Abraham ‘Abe’ Schultz, 104; was star salesman, inventor

Abraham Y. Schultz

BY ROBERT A. COHN Editor-in-Chief Emeritus


Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Abraham Yashua “Abe” Schultz, who with his family fled pre-World War I Poland to come to America where he achieved success as a businessman, salesman and inventor, died Aug. 11, at home at the Gatesworth, with his wife Isabel at his side. He was 104. He died of old age and Alzheimer’s, family members said.

Mr. Schultz was born Dec. 25, 1908 in Sokolov, Poland, the son of Jacob Rubin Schultz and Sadie Gordon Schultz. After leaving Poland, Mr. Schultz and his family initially settled in Sparta, Ill., where his father achieved modest success as a cobbler. Mr. Schultz would later achieve great success in working with footwear.

After he graduated from Sparta High School, the family moved to St. Louis, where Mr. Schultz attended Washington University, majoring in sciences, starting in 1928. He graduated in 1932 with top honors, with degrees in chemistry and physics.

While he was a student at Washington University, Mr. Schultz worked nights for Shearer Chevrolet learning the business and earning money for tuition. “Shearer saw the spark in Dad, and allowed him to sell cars, too,” said his daughter Susan Gitt of Clayton. “Within a few years, he became the top Chevrolet salesman in the United States, two years in a row.”

When World War II broke out, Mr. Schultz wanted to fight for the country that allowed him the freedom and the opportunity for success. He enlisted in the U.S, Marine Corps, and received a direct commission as a first lieutenant. After attending boot camp and basic training at Fort Lejeune, N.C., he shipped out with his unit to the South Pacific, where he was promoted to the rank of captain. Prior to his departure, he “met and married the love of his life,” the former Isabel Balk, on Aug. 12, 1943, Gitt said, noting that Mr. Schultz’s funeral was 70 years to the day from the date of their marriage. They had three children.

Immediately after the war, Mr. Schultz decided to help his father in the shoe business, and incorporated Schultz Shoe Company, with his father Jacob as president. The firm’s first big job was a large government contract to refinish several million pair of military shoes and boots left from World War II, using formulae and processes invented and created by Abe Schultz. The operation took up two entire floors of a large factory building on Washington Ave. in downtown St. Louis. The firm employed over 500 people working three shifts a day.

After the successful completion of the contract, Mr. Schultz had sufficient funds to branch out into horticultural products manufacturing business, using technology developed and adapted from leather chemistry. The corporate name was changed to Schultz Company. The firm’s first product, Schultz-Instant Plant Shine, was an overnight success. In-store demonstrations at F. W. Woolworth Five and Dimes routinely sold over 100 bottles per day in each store.

Next came Schultz Water Soluble Plant Food, which Gitt described as “one of, if not, his greatest of his inventions.”

“The product was superior in every way, won awards, was tested by universities and was used by garden clubs in the United States and around the world,” she added.

He later developed the “Mixerator,” a non-dip tube hose-end sprayer, which simply filled a jar and turning on the water to create a torrent of mixing action using the Venturi effect, sent out the nozzle nutrient-rich water for yards and gardens. He patented this device, which forever changed the way hose-end technology was deployed.

From the dry granular product, Mr. Schultz developed a more consumer friendly and easier to use product that became the most famous of his many products, “Schultz-Instant Liquid Plant Food,” a seven-drop formula, which came with a glass medicine-type eyedropper for measuring.

During his long career, Mr. Schultz developed thousands of products, from horticultural products to household detergents, and received over 100 patents and trademarks.

Mr. Schultz retired as chemist, inventor and entrepreneur in 2002, when the maker of Cutter Insect repellent bought the company. By that time, sales were more than $100 million per year.

Mr. Schultz was active for many years at Shaare Zedek Synagogue (now Kol Rinah). He was a former vice president and chair of the membership committee of the synagogue.

In addition to his wife of 70 years, Isabel Balk Schultz, survivors include three children, Dan Schultz of Creve Coeur, Steve Schultz of Town and Country, and Susan Gitt (Jeff) of Clayton; a brother, Sol Schultz of Palm Springs, Calif.; and seven children and five great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Aug. 12, with Rabbi Mark Fasman of Kol Rinah officiating. Private burial was at the Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Cemetery.

Contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington University School of Liberal Arts or Kol Rinah Congregation.