ECRM founder, CEO Charlie Bowlus passes away

SARASOTA, Fla. — It is with great sadness that Drug Store News reports the unexpected passing of ECRM CEO and founder Charlie Bowlus, who has died from complications following emergency surgery three weeks ago.

“My father would not want us to mourn his death,“ noted ECRM president Mitchell Bowlus in an Aug. 11 letter to ECRM employees. “Rather, he would want us to celebrate his tremendous life and further his passion and vision for improving the way companies do business. His courage, determination, humility and his love of life have undoubtedly touched all of our lives. We are all blessed to work for a company that has been shaped by the will, leadership and vision of my father. These qualities epitomize what we will continue to stand for in the future.”

Charlie Bowlus, a long-time industry vet, began his retail career during college at Ohio State University, when he worked for a small drug chain, owned by a friend’s father. From there, Bowlus went on to become a buyer and wholesaler for various chains, including Target, Cook-United and Boston Distributors Inc.

But Bowlus truly left his mark on the industry in 1994, when he revolutionized retail conferences by leveraging technology and a “speed-dating,” approach in developing the Efficient Program Planning Session style meetings with which ECRM has become synonymous. Since then, the company has held more than 800 category-specific meetings on four different continents. This year, there were more than 90 different events on the ECRM meeting calendar.

“Over time, we will all be relieved of the anguish of our bereavement and left only with a cherished memory of my loving father and solemn pride to have known such a great man,” Mitchell Bowlus noted.

As of late Thursday details for a memorial service to honor Bowlus were still being finalized.

The editors and publishers of The Drug Store News Group express their deepest sympathies to the Bowlus family.

Drug Store News invites readers to share their memories of Charlie Bowlus in a special memorial article, celebrating his life and career. You can post your comments by clicking "post a comment" at the bottom of this page, by visiting our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DrugStoreNews, or you can send your comments directly to Rob Eder, editor of Drug Store News, at reder@lf.com.

Comments

- 6:41 PM
grubin1055@aol.com says

Charlie Bowlus, we have lost a visionary, a friend, a fun loving man, a family man, and more than anything, A TRUE FRIEND! I am sitting here dumbfounded by the loss of this very special man and I do not know how many people will miss this miracle man, but I will. My heart goes out to his wife and to Mitch and Melissa as well as the love of his life grandchildren. Charlie, you were a true friend and a comrade in arms and I only hope that you have the opportunity to have as many parties in Heaven as you held here. You were a pioneer and you never forgot where you came from. You touched the bottom and you went to the top and everything you got, you earned and then some. You never forgot your friends wherever you met them. The stories about your life are never ending and the many antics you enjoyed and we enjoyed with you and around you....wow! This loss is as big to me as 9-11 was to America......Charlie you were my lighthouse and I will always love you and miss you.....save me a spot nearby, just make my reservation for as late a date as possible! I don't need a room in the near future.... With all my love to you and your family Gregory Rubin CEO Garcoa Labs

- 7:18 PM
rehun@cox.net says

I have known the ECRM family for many years and always counted Chuck among my friends. To say that this news is a shock is an understatement. Charlie is one of those people you just expected to always be around. His early meetings at Lago Mar, parties on the beach, intercostal cruises and scavenger hunts were classics. I remember hearing stories from Bob Beifuss and how his office/desk consited of 1/2 a pool table in Charlies home. When I was between positions, Charlie invited me to work some ECRM meetings in Florida and California as part of his extensive team. That experience gave me an appreciation of the chemistry of Charlie's team and how they were able to pull order from chaos. Those were great times with great people. I will miss you, Chuck. You definitely made an impact on my life. Rich Hunsaker, Principal RH Sales Consulting

- 7:35 PM
pepsom199 says

Charlie was a first class person, in every sense of the word. Ever since I first met him, he has always been innovative, positive-minded and generous with heart and soul. I was blessed to have known him for many years, when ECRM was not even a blip on the radar. We send our sincerest condolences to his family, and to the entire ECRM staff. I know he will always remain a legend in the retail industry and beyond, but more importantly, everyone will always keep fond memories of Charlie, the friend, father, mentor, in our hearts. Thanks for spending time with all of us, Charlie, we will miss you. John E. Brown III President The Pepsom Group, Inc.

