Sol Price, the founder of Price Club who helped pioneer the warehouse superstore sales model that grew into a multibillion-dollar industry, died Monday. He was 93.
Price died at his La Jolla home of natural causes, family spokeswoman Sherry Bahrambeygui (behr-uhm-bay-gee) said.
Price was considered an innovator and leader in the retail merchandising industry whose low-cost, no-frills sales model was credited with inspiring other big-box giants.
Born in the Bronx in New York, Price moved to San Diego with his family when he was a child. His father was a labor organizer and clothing factory owner who moved West after contracting tuberculosis.
Price was working as a lawyer in San Diego in 1954 when he founded FedMart, a discount department store that was open to federal, state and local government employees for a membership fee of $2 a family.
The concept was based on a membership model already being used by the Fedco chain, a nonprofit cooperative in Southern California.
Price was involved with FedMart for more than two decades. He was fired in 1976 after it was bought by a German firm.
Price was 60 years old when he found himself locked out of his office. That same year he and his son Robert founded Price Club, using money invested by family members and acquaintances.
The store opened in an abandoned airport hangar in San Diego.
At first, it was simply a discount wholesaler that catered to small business owners and offered limited merchandise in large quantities. However, Price quickly broadened the membership.
"Early on, Mr. Price was determined to keep prices and overhead low, figuring he would make a profit on the volume of sales," according to an obituary provided by Bahrambeygui.
Still, the obituary said, he paid good wages and provided benefits to his employees.
His stores didn't accept credit cards because Price said he did not want people going into debt to buy his goods.
At its peak in 1992, there were 94 Price Club stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico, doing $6.6 billion in business.
Price Club merged with Costco in 1993.
Price and his son later founded PriceSmart, a warehouse-style chain with stores in Latin America and the Caribbean. Price also was involved in real estate and investment.
He was a supporter of Democratic political candidates and a philanthropist who founded several charities. He donated money for construction at the University of California, San Diego, and for charitable efforts in Israel and Central America.
Price is survived by his sons Robert and Larry, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.