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Barney Gottstein, who grew the family grocery business along with Alaska, dead at 92

A 2014 photograph of Anchorage businessman Barney Gottstein, who died at 92 on Oct. 21, 2018. (Photo provided by the Gottstein family)

Barney Gottstein, a pioneering Alaska businessman who helped turn his family's business into a grocery and real estate empire in the Last Frontier, died Sunday at 92, his family said.

Gottstein's family roots in Alaska stretched back to Anchorage's tent city days, when his father, Jacob B. "Jake" Gottstein, sold cigars to railroad camp workers. He later opened a wholesale grocery and dry goods company, J.B. Gottstein & Co.

Barney Gottstein was born in 1925 Des Moines, Iowa, where both his parents were from. But he grew up in Anchorage in the 1930s when it had a population of just 2,500, "with fox and potato farms and a dairy" nearby his downtown home, according to an obituary written by his family.

In college, he hoped to become an aeronautical engineer but was told by counselors in college that airplane manufacturers wouldn't hire him because he was Jewish, his family said. He enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II, and served in the Army Air Corps, his family said.

He switched his major to business and returned to Alaska to expand J.B. Gottstein & Co., the family business, to supply grocery stores around the state, said his son Jim Gottstein.

In a pivotal move, he partnered with Larry Carr, the owner of Carrs grocery stores.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, during a period of rapid growth and change in Alaska, their company expanded to become one of the biggest Alaska-owned businesses, with extensive real estate holdings as well as a grocery business the owners sold to an investor group in 1990.

An early 1990s Daily News story about the Carr-Gottstein company called the duo "two of the most successful businessmen ever to put down roots in Alaska."

In 1999, Safeway took over the Carrs grocery stores. Larry Carr passed away in 2011.

Today, the Carr-Gottstein partnership still exists. The company manages retail, warehouse and office space in Anchorage and Wasilla, including the Huffman Plaza and downtown Brady Building.

The Gottstein name is all over town: There's a Carr-Gottstein Center on Alaska Pacific University's campus, and a Carr-Gottstein Park in South Anchorage.

Gottstein continued to work into his 90s, his son said. His interests extended far beyond his business life, Jim Gottstein said.

He served as the chairman of the Alaska Board of Education and sponsored scholarships for students, his son said.

"He just quietly, without any fanfare, helped hundreds of students receive an education," he said.

Gottstein was proud of his activism for Israel and was also a major donor to Democratic Party causes in Alaska. He was once the chairman of the Alaska Democratic Party and a delegate to national political conventions.

While Gottstein traveled, spending time at homes in Israel and on Maui, Anchorage was always home and where he hosted weekly family dinners for his sprawling clan for 40 years, Jim Gottstein said.

The Anchorage of his later years bore little resemblance to the one he grew up in, with the fox farms and a dairy downtown.

"He grew with Anchorage and grew with Alaska," his son said. "He helped build it."

Gottstein is survived by his wife and seven children.

A service for Gottstein will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22 at Congregation Beth Sholom at 7525 E. Northern Lights Boulevard, followed by a burial at the Anchorage Cemetery.

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