- 7:43 PM
John Winning says

What a privilege to have known and worked with such a gentleman and giant in our world! A vision that sprang to life at Lago Mar in 1994 was also when I first met Charlie and experienced what became a mainstay for the several smaller manufacturers that I have represented since then. My shock and sadness today will very soon become part of my personal memory every time I receive an e-mail from the ECRM team or arrive at Registration at every conference that I attend. It will surely take time for this news to truly sink in as we all reflect on this wonderful friend. In all the years that I have known Charlie, he never had anything but support and positive words for anyone he met. Not only have we all lost a visionary, a gentleman and a friend - we must also take time to reflect on the successes that we have achieved through his creation, dedication and hard work. Raise a glass tonight and say thanks. I will!

- 7:56 PM
vvalenty@vbcosmetics.com says

Charlie will be missed. I met Charlie only once or twice at the very few ECRM events that I participated in. He struck me as a warm and kind man. The ECRM events which he founded bear testimony to his innovative spirit. I would like to extend my deep sympathy to the Bowlus family. Sincerely, Vivian B. Valenty, Ph.D. President VB Cosmetics, Inc.

- 8:01 PM
Alan Nash says

Where to start... Charlie was a wonderful friend, generous & visionary. Despite the crazy antics he was a humble man. He valued his friends, never taking them for granted. He was proactive in all he did. If you shared a suggestion or thought, it was instantly incorporated. He understood the art of continual improvement. NOTHING WAS EVER A PROBLEM... REALLY NOTHING! Everything seemed simple & effortless... while Charlie, his team & family were orchestrating a complex business. He strived to create win win situations by leveling the playing field. He would step in and lend a hand or mediate if he thought he could be helpful. I believe he cared for every soul he touched. Throughout ECRM's existence he continually reached out to individuals of former retailers and manufacturers who needed a helping hand. Melisa & Mitch know he truely loved you both & beamed when he spoke of your dedication, achievements and integrity... He made Suzanne & I always feel like we were part of his family and when we arrived at events our first question was always... will Charlie be here... like kids we couldn't wait to spend a few precious moments with him. Rather than dwell on what has happened we choose to believe he will be watching over all of us from a higher and better place. He will most assuredly be organizing the crazy parties in heaven. Suzanne & I miss you already.

- 8:03 PM
steve-mauro@sbcglobal.net says

Charlie was gentlemen and an innovative thinker. What I liked about Charlie was that he treated everyone with respect and was truly interested in what you had to say. He never seemed to forget who you were and would respond to whatever and whenever you asked a questioned of him. What a smart man. I am saddened by his passing but happy that I had the priviledge to know him.

- 10:41 PM
Steven Rosenfeld says

Charlie Bowlus leaves behind a giant footprint. His vision, wisdom, intuition, focus and passion for his work served as an inspiration for all who had the good fortune to know or work with him. Charlie's impact on our industry is significant. I will always remember and be greatful for the courtesies he extended to me and for the time he took to hear my thoughts and for his sincerity and friendship.

- 11:54 PM
karen.jessee@energizer.com says

I am honored to have known Charlie, stunned by his passing. He certainly leaves a legacy in our industry. And, as a human being he was one of my favorite! I miss him already.

- 12:06 AM
cnorth says

With an ache in my heart but many many amazing memories... Charlie was the second person only to my own father whom I was scared to disappoint and always striving to do better for. As a former employee, I channel him everyday in my new ventures as he was such the visionary and 10 steps ahead of anyone. Another co-worker reminded us: "The goal isn't to live forever, it's to create something that will". He created not only a successful forward-thinking company, but he created a foundation that is Family to so many of us...and that extends to not just his employees but to clients, attendees and his peers.

