NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Saturday August 19th 2017

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The Store That Worked for Working People Closes

Sandy Spieler, HOBT Artistic Director, choreographs a MayDay Puppet’s bow on Kaplan Bros. Plaza after Kaplan Bros. clothing store has “bowed-out” after 86 years. Kaplan Bros. and HOBT’s Avalon Theatre are across the street from each other at Lake St. and 15th Ave. Harvey Winje

Sandy Spieler, HOBT Artistic Director, choreographs a MayDay Puppet’s bow on Kaplan Bros. Plaza after Kaplan Bros. clothing store has “bowed-out” after 86 years. Kaplan Bros. and HOBT’s Avalon Theatre are across the street from each other at Lake St. and 15th Ave. Harvey Winje

By Carstens Smith

People who work outside year round know where to find high-quality work clothes at a reasonable price. For decades, that place was Kaplan Brothers, at 1414 East Lake. “Word of mouth was very good to us,” says Jerry Kajander, one of the store’s owners. But even word of mouth and a loyal customer base couldn’t keep the 86-year-old business alive after a series of setbacks. The combined stresses of Lake Street construction, a broken water pipe flooding the store and forcing a 4-month closing, and years of mild winters that lessened the demand for warm outdoor clothing, resulted in the current owners’ reluctant decision to close this past February. The flooded basement, which destroyed large amounts of inventory and forced the store to be closed for four months, was the greatest factor influencing the owners’ decision.

Kaplan Brothers came to East Lake Street in 1988. The original store was founded by Joseph and Jacob Kaplan in 1926 and located at Franklin and 15th Avenue. The store stayed in the family for sixty years. Then, after a fire, the family decided to sell the store’s name and inventory. Four Kaplan employees, Jerry Kajander, Pat Christensen, Dan Grant, and Pavel Wasserman, bought the business and moved it to East Lake Street. “We chose the new location because it was at the identical cross street, just ten blocks south,” says Kajander.
The new location worked well for the store and the adjacent businesses were good neighbors. Kajander recounts, “Every business had its own personality. It was great fun to get to know the other business owners and talk to them. Some were real characters, like Stan, who had a pet shop. Others were really helpful, like In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, who was really supportive and helped us with signage while we were closed because of the flood.”

Kaplan’s worked to keep employees, creating continuity and a friendlier atmosphere for customers. This helped Kaplan’s develop their loyal customer base. “It had good quality for a low price. It had everything you needed to stay warm when working,” remembers Phillips resident Mel Lasley, who started shopping Kaplan’s when it was located on Franklin Avenue. “It makes me sad to see a such an established business close. It wasn’t a fancy store. It was a working man’s store. It’ll be missed.”

The four new 1988 owners later opened a second Kaplan Bros. at 73rd and Lakeland Ave. No., Brooklyn Park, MN.  They closed that store March 2012.

There is a great amount of retail history of each Franklin Avenue and Lake Street.  Kaplan Bros. was unique in many ways.  They are especially unique in being part of the stories of both of these dynamic corridors.

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