Obit: Soloman Lowi, big box pioneer

Soloman Lowi, one of the pioneers of the home improvement warehouse format, died on May 1. He was one day short of 90 years old. 

Lowi founded Builders Discount in 1954 in Chatsworth, Calif., and over the next few years experimented with the format until 1970, when he opened a 180,000-sq.-ft. retail warehouse. Ultimately he owned three Los Angeles County locations that were one of the first large-format home centers to cater to urban customers with a low-price, no-frills approach. Among contractors, Builders Discount was known as a cash-and-carry operation. All sales were final. 

Lowi sold his company in 1986 to Levi Kushnir, Israel’s largest home improvement retailer. Heavy competition from Home Depot and the now defunct HomeBase in Los Angeles County pushed Builders Discount into bankruptcy in 1992. The store in North Hollywood is now a Lowe’s.   

Pat Farrah, Home Depot’s head merchant when the company was founded, met Lowi when the Atlanta chain started opening units in California. “He was a scrappy merchant that provided great bargains for the remodeler and handymen,” Farrah told HCN. “I remember his toughness and commitment to the customer. He was an inspiration to us all.”

Lowi spent his later years enjoying his wife, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, according to his son Irwin Lowi. People wishing to share remembrances can email them to

Login or Register to post a comment.