K&B was, and is still, beloved by New Orleans, not just because of its Creole ice cream or own line of YENDIS liquor: New Orleans embraced K&B because it was their drug store. K&B’s ever-present purple made clear the connection between the store and the city of purple, gold and green.
When Rite-Aid bought the chain’s 186 stores in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas in 1997, K&B loyalists said they would never shop at the Rite-Aid stores.
In the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Anne Rochell wrote that “all the fuss over a dying drug store chain [was] because a battle for the soul of New Orleans was being waged, and, for the moment, the outsiders [were] winning.”
The city’s love of the drugstore chain is still evident. K&B T-shirts, stickers and clocks can be found around town. Hard-core fans can even buy K&B shopping carts (for $500 a piece) or paper shopping bags ($14 each) on eBay.
Gustave Katz and Sydney J. Besthoff opened their first store at 732 Canal Street in 1905. The chain continually expanded, and it eventually opened its corporate headquarters on Lee Circle. An older headquarters at 900 Camp Street was donated to become the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center.
Sydney Besthoff III, grandson of the founder, started working at the store when he was 12 and eventually led the company. He was responsible for the expansion of the chain outside of New Orleans. Today, he’s well known for his contribution to the city’s art culture. Among other contributions, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park was created through the couple’s donations and guidance.