Tom Stemberg, the man who turned the office supply closet into a multi-billion dollar operation, died last week. Historian Nancy Koehn joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to take stock of Stemberg’s career.

Stemberg worked at the grocery chain Star Market, was behind ZOOTS cleaners, Kabloom flowers, and LuluLemon. Perhaps his most well-known entrepreneurial stint began on the fourth of July, 1985, when Stemberg found himself driving around Boston, searching for a printer ribbon. “He gets this idea that we need to have a ‘Toys ‘R’ Us’ for office supplies,” Koehn said. “These are the early days of big box retailing.”

“This man was an extraordinarily active businessman, executor, manager, leader, and entrepreneur,” Koehn said. “In many ways, he was kind of classic in the outlines of his life...and he definitely never took a Sunday off.”

Nancy Koehn is an historian at the Harvard Business School where she holds the James E. Robeson chair of Business Administration. Her latest book is Ernest Shackleton, Exploring Leadership. To hear more from her interview, click on the audio link above.