with hope, a hope that with more research and medical funding other families might not face the same consequences they did. Within a year they had raised over one million dollars in Patty's name for brain tumor research.
Buddy has always been a generous guy. He spent his whole business life giving to the communities he did business in – and then some. He was a big supporter of special needs before that term existed. He helped build senior centers, libraries and playgrounds. There was always a special place in his heart for where he came from, the Parkway section of Boston. He and Pat took over the old Boys Club in West Roxbury and turned it into The Roche Community Center. They refurbished an old closed down VFW Ice Rink and rechristened it the Jim Roche Rink, after their brother. To their old parish of Sacred Heart in Roslindale they have been particularly good.
In 1995, Buddy received something he never thought he would, a college degree. He had left high school to join the Marines when he was 18 so he never thought that a degree would be in his future. It wasn't just any degree, he and Eileen were given honorary doctorates from Stonehill College. They were recognized for a scholarship they had started in honor of Patty, who had attended the school. They started with two full scholarships awarded to the families of Roche Bros. associates. They now have 12 students in the school each year and have paid for the full college education of 53 people.
By 1997, Buddy and Eileen were spending more time on Marco Island (Florida) where he became interested in helping Habitat for Humanity build homes for the working poor. His son Jay and Pat's son's Rick and Ed had been in the business since they were kids and time for a transition to the next generation was at hand. Buddy officially retired from Roche Bros. on March 1st, 1998. Unofficially, that company still has Buddy's DNA just as his children do and he will always be in those stores if not in body then in sprit.
With some well deserved time on his hands Buddy intended to enjoy every second of it. One of his great joys was watching his grandchildren grow up. His oldest grand child, Amanda had graduated from Boston College with a masters degree in social work and was out helping those in need in a very direct way. The younger twins, Will and Vienna, are just entering high school and Buddy is attentive and thrilled every time he sits down and talks with them. He and Eileen have loved to travel but just spending a quite afternoon reading a book or a round of golf makes them just about as happy as anything else. At 5:00, as the winter sun gets ready to set over Marco Island, there's Buddy - glass of wine in hand, looking over the Gulf of Mexico saying to anyone in ear shot. I've been a very lucky guy.
Bud was the beloved husband of Eileen (Sullivan) Roche and the loving father of Daniel F. Roche Jr. of New York City, Jay and his wife Laurie Roche of Needham, Brenda Roche of Dover and the late Patricia Roche. He was the brother of Jack Roche, Columbian Father of Rhode Island and the late James and Patrick Roche. Buddy was the cherished grandfather of Amanda Roche of Boston, William and Vienna Roche of Needham. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews. His Mass of Christian Burial will be held in St. Joseph Church 1360 Highland Ave, Needham on Tuesday, September 10th at 10:00 AM. Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend. Visiting hours will be held in St. Joseph Church on Monday from 2-8 PM. Interment with Military Honors at St. Mary's Cemetery. Donations in Buddy's name may be made to Sacred Heart School, 1035 Canterbury St, Roslindale MA 02131.