Remembering Duluth businessman & entrepreneur Joel Labovitz

Emily Ness
Updated: February 17, 2021 10:11 PM
Created: February 17, 2021 09:37 PM

While many traits make up a great businessman or woman, Joel Labovitz's daughter said he was curious, driven and full of energy that he sought out to share with others.

“He’s an inspiration to a great many people and we’re really proud of that,” Anne Labovitz said.

Labovitz passed away at age 93 over the weekend after a highly successful career as a businessman and entrepreneur in the Northland.

“We’re proud of him and we’re grateful that he was able to be so impactful in his life,” Anne said.

Labovitz entered the world of business early on, working a number of jobs throughout Duluth before going on to work for his father, Maurice, at his clothing store Maurice’s.

"When it was time, he went into the business with my grandfather Maurice and then he found out that he loved it so much and grew it to 175 stores before he sold it,” Anne said.

At Maurices, Anne said Labovitz worked to create a culture where all were inspired to succeed, hiring and promoting women long before it was the norm.

“They were promoted to really successful, powerful positions and continued to have places to move up the ladder and that legacy is alive and well,” Anne said.

In 1978, Labovitz sold Maurice’s and it went on to grow. Today, thousands of men and women work at over 900 Maurice's stores across the country.

After selling Maurice's, Labovitz stuck with business in Duluth, investing in real estate and hotels.

“He has always supported our community and people in our community,” Anne said.

In 1980, Labovitz developed and taught UMD’s first courses in entrepreneurship.

"He really valued education and for him, I think it meant a great deal to be able to be a mentor in that context academically,” Anne said.

Today, the UMD’s School of Business and Entrepreneurship bears his name with the hope of inspiring future business men and women. This came after he and his wife Sharon made a generous donation to the school in 2003.

"It was a Sharon and Joel Labovitz gift to the University of Minnesota and it's something that Sharon and Joel both valued tremendously—education. That's the thing they chose to leave their lasting and ongoing mark on,” Anne said.

In a statement, UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said: "Joel’s intelligence, energy, and care for people made him an extraordinary figure at UMD and within the Twin Ports business community."

UMD is encouraging people to donate to the Labovitz Family Scholarship in his memory.

Labovitz's obituary can be read here.


Emily Ness

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