BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Eugene Applebaum, who built his Dearborn, Mich., pharmacy into a major regional drug store chain called Arbor Drugs, passed away last month in his home at the age of 81.
Applebaum made a name for himself as an entrepreneur, growing the Arbor Drugs chain from a single store, Civic Drugs, opened in Dearborn in 1963, to 208 stores by 1998 when CVS bought the company. By then, the company was the country’s eighth-largest drug chain, holding 45% of the Michigan market.
“I had a wonderful ride, a wonderful time,” Applebaum told The Detroit News shortly after the 1998 sale.
Applebaum and his wife, Marcia, supported health, education, and arts and culture in Greater Detroit for decades with gifts to institutions including Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and its entrepreneurial programs, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theatre and Beaumont Health.
Following the sale of Arbor Drugs, Applebaum made a $5 million gift to his alma mater, Wayne State University. The donation helped fund construction of the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences building, opened in 2002.
In 1999, Applebaum cofounded the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center for Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and in 2006, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak opened the Marcia and Eugene Applebaum Surgical Learning Center, the first facility of its kind in the country.
That year, he and his wife announced the largest capital gift in the history of Greater Detroit’s Jewish community, leading to the naming of the 195-acre Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus in West Bloomfield Township. One of his favorite places, the Fresh Air Society’s Camp Maas in Ortonville now includes Applebaum Village, named for his support to Tamarack Camps.
The Applebaums’ philanthropy has also benefited The Mayo Clinic, where a floor in a major building on its Minnesota campus is named for the Applebaums, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
In 2013, he received the Fred M. Butzel Award, the Jewish community’s highest honor, from The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. In 2014, the Applebaums received the Max M. Fisher Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Detroit Chapter of The Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2015, he received the Leonard N. Simons Lifetime Achievement Award presented by The Jewish Historical Society of Michigan.