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The Schmooze

‘Hudson News’ Founder Dies at 86

The man who founded the ubiquitous Hudson News chain — every airport, train station and bus terminal seems to have one — has died at 86, The New York Times has reported.

Robert Cohen, who built the 600-store empire on top of a successful newspaper-distribution business inherited from his father, passed away in Palm Beach, Fla. of progressive supranuclear palsy, a Parkinson’s-like neurological disorder, according to his son James, who succeeded his father as president of the company.

Cohen was born in 1925 to Isaac and Lillian Goodman Cohen in Bayonne, NJ. He took over his father’s small newspaper distribution company, the Hudson County News Co., in 1947, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company was named after the New Jersey county where it was based. By the 1970s it had become the biggest magazine wholesaler in the United States.

Cohen was already a giant in the magazine and newspaper distribution business when he decided to launch a retail chain in 1987, according to the Journal. His stores “were a break from the claustrophobic newsstands of the past, boasting hundreds of magazines instead of just a few dozen, with tall racks and bright lighting that invited customers to browse.” James Cohen called it a “new-concept newsstand…Instead of just a few dozen titles, because we were the distributor, we put up hundreds. We gave people a selection that they would not find anywhere else, titles even from foreign countries, from all over the world,” he told the Journal.

“Like many Americans, our magazine reading habits have changed dramatically in the past fifteen years—hello, iPad—but we still have a soft spot for a good old fashioned, oversized glossy magazine,” wrote Gothamist in a brief elegy for Cohen. “And if it weren’t for Cohen we probably never would have known (let alone learned to give The Economist a chance).”

Besides his wife Harriet and his son, Cohen is survived by a sister and six grandchildren. His daughter Claudia Cohen, who wrote the gossip column, “I, Claudia,” for The Daily News of New York in the early 1980s, died of ovarian cancer in 2007, the Times said. Another son, Michael, died in 1997.

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