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Founder of La Cañada-based Sport Chalet dies

July 18, 2011|By Jason Wells, jason.wells@latimes.com

Norbert Olberz, the founder of La Cañada Flintridge-based Sport Chalet, died on Friday, the company announced. He was 86.

Olberz founded the company in 1959, building the enterprise into a multi-million dollar, publicly traded company. He served as Sport Chalet's chief executive until 1999 and as chairman of the board of directors until 2001, according to an announcement from the company released Sunday.

Sport Chalet had only recently started to rebound from the hard financial hit it took during the recession.

In the fourth quarter ending March 28, sales at the sporting goods chain increased 6.8% to $90.2 million, up from $84.5 million for the same quarter a year ago.

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The jump ended 10 consecutive quarters of negative same store sales, although total sales for the year were down 5.1% to $353.7 million from $372.7 million compared to the year prior.

Trained as a pastry chef, Olberz immigrated from his native Germany to Canada prior to settling in the U.S., where he and his wife opened their first niche winter sports gear store. From there, it grew to include other specialty wares for scuba, mountain climbing and other sports. The company went public in 1992.

Olberz is survived by his wife, Irene; sister, Elizabeth Lepper; son, Eric; and his grandchildren, Karl and Markus.

A memorial service for Norbert Olberz is scheduled for noon on Friday in the Van De Kamp Hall at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada.

In lieu of gifts or flowers, the family requested donations be made in Norbert Olberz's memory to the Sierra Club Foundation, 85 Second Street, Ste. 750, San Francisco, CA, 94105, or to the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, 4490 Cornishon Avenue, La Cañada Flintridge,  91011.

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