By  on April 18, 2007

Murray Berkowitz, former vice chairman of Frost Bros. specialty chain in Texas, died Sunday at his home in San Antonio, said his son, Mickey Berkowitz. He was 91.

As president of Frost Bros. from 1970 to 1980, Berkowitz expanded the fashion retailer from three stores to 15. He also developed the cosmetics business and befriended Estée Lauder; his was the first store in Texas to sell her products.

"Murray Berkowitz was one for the first early supporters of Estée Lauder," said Leonard Lauder, chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. "He realized what an enviable position Estée Lauder had and urged us to be adventuresome. At the same time, he encouraged us to adhere to our limited-distribution policy. It's because of his views and early support that Estée Lauder is in such a wonderful position today."

Berkowitz joined Frost Bros. in San Antonio in 1945 as a merchandise manager after serving as a major in the Air Corps in World War II. He went to work with his brother, Sydney, who held a minority interest in Frost that Murray Berkowitz later acquired. He was vice chairman when he retired in 1984. The company closed in 1991 during a challenging economic period for many specialty stores in the region.

Berkowitz began traveling to Europe and Asia in 1957 on buying trips for women's fashion. For example, Frost Bros. was the first store in Texas to bring the full line of Gucci products west of the Mississippi, Mickey Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz married Dorothy Obermeyer in 1948, less than two months after he met her. She died in 1984. He was active in San Antonio arts and society and always open to new ideas, his son said, adding: "He had a passionate desire to live life to its fullest."

In addition to Mickey, of Stamford, Conn., he is survived by two daughters, Susan Berkowitz Brenner of Los Angeles and Elizabeth Berkowitz Blatt of Austin, Tex., and two sons, David Berkowitz of San Antonio and Tony Berkowitz of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and seven grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. April 25 at Temple Beth El in San Antonio.

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