Businessman with a heart of gold leaves behind a legacy far beyond his long-running store.
The Southwest Florida community lost a long-time Naples entrepreneur who earned a reputation for caring for his fellow man while providing customer service rarely found anymore.
Del Ackerman passed away Aug. 15, following illnesses that pulled him away from the long-running convenience store that he loved and bears his name, Del’s 24-Hour Food Store, in Naples. He was 83.
“He was one of a kind,” his wife, Theresa, says. “So giving, so loving and always there for the community. He would always be there for anybody. He treated everybody the same. If you were down on your luck, Del would be the first person to help you out.”
Not long after Ackerman moved from his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, to Naples in 1961, he opened the off-beat shop, selling everything from bait shrimp to half-pound burgers, with the goal of staying open every day, come hell or hurricane storm surge. That earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest-operating convenience store.
Ackerman was also the quintessential entrepreneur. In addition to his namesake establishment, he also owned a pawn shop, plumbing store, taxi service, laundromats, residential real estate and more. Many of those businesses were sold long ago.
Theresa Ackerman, who married Del in 2015, doesn’t have any immediate plans for the store because she is still dealing with funeral arrangements. Instead, she has faith in the man her husband trusted to take over management of the store years ago, Nick Malliarys.
“He was quite a guy,” Malliarys says, adding that Ackerman taught him more life lessons than business acumen. “He was a real scrapper. He was great to the community, and he was great to his employees.”
Malliarys says the Ackermans contributed time and money to numerous causes and nonprofits in the region, including Bikes for Tykes and Youth Haven.
The businessman also saw a fair share of tragedy throughout his life, losing his first wife, Nancy, in 2012, and their only child, Tanya, in 2007. He also suffered through pain and multiple surgeries following a severe car crash, with doctors initially telling him that he might not walk again. He proved them wrong.
“He was very lonely for three years until he met me,” Theresa Ackerman says.
Del Ackerman’s desire to keep his store open year-round was only impaired once — so he and its employees could attend his first wife’s funeral.
The same thing will be done for Del, Malliarys says. The store is scheduled to close temporarily Aug. 24, for his funeral service at 12:30 p.m. at the couple’s church, Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ, on County Barn Road. That will be followed by a private burial service and a celebration of life open to the public at 2 p.m. at Forest Glen Country Club in Naples. Along with his second wife, Del Ackerman leaves behind one grandchild and four great-grandchildren.