Herbert J. Rich, 89, who retired in 1975 as chairman of Rich's Shoe Stores after a 71-year career with the family company, died yesterday at the Wisconsin Avenue Nursing Home after a long illness.

Mr. Rich, who succeeded to ownership and management of the firm started here in 1969 by his father, also was a pioneer in establishing the Better Business Bureau in Washington and the old Retail Credit Bureau (now Credit Bureau, Inc.)

When Mr. Rich started working at his father's store in 1904, it was located in a new building at 10th and F Streets NW. later the site of the downtown Woodward & Lothrop.

He became president and treasurer of the firm in 1924 and later presided over expansion of Rich's into the largest and oldest family-owned retail business in the Washington area.

The 10th and F Street site became the first multistory retail building in the city with full air conditioning.In 1951, a modern store was located at 1321 F St. NW. which is still Rich's headquarters. Rich's also expanded with branches at the Chevy Chase Center, lower Connecticut Avenue NW and in Georgetown.

A son, the current Rich's Shoe president Frank H. Rich, recalled yesterday that his father was "such a stickler for ethics" that when Frank Rich came back to Washington from World War II duty in the Far East, he tried to get a pair of shoes to replace his government-issued pair that had rotted. His father refused because Frank didn't have ration coupons.

After Frank Rich took over management of the chain in the 1960s. Mr. Rich remained active both at the shoe stores and in civic and industry affairs.

In 1969, for example, when he was 82, he went to his downtown office every business day. He remained chairman of the board and corporate treasurer until his retirement in the summer of 1975.

At various times during his 51 years as head of the company, Mr.Rich was treasurer of the local Better Business Bureau, a board member and president of the Credit Bureau, treasurer and vice president of the National Shoe Retailers Association, and president of the Merchants and Manufactruers Assoication. He was also president of the Jewish Social Service Agency and treasurer and trustee of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

Mr.Rich also was active in Civil Defense, the Red Cross, Community Chest and Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade programs. In his spare time he was an enthusiastic amateur photographer and amassed a large collection of slides.

Surviving are his wife, Rosa F., of the home in Northwest; a sister, Fannye R. Rosenthal, of Washington, and Herbert J. Jr., of Great Neck, N.Y.; eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

The family suggests memorial contributions may be sent to Children's Hospital of Washington.