William L. Gherra Biography

Claim to Fame: Former CEO of PayLess Drug Stores
DOB: March 1913
Date of Death: May 31, 1994
Diabetes Type: Unknown

Originally opened in 1932 in Tecoma, Washington by L. J. Skaggs, PayLess Drug Stores, Inc., a pharmacy holding company, was, at one point, the largest independently owned drug store chain in the United States. During that period, beginning in 1984 and lasting until 1994, when it was acquired by TCH Corporation and renamed Thrifty PayLess Holdings, Inc., the company’s chairman and chief executive officer was William L. Gherra.

Gherra was born in Tecoma, Washington in 1913. He began his career working for Safeway Inc., a supermarket chain in which Samuel "L.S." Olnie Skaggs, brother of L.J. Skaggs, was an executive, prior to joining his brother in uniting Safeway Inc. and PayLess Drug Stores under the family organization, The Skaggs Companies, Inc. While employed by Safeway Inc., Gherra played a fundamental role in the successful launch of Safeway’s Family Circle Magazine, an American women's magazine distributed in Safeway supermarkets, as well as others.

Gherra Joined PayLess during a downward trend. Initially brought in as an advertising and marketing specialist, he became president in 1964. However, at the time of his promotion, PayLess had no more than six retail outlets and was in danger of being bought out by competitors. Nvertheless, the company grew through a series of acquisitions and internal expansions. By the time of his retirement in 1977, Gherra had helped PayLess establish more than a hundred stores throughout Nevada, California, and Hawaii. He also helped expand and maintain those stores already in existence.

In 1935, while still an employee for Safeway Inc., Gherra married his childhood playmate and long-time love, Gertrude Louise. The pair had grown up together in Tecoma, Washington, moved to Spokane, and then to Peidmont, California, where they raised a family of four daughters. Gherra had diabetes and often struggled with the illness. On May 31, 1994, while visiting Lake Tahoe with his wife, daughters, and grandchildren, Gherra, 81 at the time, died. Gertrude passed away in 2005, asking that she be buried alongside her husband at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

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Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

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