Muammer A Öztekin, A Master Innovator of the Retail Industry Dies at 95 in Alabama

Muammer A Oztekin with President Reagan. Muammer A Oztekin with President Reagan.

It’s no exaggeration to say he was one of the fathers of Turkish industrialists in the United States. He was the inventor of adjustable steel shelves that feature uprights with integrated, roll-formed back-panel channels, widely used in the United States and Europe. This revolutionized the retail industry! Muammer Ahmet Öztekin (MAO) was born in Niğde, Turkey on November 10th 1925 to Ahmet Hamdi & Emine Öztekin. His youth was spent in İzmir & İstanbul at which point he came to the USA in 1949 to further his education because the rest of the worlds education systems were still recovering from the war. He first attended the University of Michigan before transferring to the University of Alabama.

Öztekin excelled at mechanical engineering and joined the ROTC program. As a result of The Korean War, he was given accelerated citizenship to help the US Army liaise with Turkish troops in the UN forces. The war ended before he was inducted and he began working for Chrysler Automotive as an engineer.

Whilst in Detroit he married Sue Gillispie from Alexander City, Alabama and started a family. He next went to work for Almor, Inc. a manufacturer of retail store equipment.

His genius was conceiving the inventions of check-out counters with conveyor belts as well as sectional shelving that could be assembled in units 4 foot wide without tools.

Muammer and Sue, who passed away on September 29, 2012, returned South to start Dixie Craft Manufacturing Company, now “Madix” a $300 million entity, which manufactured shelving and belt-driven-check-out counters for retailers in Goodwater, Alabama.

In 1958 Öztekin moved to Birmingham, Alabama to found “The Kent Corporation”, named for his only son. He was granted 13 patents by the USA, UK, France and Germany. Öztekin’s patents and his innovations revolutionized store fixtures. Others adopted his designs and techniques, but the contemporary industry came from Muammer Öztekin.

In the process, he coined the industry standard terms, defining such components as Gondolas, Uprights, Shoes, and Kickplates. Retailers worldwide still use the shelves. Under the name of the Supermatic line, both shelving and check-out counters appeared at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He enjoyed a very long prosperous career and life.

In 1962, Supermatic Development Corporation incorporated. Relocated to first three buildings at current site. Ataturk and Washington Streets and Kent Drive named. General office building dedicated to Barto Brown. In 1970, he developed first in world to “Electrocoat” display shelving. Building No. 7 dedicated to İsmet İnönü. In 2007, the Kent Corporation celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

His brother Mukkader Öztekin, served as the Minister of Public Works in the 34th Government in 1971 and he became the Minister of Interior in the 38th Government on 17 November 1974. He was the driving force behind the first Bosporus Bridge in 1973 white he was the Minister of Public Works.

Öztekin loved America! And would tolerate no one speaking ill of the United States of America, although he never forgot his heritage and love of Turkey. He often hosted and entertained many Turkish VIP’s and friends at his home in Birmingham, Alabama. He made many lifelong friends worldwide. His passion was travelling the world and learning about other cultures. 2005, Kent introduced its state-of-the-art powder-coat system. He created the Öztekin Family Endowed Scholarship that assists engineering students at The University of Alabama. The College of Engineering named him a Fellow in 2006. Muammer Öztekin has three daughters and one son, Suzanne Yayman, Mera (Jerry) Crews, Kent (Catherine) Öztekin and Aycil (Mike) Logan, all of whom live in the Birmingham area. He also has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Of the many honors bestowed upon him over his long career, he cherished most his US citizenship, followed by his induction into The State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame and his appointment as a Distinguished Fellow of the University of Alabama School of Engineering. Muammer Ahmet Öztekin passed away peacefully on December 12th 2020 and was buried in Southern Heritage Cemetery, Pelham, Alabama.

(Some part of this article is published on the website of the Engineering Hall of Fame of the State of Alabama)