Joe Levy, former Gottschalks CEO, dies at 82

Levy ran the long-popular department store Gottschalks for years, helping the independent store expand across Central California and the west coast.
February 11, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Central Valley icon, Joe Levy, has died. Levy ran the popular department store Gottschalks for years, helping the independent store expand across Central California and the West Coast.

Not only did he run Gottschalks, he also helped in the development of Highways 168 and 180 while serving on the state transportation board.

More than that, though, friends say he showed so many people what it means to care about your community.

"He was a good friend, he was a quiet gentleman, honest," said Stan Oken, a former Fresno County Supervisor and Levy's good friend. "He was just very good and good to the community. He would do anything for anybody."

Levy's wife, Sharon, says her husband of nearly 60 years died Monday of pneumonia.

Levy dedicated his life to serving the community, first as the notable head of Gottschalks. Under his watch the company expanded across the west coast. The store was founded by his great-uncle in 1904. Its focus was on opening in medium or small cities, giving many places around the valley retail options big box stores never would.

Levy took over in the 1980's. Soon after, he chose to close the flagship store on Fresno's Fulton Mall because of slow sales. The company closed for good in 2009.

"A little of our heart went out when that company closed," said long-time friend Al Smith. "For a while Joe thought he'd be able to resurrect it in a different manner, he flirted with that idea. The pieces just didn't come together, the recession hit and the timing just didn't work."

Smith is the CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, a seat levy once held.

"[He was] one of the real founders and leaders of modern Fresno," said Assemblyman Jim Patterson. He says levy was a mentor to him during his tenure as Fresno's mayor in the 1990's. "I lost a friend," Patterson said. "And I lost a mentor. Fresno lost a leader, but the Patterson family lost someone who really cared about us."

Levy is survived by his wife, Sharon, their three grown children and nine grandchildren. The Levy family will remember this local icon in a private ceremony this weekend.

Joe Levy was 82.


Load Comments