Sydney Bestoff, longtime K&B drug executive and patron of the arts, dies aged 94 | Messages

Sydney Johnson Besthoff III, a New Orleans businessman and art connoisseur who ran a seven-state drugstore chain until it was sold in 1997, died of heart failure at his New Orleans home on Saturday, the family said. He was 94.

He was the third generation in charge of Katz & Besthoff Ltd., which his grandfather, Sydney J. Besthoff, founded in 1905 with Gustave Katz at 732 Canal St. At the time of the sale to Rite Aid Corp., K&B, as it was known, operated 200 stores employing about 4,500 people and had about $750 million in annual sales, his wife Walda Besthoff said.

K&B was known for its distinctive purple color. According to family lore, the first Mrs. Besthoff was looking for a bargain price for wrapping paper for the fledgling company and snagged a bundle of purple paper that no one else would buy because of its color. The hue, which permeated stores and everything in them from paper bags to employee vests, became known in New Orleans as “K&B Purple.”

Besthoff had been interested in art since the 1960s, but his wife said he became passionate about it when he bought the John Hancock Insurance Co. building at Lee Circle because he was fascinated by “Mississippi Fountain,” an Isamu Noguchi Sculpture with a fountain on the square of the building.

He and his wife began collecting pieces and they donated their collection to the New Orleans Museum of Art, leading to the creation of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden adjacent to the museum in City Park. It contains over 90 pieces, his wife said.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three daughters, Virginia Besthoff of New Orleans and Charlotte, Vermont, and Valerie Besthoff and Jane Steiner, both of New Orleans; a sister, Jon Strauss of New Orleans; seven grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is responsible for the preparations that are incomplete.

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