- 12:35 AM
JeffStice says

I am deeply saddened and shocked to hear of the loss of Charlie. I met Charlie in 1997 at our first ECRM show and have always been amazed with what he has accomplished with founding a show that continued to just get better from my first amazing experience. I often think of Charlie as the reason I am blessed to have my three boys and wonderful wife who I met at an ECRM show. I always thanked Charlie every time I saw him as if it wasn’t for him our family wouldn’t exist. Charlie you will be extremely missed and we are thankful for the lives you have touched. I will continue to think of you as my children grow remembering you are who helped put them in my life. Jeff Stice President Olympic Mountain Products, Inc.

- 6:31 AM
MarkWhited says

Charlie was truly a great person. His heart was made of gold, he always was finding a way to help others! I have known Charlie since the late '90s. He always went out of his way to help me through my career. I will truly miss Charlie. God Bless his family, friends and the entire ECRM staff! Mark Whited The Kroger Co.

- 7:36 AM
arnoldweiner1@msn.com says

I knew Charlie for many years and he was truly a great man and a visionary in our business. I am deeply saddened by his loss and he will be missed. My condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.

- 8:03 AM
gpeace@acosta.com says

My sympathies to the Bowlus family. We have participated in many of his conferences over the years, and the company always was trying to improve. Instead of saying why they couldn't do something, Charlie and his team was always willing to listen for new ideas. Some of the tools offered exceed anything else available from other providers. Over the past several years, we found more value in attending some of his conferences than some of the larger associations. Gene Peace Acosta Sales and Marketing

- 9:14 AM
jjenningsw@yahoo.com says

Charlie was a great guy to work with and to play with...miss you pal. I'll raise a glass to you tonight. / JJ

- 9:26 AM
ChrisJAtSellion says

My heartfelt condolences to the Bowlus family, first and foremost- I am sure that as a Dad, a Husband, a Grandfather or an Uncle, his kindness, genuine way, compassion, love for life and overall inspiration will be missed tremendously. These same emotions hold true for Charlies' other family- all of his friends/employees that are associated with ECRM. Believing in what ECRM has represented for many years is directly related to the man with the vision and leadership- the one and only Charlie Bowlus; without Charlie, we all will feel a great loss, yet, somehow, his spirit will look down on us all for sure. I am personally honored to have had the opportunity to be in Charlies presence and consider him not only a business associate, but a friend. Rest in peace Charlie, we will all smile when we think of you..

- 10:11 AM
Mark Van Guyse says

Charlie was a true innovator. There was no problem for which he couldn't find a solution. He did everything in a personal and caring demeanor. I will miss him. He is truly one of a kind.

- 10:13 AM
kpassa says

I am shocked and saddened to hear this news. Whenever I saw Charlie at an event, he always had a big hug for me. He always listened and took care that the ECRM experience was the best that it could be. I will truly miss him.

- 10:15 AM
bostonfriend says

I am deeply saddened to hear about the loss of Charlie. I knew Charlie from his Boston Distributors days and can't speak highly enough of his character and kind heart. He was a tremendous person who I will always remember. Charlie was a tremendous asset to the industry and will indeed be missed. My sincere condolences to his family.

- 10:32 AM
akraus says

I love you charlie. God bless you.

- 10:49 AM
CGrassi says

My very deep and sincere condolences to the Bowlus family. Charlie was a rare gem who one only comes across so very few times in one's life. I will miss him immensely. I worked with him and for him thru my 30 years in the business. From Fazio's grocery stores to Boston Dist and now attending his shows with Majestic Sales Corp. He was a true man a vision, a great employer, and an irreplaceable friend. Carl Grassi

- 11:26 AM
msdegnan@cvs.com says

I am very saddened by this news. Prayers to Charlie's family. Charlie will certainly be missed by so many.

- 11:37 AM
Jim-NasalCare says

We at TechWorld sincerely condolence to the Bowlus family and the ECRM Organization. Because of Mr. Bowlus’ leadership, our NasalCare product won the “Best New Product” Award during the 2010 ECRM Cough & Cold and Allergy Conference, which encourages us to offer this cost-effective product worldwide. Thank you again – Mr. Bowlus. Rest well in the happy heaven.

