The industry mourns the loss of Allen Skolnick, owner and operator of Solgar Vitamin and Herb, who passed away on April 24. Connie Skolnick, his wife, died just one month earlier, on March 28. The couple followed Nathaniel Colby, founder of Solgar, in leading the business.
Though not technically related to the Skolnicks, Colby mentored Allen and was referred to as the first of three tight-knit generations to run Solgar, according to family friend and former colleague, William P. Arthur of Nutraceutical Solutions Consulting/Nouveau Niche Marketing. "Their legacy is all the people who worked with them," says Arthur. "We're all friends today. They created a whole family that's not the Skolnick family, but the Solgar family, and we are all a very close knit group of people, even to this very day."
Inventing an industry
Quoting Steve Jobs, Arthur adds that "There are people who take industries to the next level, and then there are people who create the next industries—they created this industry. They imagined it and created it. They were one of the few families that did that."
Describing the Skolnicks as "real pioneers," he remembers Allen charting new territories that others were too nervous to explore. "He developed some of the first multiples that were out of the marketplace before multiples were even a thing that people would consider taking," he offers as an example.
To many, the death of Connie and Allen marks the end of an era. "You don't find these kinds of people very often in business," Arthur says. "They have this really great gut intuition on where there are possibilities in an industry. At the time that they came into this industry, people didn't really think about supplementation. They drove the desire for supplementation in the United States."
History, passion, vision
Not ones to follow and simply keep the ball in the air, the Skolnicks instead created a new ball—a demand for an industry that didn't exist. "You have true visionaries in this world that come once in a generation; and they were real visionaries," Arthur explains.
"They were a really great family. They were tough people; they were New Yorkers. They took no prisoners. But they were very fair, honorable and honest. You don't get that kind of character in today's world… or not very often," he adds.
Al Powers, CEO of NOW Health Group, echoes Arthur's sentiments.
"Allen and Connie were truly one of the great married couples in the health food industry," he says. "They worked together extremely well and supported each other in family and business. They were very gracious and always made everyone feel that they were special. When I was involved in health food retailing in the 1970s and 80s, I can remember working with Allen as a customer of Solgar. Solgar was one of the top brands in the industry, and I would say that Allen was the best vendor that I worked with. He was reasonable, fair and highly ethical."
Allen and Connie were strong supporters of independent health food stores, and they knew all of their customers by name, Powers recalls. "Their son Rand followed them in this tradition as he succeeded his parents in operating the Solgar business for many years until his untimely death in 2008. Rand, Allen and Connie were truly blessings to our industry and our world. The Skolnick family will always be remembered for their love of our industry and their unwavering support of health food stores. I will always hold them dear to my heart."
While Allen and Connie were responsible for helping build the foundation of the Solgar, their son Rand "built the walls," says Arthur of his best friend and industry legend.
Not content to simply maintain the brand and potentially get gobbled up by bigger supplement players, Rand accelerated Solgar's trajectory, bringing the business "from a little northeast regional brand to a national brand to an international brand in 43 countries in a matter of a decade," Arthur says.
"It was hard losing Rand," Arthur says. "He really wanted to take nutritional science to a whole new level. So where the father created a new industry, Rand wanted to create a whole new way of looking at health… a natural way of looking at health."
Standing up for supplements
Instrumental in the dietary supplements industry's progress, Allen was well known for his involvement in the creation and passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.
"Allen was such a calm and supporting force throughout the DSHEA battles," remarks Loren Israelsen, executive director of the United Natural Products Alliance and co-author of DSHEA. "He never wanted personal credit, but I can tell you he made a real difference. He embodied the best of his time—a diligent and honest businessman, courteous to his colleagues, an unwavering supporter of natural health freedoms, and generous in his financial support of what he believed in.
"If only he had been cloned."