K&B Drug Stores

Katz & Besthoff, Ltd., later known as K&B, was a drug store chain headquartered in New Orleans throughout much of the 20th century. 1011 Canal Street was home to one of the chain's 186 storefronts.

In 1905, Gustave Katz and Sydney Besthoff opened the original Katz & Besthoff drugstore at 732 Canal Street. Gustave Katz was an established New Orleans pharmacist, and Sydney Besthoff was a successful drugstore owner from Memphis, Tennessee.

K&B was known for its signature “K&B Purple” branding. There are several stories that explain how the color branding came to be, all of which date from 1908 to 1911. According to one such story, early 19th century retailers wrapped customer purchases in paper and tie it into a bundle for them to carry home. In 1911, Sydney Besthoff’s wife was shopping to buy wrapping paper for the K&B stores. Money was tight in those early years and ways to save money on operating costs were important. She came across some purple wrapping paper that was on sale because no one wanted such an outlandish color. But, seeing the savings in costs, she secured as much of the paper as she could and returned to the store. The purple paper soon became a K&B slogan: “If it’s purple on the outside, it’s only the BEST from Katz and BESThoff on the inside.”

Katz and Besthoff develop a business that grew into a popular part of New Orleans culture with multiple drugstores throughout the city. In 1926, Sydney Besthoff died of a heart attack, and his son, Sydney Besthoff III, became more involved in the business. In 1940, after Gustave Katz passed away, the Besthoffs bought out the Katz Family’s stake in the business.

By 1955, after 50 years of business, K&B operated eighteen stores. In the 1960s, after K&B’s expansive growth, the company’s corporate headquarters, then located at 900 Camp Street, relocated to larger offices at 1055 St. Charles Avenue. The new office space was initially leased from the John Hancock Insurance Company. In the early 1970s, K&B purchased the building from John Hancock and renamed the site “K&B Plaza.”

In 1997, Rite Aid purchased the entire K&B drug store chain, including 186 stores located in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. The Besthoff family still occupies offices at 1055 St. Charles Avenue where they manage real estate, art collections, and other family interests.

Since selling K&B, the Besthoff families have engaged in philanthropic endeavors in New Orleans. In the 1980s, the Bestoffs donated the vacant K&B headquarters and warehouse at 900 Camp Street to form the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center. The Besthoff family has also donated substantial artworks to many venues in the City of New Orleans including The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which adjoins the New Orleans Museum of Art.

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1011 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA