Entrepreneur and founder of BluBlocker Sunglasses, Joseph Sugarman, died peacefully surrounded by his family in Las Vegas on March 18, 2022. He was 83 years old.
Sugarman began living part-time in Maui beginning in 1993, where he owned and ran The Maui Weekly.
Born April 25, 1938 in Oak Park, Illinois to parents Faye (Levine) and Benjamin Sugarman, Joe was the older brother of sisters Barbara, Nancy and Judy. He attended the University of Miami, studying electrical engineering, but was drafted into the Army in 1962, just six months before graduating. He spent over three years in Germany, where he served with Army Intelligence and later with the CIA.
Back home, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to start a small business marketing Austrian ski lifts in the United States, then form his own advertising agency to service six additional ski resorts.
In 1971, Joe founded JS&A and began selling electronics out of his family’s basement in Northbrook, Illinois. The innovative company was the first to sell pocket calculators by mail order and also the first to use a toll-free 800 number for credit card phone orders, according to a family announcement.
The company’s success has been attributed to Sugarman’s unique long-running copy approach to advertising and its focus on customer service. In the early 1980s, Joe held seminars at his vacation home in Minocqua, Wisconsin, teaching his advertising skills to other booming businesses, including The Sharper Image and Victoria’s Secret.
Then, in 1986, Joe introduced the world to BluBlocker sunglasses, detailing the dangers of blue light through groundbreaking infomercials. BluBlockers became a hit and were Joe’s main focus for over three decades, with BluBlockers selling on QVC Home Shopping and appearing in film. The hangover.
He moved the BluBlocker Corporation to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1989, and began living part-time in Maui beginning in 1993, where he proudly owned and ran The Maui Weekly, highlighting issues important to the community.
Sugarman has lectured internationally on advertising and direct marketing, always claiming to have failed more times than he has succeeded. He stressed the importance of learning from failure – his most entertaining failure story being that of the Batman credit card. He is the author of seven books on advertising and marketing, including: strength of success, Triggersand The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook. He received several awards, including 1979 Direct Marketer of the Year and in 1990 the prestigious Maxwell Sackheim Award for Innovation in the Direct Response Industry.
“Joe was a deeply loved and cherished father, grandfather and brother,” according to the announcement. He is survived by his children April Sugarman-Smith (Steven Smith) and Jill Sugarman-Fickett; his grandchildren Connor and Felicity Smith; and her sisters Barbara Schultz (Richard), Nancy Sugarman and Judy Sugarman.
Joseph Sugarman will be buried in Chicago, Illinois.
BluBlocker sunglasses, infomercial circa 1986: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ2fp1TBx3E