30 August 2007

In fond remembrance of Purple

As the two-year anniversary of Katrina gets hashed and rehashed, I was reminded tonight of a part of New Orleans popular culture which died. It didn't die at the hands of Katrina; no, this occurred nearly ten years ago. In a way, you could call this a XYAT post.

It was in September 1997 that Rite Aid, a completely obnoxious pharmacy chain in my humble', opened up its checkbook and bought -- no, swallowed -- two regional drugstore concerns. The first was Harco, a company based out of Tuscaloosa, Ala. with stores all over Alabama, and possibly beyond. At the same time, another purchase would go on to be felt all over New Orleans, as well as all over the rest of Louisiana, parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The company was K&B. Founded by two gentlemen, one named Katz and the other Besthoff, it was nothing less than a New Orleans treasure. There were K&B stores on damn near ever other corner in The Crescent City.

Purple was their signature color. From the logo down to the uniforms .... and even the cash registers. All in purple. K&B even sold their own line of ballpoint pens, too. Purple-colored, with the K&B logo proudly emblazoned thereon. And yes, they wrote in purple ink.

But there's more. K&B sold liquor in its Louisiana stores. Had their own brand of beer for a time, too. And K&B brand ice cream -- made in their own Metairie, La. creamery -- had a good reputation.

By 1990, K&B made a push into central Alabama, building stores in Montgomery and in Troy. They had a very nice pharmacist, and all the folks were nice as could be. That was a K&B trademark -- customer service was job one at K&B stores. That's where we got our pictures developed, bought our OTC meds, band aids and batteries. They always had good prices on batteries.

Speaking of which, the battery in my still-kickin' calculator finally bit the big one. I opened it up, with the expectation of finding a button-style watch battery. I'd get the stock number, and pick up another tomorrow at Rat Shack. But what I found in there was a standard, garden-variety AA cell battery. And the label brought it all back....

What I might have was the last gasp of any K&B branded battery. 10 years after Super Distributors (the "parent company" of K&B's house brand) closed shop. This calculator dates back to 1992, according to a date code stamped inside. And I don't recall ever changing out the battery, either, so this puppy gave an astonishing 15 years' worth of service. Almost as long as my son has been alive. Wow.

I miss K&B.

But maybe I should be thankful it wasn't around to see Katrina.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Personally Yours" Gleck

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