Home improvement industry icon and retired Do it Best Corp. CEO Don Wolf died at age 90 on Sept. 11.
Wolf began his career with the Fort Wayne-based home improvement retailer in 1947 when it was known as Hardware Wholesalers Inc. He advanced in purchasing, marketing and sales leadership roles for the next two decades and became CEO in 1967.
When he took the helm, the company had $35 million in annual sales and one distribution center serving a dozen states. By the time of his 1992 retirement, it had grown to more than $1.2 billion in sales with half a dozen distribution centers serving the entire nation and several foreign markets.
He led the development and 1981 launch of the Do it Center store concept, which revolutionized the look of home improvement centers with bold signs, bright colors and an improved atmosphere for shopping. The concept drove huge sales increases for store owners.
Wolf also helped lay the groundwork for HWI’s acquisition of Our Own Hardware, which led to the 1998 creation of Do it Best Corp. when the companies merged.
“Everyone in the Do it Best family is incredibly saddened by Don’s passing,” Dan Starr, the company’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
“Do it Best Corp. would not be the company we are without the passionate vision of Don Wolf, and the same can be said of the city of Fort Wayne. In addition to his unparalleled contributions to our industry, his philanthropic work here and throughout the region has positively impacted the lives of thousands of people.”
Wolf served as a leadership mentor and helped area nonprofit and charitable organizations with leadership development.
He was co-founder and the first president of Big Brothers of Greater Fort Wayne in 1972 and five years later served a three-year term as president for the national board of Big Bothers and Big Sisters of America.
He founded Study Connection with Fort Wayne Community Schools in 1989 and received the Sagamore of the Wabash award in 1995 and 1994 for leadership with elementary education and helping needy children. Then-Gov. Mike Pence presented him with the Sachem Award in 2013 for his lifelong contributions.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry issued the following statement: "
Our community mourns today at the passing of Don Wolf. Don is one of the most generous and authentic men I’ve ever met. I was honored to call him a friend.
"A lot of people will remember Don for his successes in the home improvement industry, but I most appreciated Don’s commitment to so many worthy causes such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana and Study Connection in partnership with Fort Wayne Community Schools. Don was always giving back and thinking of others first.
"Earlier this year I had the privilege of proclaiming June 18, 2019, as Don Wolf Day in the City of Fort Wayne as a way to thank him for his many accomplishments. It was a moving celebration for a man who did so much to make Fort Wayne a better place.
"Cindy and I express our deepest condolences to Ginny and the entire Wolf family."