Long-time Buffalo businessman and community leader, Charlie Shuman, was born in 1929 to Philip (Peretz) and Ida (Chaika). The Shumans were from Sokolivka in Central Ukraine, a “shtetel” community that was devastated by pogroms in the early 20th century. Charlie’s mother lost 4 brothers and her father in the pogroms, while she and Peretz were able to escape to Rumania. In 1922, they ultimately emigrated to the US, settling in Buffalo where Charlie was born to them seven years later.
Charlie grew up on Buffalo’s East Side. Peretz peddled scrap paper, iron and other metals from a horse and wagon. Both Peretz and Chaika were involved in Jewish life at the time — Peretz served on the board of the local Chevra Kadisha and Chaika belonged to Pioneer Women, a national Zionist organization. Charlie’s early years included public school on Buffalo’s East Side and Talmud Torah on Hickory Street. After high school at Seneca Vocational and Fosdick Masten, Charlie worked at Burt’s Shoe Store in the city. Edison Bros, the company that owned Burt’s, sent Charlie to Chicago where there was more opportunity for advancement.
When Charlie returned to Buffalo from Chicago, he was able to use the money from the sale of a 1946 Ford convertible (that he won in a raffle) along with savings to buy a third interest in the family scrap business, which came to be known as Philip Shuman and Sons. Shortly after serving two years in the US Army, Charlie and his brother Hy bought their father’s interest in the business. It was right around this time that Charlie and Hy turned a chance meeting with a stranger at Crystal Beach in Canada into a business opportunity. A fellow driving a truck asking directions happened on Charlie and Hy. The stranger was carrying a load of scrap plastic. This prompted Hy, who Charlie refers to as the smart one, to suggest they talk to their friend, Cecil Green, a pioneer in the plastic scrap business in Toronto. One thing led to another, and Shuman Plastics, now an international producer and seller of specialty recycled plastics and plastic extrusion machinery cleaners, was born.
In 1964, Charlie married Penny Kanel. As they raised their three sons, Kenneth, Robert and Daniel, Charlie and Penny started going to Shul every Shabbat, and their involvement in Jewish philanthropy and service grew to the point that now they are one of the pillars of Jewish Buffalo. Charlie’s passion is Jewish education, especially day school education. He was an early supporter of Kadimah Academy and joined Arthur and Susan Gellman to create the Ohr Temimim School located on Audubon Parkway. Charlie has served as a leader in numerous local Jewish organizations including the Jewish Community Center, Federation, Ahavas Achim Lubavitch Synagogue, Temple Shaarey Tzedek, and Chabad.
Charlie is now retired from actively running Shuman Plastics. Charlie and Penny’s sons, Ken and Danny, run the company as President and Executive Vice President, respectively. Danny, an ordained rabbi, will be interviewing his father as part of the ROOTS Winter Series next Monday evening, January 25 from 7-8 pm. To register, click HERE.
Today’s spotlight is based on a story in the Jewish Journal written by Howard Rosenhoch, a retired attorney and former President of the Buffalo Jewish Federation from 2014-2016.