By Jim Kinney
Stuart J. Hurwitz, a restaurant owner known as “Mr. Springfield” when he ran the Springfield (MA) Civic Center, died Sunday, February 19. He was 83.
In a 2003 profile in The Republican, Hurwitz answered the question “I’m successful because” with “I’m willing to work hard and because I love what I do.”
He listed “People who don’t give their all to the job” as a pet peeve in the same piece.
According to his obituary, Hurwitz lived in Longmeadow, where he raised a family with his wife, Joan. Along with his sons he established the American Restaurant Management Corp., which operates several UNO Pizzeria & Grill and Sonic Drive-In locations in the greater Springfield area.
He left the business in the hands of his sons in 1999 to become general manager of the Springfield Civic Center. He was at the arena until 2005, using his business acumen to revitalize the operation.
He guided the center through major renovation and transition into state ownership as the MassMutual Center.
He served as a board member and leader of a number of civic organizations including JGS Lifecare, Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Business Development Corp., Springfield Performing Arts Development Corp. and the Economic Development Council of Western MA.
Following his time at the Civic Center, he rejoined the restaurant business. The Hurwitz family opened Rein’s Deli locations in West Springfield and in Tower Square, but both locations closed in the face of the Great Recession.
Hurwitz brought a West Coast chicken restaurant concept, Pollo Campero, to Boston Road. He quickly recognized that it was a poor fit and replaced it with the region’s first Sonic.
In 1990, Hurwitz was asked why he established a Pizzarea Uno downtown the year before. He said he did it because of the diversity and dynamism present in the central business district.
“You find unique things here that you can’t find anywhere else,” he said.
He wasn’t afraid to add to that dynamism. Here is how he expanded on a call for “crazy ideas” to enliven downtown: “We can’t have a nudist party, but we could have a toga party or some other event to put Springfield on the map,” Hurwitz said.
He is survived by his wife Joan (Solomon), his children Steve, Michael and Mark and their wives, his sister Ida Ward and seven grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to JGS Lifecare, 770 Converse St. Longmeadow, MA – JGSLifecare.org, or to Temple Beth El, 979 Dickinson St. Springfield, MA. For further information please visit AscherZimmerman.com.
Jim Kinney is with MassLive.com and The Republican.