Updated: September 29, 2022
Entrepreneur and founder of BluBlocker Sunglasses, Joseph Sugarman, died peacefully surrounded by his family in Las Vegas on March 18, 2022. He was 83.
Sugarman began living part-time on Maui starting in 1993, where he owned and ran The Maui Weekly.
Born on April 25, 1938 in Oak Park, Illinois to parents Faye (Levine) and Benjamin Sugarman, Joe was the older brother to sisters Barbara, Nancy and Judy. He attended the University of Miami, studying electrical engineering, but was drafted by the Army in 1962, just six months shy of graduating. He spent over three years in Germany, where he served with Army Intelligence and later with the CIA.
Upon returning home, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to create a small company marketing Austrian ski lifts in the US and later forming his own ad 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 through mail-order and also first to use a toll-free 800 number for credit card phone orders, according to a family announcement.
The company’s success was credited to Sugarmanʻs unique long-form copy approach to advertising and his priority towards customer service. In the early 80’s, Joe held seminars at his vacation home in Minocqua, Wisconsin, teaching his advertising techniques to other rising 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 the revolutionary infomercial. BluBlockers became a hit and was Joe’s main focus for over three decades, with BluBlockers selling on QVC Home Shopping and appearing in the movie The Hangover.
He moved the BluBlocker Corporation to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1989, and began living part-time on Maui starting in 1993, where he proudly owned and ran The Maui Weekly, shedding light on topics of importance for the community.
Sugarman lectured internationally about advertising and direct marketing, always claiming to have failed more times than he succeeded. He stressed the importance of learning from failure — his most entertaining story of failure being that of the Batman Credit Card. He authored seven books on advertising and marketing including: Success Forces, Triggers, and The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook. He received various 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 his sisters Barbara Schultz (Richard), Nancy Sugarman, and Judy Sugarman.
Joseph Sugarman will be laid to rest in Chicago, Illinois.
BluBlocker Sunglasses, infomercial circa 1986: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ2fp1TBx3E