Bruce Simon passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 17 of natural causes at the age of 63. He was the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Omaha Steaks. A service was held Sunday, Feb. 21.
Born on March 23, 1957, Bruce was one of the fifth-generation family owners destined for the Omaha Steaks life. He attended Westside High School in Omaha, Neb., and graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
For more than three decades, Bruce worked side-by-side with his cousin, Todd Simon, their fathers Alan and Fred, and their uncle Stephen, to grow Omaha Steaks from its beginnings in 1917 as a custom butcher shop into a world-famous purveyor of grain-fed beef and gourmet food. Today, the company employs more than 1,500 associates, has 3 million active customers and operates 48 retail stores in 20 states.
“It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my dear cousin and colleague Bruce Simon,” said Todd Simon, fifth-generation family owner of Omaha Steaks. “This company was founded by our great-great grandfather and has been part of Bruce’s life since his childhood, where he’d accompany his father Alan to the plant and help assemble boxes to earn extra spending money. Under his tireless leadership since becoming company president in 1994, Omaha Steaks has become synonymous with the finest quality beef and gourmet foods.”
In a previous interview, Bruce shared of his early days at the family business, “I used to like to go to the office in the summers when I was maybe 10 years old. I didn’t live that far away, so when it was too cool to go swimming or it was a Monday when the pool was closed, I would ride my bike to my dad’s office. I used to fold boxes and I would get paid 2 cents a box. As soon as I’d earned a buck, I’d pop it in the candy machine for a Butterfinger or a Payday bar and I’d leave.
“When I was 11, my dad told me that I could come to the office, but I would ‘really have to work’ he said. And he said he’d pay me $1.65 an hour. Well, I realized I was making well over 100 boxes an hour and I told him I should be paid at least $2 an hour. I told my dad and he told me to get back to work. Well, I was pretty po’d about it, so I told the union steward, Frieda Paderis. She was a German immigrant with a heavy accent, and she told me to sign this card and take it to my poppy. I signed the card and took it to my grandfather and told him that Frieda said I could get $2 an hour now. He tore the card up and paid me $2 and that was that.”
Bruce’s first full-time position after he finished college was as assistant plant manager. From there, he went on to hold numerous other positions throughout the company, until being named president in 1994. During the pandemic, he knew before anyone that Omaha Steaks was going to play a role as a safe alternative to stores and restaurants and he led by example, showing everyone in the company how to be there for customers.
Todd Simon assumed the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Nate Rempe continues in his roles as President and Chief Operating Officer.
“We worked closely together for more than three decades,” Simon continued. “Bruce was tremendously proud of our continued growth. The steps he and I took to put in place a strong leadership team and set a clear vision will ensure our continued success for generations to come. Along with our entire Omaha Steaks family, I am wholeheartedly committed to carrying Bruce’s legacy forward.”
Bruce not only played a pivotal role in the tremendous growth of Omaha Steaks during his 40-plus years of leadership, he and his wife Stacy were firm believers in community service and philanthropic support.
“Bruce’s dad Alan used to say that his hobby was community service, and that value of service was passed on to our generation,” Todd said. “Bruce felt with Omaha being the home of the business and the home of our family that it was important to give back to the community.”
He was recognized as a strong leader in supporting the cultural arts, education, civic and military organizations – both locally and nationally. Bruce was especially proud of the leadership roles he played with Friends of Florence, Joslyn Art Museum and Temple Israel Omaha building committee and was an active supporter of the SEAL Family Foundation, Lauritzen Gardens, The Nature Conservancy, and Jewish Federation of Omaha, in addition to many others too numerous to name.
Bruce enjoyed traveling and appreciated art, good food, star gazing, Italian wine and spending time with his family and many friends. He loved good jokes, giving advice and opinions - whether asked for or not – and filling the room with his booming presence. Information technology was an area of particular interest and one of his first roles at Omaha Steaks was to bring the business into the computer age. Bruce loved his Tesla, the newest electronic gadgets and technologies, and investing in the stock market.
He would drop everything to spontaneously take a group to a concert. He consumed guitar rock, jazz, and classical music by the gigabyte. As Bruce was fond of saying to the team at Omaha Steaks: “let’s rock and roll” – that’s how Bruce approached every day. His amplifier was always turned to 11.
Bruce is preceded in death by his father Alan Simon, uncles Frederick Simon and Stephen Simon, and father-in-law Gene Smallwood.
He is survived by his loving wife Stacy and daughters Talia and Ellie. He is also survived by his mother Anne Simon, sister Janice Tecimer (Timur), cousins Todd Simon (Betiana), Leslie Myers (Curt), Venus French, Jim Simon (Kim), Dan Simon (Katherine), numerous nieces and nephews, many close friends and colleagues.