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Mandell Weiss, Philanthropist Of Arts, Jewish Causes, Dies

December 30, 1993

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Mandell Weiss, a pioneer of retail shopping clubs who gave millions to support San Diego’s burgeoning theater, died Wednesday. He was 102.

Weiss died at home after a short illness, said his daughter, Patricia Donovan.

In 1981, Weiss donated $1.25 million to build a theater that now anchors the Mandell Weiss Center for the Performing Arts at the University of California, San Diego. He donated $1.3 million in 1991 for the Mandell Weiss Forum, which is shared by the nationally respected La Jolla Playhouse and the university.

Weiss, whose gifts helped San Diego emerge as a regional center for theater, was introduced to Yiddish theater in a New York City high school and decided to become an actor. Those plans were interrupted by World War I.

Later, he moved to San Diego and got his start in business importing Japanese wristwatches wholesale. In the 1950s, Weiss and Sol Price started FedMart, which grew into a 46-store retail empire in Southern California and the Southwest.

FedMart, which closed in 1982, pioneered the concept of membership shopping, in which customers pay a minimal fee to become a member of the store. Membership entitles them to steep discounts.

FedMart was a precursor of the Price Club, a membership store where food and merchandise are sold in bulk at discount prices.

In recent years, Weiss supported the United Jewish Fund and contributed money to found a chair for the UC San Diego Department of Judaic Studies.

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