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Frank P. Dash, opened first Tops Market; April 29, 1926 -- Dec. 29, 2011

Frank P. Dash, who opened the first new-franchise Tops Market and later became the inspiration for the current Dash's Markets, died in his Amherst home Thursday after a long battle with cancer. He was 85.

Mr. Dash was born in the back room of his parents', Mary and Joe, home behind the original Dash's Market on the East Side of Buffalo.

As family members noted, Mr. Dash literally was delivered into the grocery business.

His career started at a young age, when he delivered groceries in a wagon around the neighborhood. After enlisting in the Army Air Corps as World War II was winding down, he was stationed in Japan. He returned home and resumed his career in the family business.

In 1951, he married the former Virginia Lewin, and with the $500 he borrowed from her, opened his first store at Fillmore Avenue and East Ferry Street.

In early 1962, a new supermarket chain, Tops, was formed, starting with a handful of former Bells supermarkets. Later that year, Mr. Dash opened the first new-franchise Tops Market on Grand Island.

For almost 40 years, he owned and operated 13 Tops and B-Kwik locations before selling and retiring in 2001. Mr. Dash was the creative inspiration of today's new Dash's Markets, which his son Joseph opened in 2002.

"With my mom's help, my father turned a $500 investment into a multimillion-dollar enterprise," Joseph Dash said.

He also was a classic-car enthusiast, buying and restoring many cars over the years, and was a longtime member of the Lincoln Continental owners club.

Mr. Dash was a 40-year parishioner of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church and a generous donor to Catholic Charities as well as many other organizations. Through the business, hundreds of scholarships were handed out to young men and women to help them through their college careers.

In addition to his wife of 60 years, Mr. Dash is survived by two sons, Joseph and Frank Jr. A third son, John, preceded him in death.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in St. Gregory the Great Church, Maple Road, Amherst.