- 12:30 PM
cderivel@snorestop.com says

We all lost a true man, a gentleman who cared for the future of our trade as well as the small manufacturer. His spirit will live on with the company and the people he left behind. Christian de Rivel VP Green Pharmaceuticals

- 4:07 PM
bob@p2binc.com says

Charlie was an extraordinary visionary who established a unique trade forum that brought value to both retailers and suppliers alike. ECRM has proven to be an invaluable asset to small and mid-size companies, affording them an opportunity to share their innovative products with retailers in an efficient and effective manner -- all due to Charlie's profound intellect and robust work ethic. His leadership, creativity and personality will be missed. Thank you, Charlie. We celebrate your life. With respect, Bob Sgarlata

- 8:01 PM
marketing@parissa.com says

we are deeply saddened to hear of charlie's passing. please accept our sincere condolences on behalf of the entire staff at parissa labs. charlie was a wonderfully dynamic guy and he will be deeply missed. we are fortunate to have met him. our thoughts go out to charlie's family. on behalf of the parissa team, janet chao.

- 1:15 AM
cascher@bfascher.com says

A very sad day. Charlie was a visionary who truly changed the world with his concept. I pray for his son Mitchell, his family and all of Charlie’s employees. You're a fantastic group of people. You worked for a very special man who I will miss. On behalf of our company, we express our love and thanks to Charlie for everything he has accomplished. Our prayers are with you. Thank you, Chris

- 1:22 PM
Peter Thompson says

My deepest sympathies are extended to the Bowlus family, and also to the extended family that is ECRM! Charlie was a true visionary that tried to make an industry better, and more efficient. He was as they say "one of a kind". We met at his first ECRM show and built a respect and friendship over the last 18 years. His shows began as a very different model from what they are today. To say they you had to be at them....well you did! Today his company provides a great way to focus on the topic at hand, and his software is some of the best available. I admired his ability to attract top talent to his company. Charlie was looking at the next trend every time we talked. I will miss him. My long held belief is we all carry a responsibility to make the world better than we found it. Charlie did that and so much more! Thanks for the chance Charlie to be a part of your journey!

- 3:25 PM
halburke@xttrium.com says

I first met Charlie in the mid 70's, when he was the haircare buyer at Target. There was something very special about Charlie's positive attitude and his vision of the retail industry. I had a strong feeling that Charlie was going to have a dynamic influence on the retail industry, and that we would eventually meet again. Fast forward to 1999, and my first participation at Charlie's ECRM Generic Rx Conference. Our life's journey came together again. I've witnessed Charlie's vision and dream for ECRM as an active participant in ECRM Conferences over the past 12 years. Charlie always had time to share ideas, concepts and never forgot were he started. I considered Charlie not only a business associate, but also a close friend, and I will miss him dearly. May God hold Charlie, his family, and all ECRM employee's in the palm of his hand and lovingly shine upon them during this sad and difficult time. I know that Charlie wouldn't want us to mourn him, but to celebrate his dream and vision to make our jobs "FUN" again. God Bless Charlie; and yes, God Blessed Charlie. Hal Burke National Sales Manager Xttrium Laboratories

- 5:12 PM
wschuc6639@aol.com says

Everyone here at CPS sends our prayers to Charlie's family. I had the priveldge of knowing Charlie from the Bsoton Distributor days. When the ecrm was in it's infancy Charlie called a number of us and asked us to speak to the manufacturers we represented. We all know that the ecrm is today's industry standard. Charlie's energy, creativity, great humor and work ethic as well as the incredible people who joined with him have changed an industry. Walt Schuchard

- 4:55 AM
jamesrustin says

Mitchell Bowlus and their entire family would have been devastated after this shocking incident. This is a great loss and people will remember Charlie Bowlus for a very long time.

- 2:15 AM
colby waldorf says

That is very sad news may his soul rest in peace, he was a great man and he did very well in his industry, he will be always remembered by his near and dear ones.

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