NEW YORK — Joseph “Jo” Behar, owner and chief executive officer of Andrea Behar, a women’s contemporary clothing and private label manufacturer, died of throat cancer Tuesday at Lenox Hill Hospital here. He was 80 years old.
Behar, who was born in France, started his career in his family’s fabric business. He then took a position in the corporate office of Frank Oliver, the French designer firm. In 1971, Behar opened the New York office of Frank Oliver, where he was the import director, and where he met his wife, Andrea. They ran the operation together, as she would edit and remerchandise the French collection for the U.S. customer.
Behar later owned a company called Jabé. In 1987, the Behars started Andrea Behar, a contemporary sportswear firm and private label manufacturer that sells to retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Dillard’s.
At Andrea Behar’s first office on West 38th Street, Jo Behar often cooked meals for his employees, who ate together in the kitchen. He was a lover of fine food, especially French cuisine. One of his favorite experiences occurred in the Seventies when he was a contestant on the TV game show “To Tell the Truth.” He appeared with André Soltner, the renowned French chef, and when the panelists had to pick the real Soltner, or one of two imposters, they picked Behar based on his answers to questions about French food.
Behar was actively involved in the company until a few weeks before his death. He was an avid tennis fan and regularly attended the U.S. Open.
In addition to his wife, Andrea, who serves as president and designer of Andrea Behar, he is survived by a sister, six children and one grandchild.
A memorial service was held Sunday at the Vander Plaat Funeral Home in Wyckoff, N.J. Burial will be in France. The family said donations may be made to Hackensack University Medical Center.