LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dave Gold, the founder of the 99 Cents Only Stores more than three decades ago who saw it expand into a billion-dollar empire, has died. He was 80.
Gold died Monday of an apparent heart attack at his Los Angeles home, his son, Jeff Gold, told the Los Angeles Times in a story published Saturday.
Gold was 50 when he opened the first store in 1982. He told the Times in 2003 that while working at his father's liquor store, he discovered that items he discounted to, say, 98 cents or $1.02 never sold out but a 99-cent label was magic.
"When I put a 99-cent sign on anything, it was gone in no time," he said. "I thought, wouldn't it be fun to have a store where everything was good quality and everything was 99 cents?"
He gave the dollar-store concept, which at the time was perceived as retail graveyards for expired or broken products, a fresh spin by making the stores bigger, brighter and better organized. His stores eventually spread to middle-class and even upscale neighborhoods in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas.
The chain became a family enterprise — Gold's three children and son-in-law worked there in some capacity — and the chain's ads displayed his sense of humor. One congratulated the Los Angeles Dodgers "on losing 99 games." Another wished Joan Rivers "Happy 99th Facelift."
The company was sold in 2011 for about $1.6 billion.
Gold became a multimillionaire but lived modestly. His family said he lived in the same middle-class home for nearly five decades with Sherry, his wife of 55 years, and drove the same Toyota Prius he purchased in 2000.
Besides his wife and children, Gold was survived by five grandchildren.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com