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Department store calling it quits after 75 years on Chicago's West Side

West Side Chicago department store to close after 75 years
West Side Chicago department store to close after 75 years 02:32

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Brothers opened K's Department Store three quarters of a century ago – and now, one of them has to close it for good.

The yellow and red storefront stretches across multiple structures at 2816 W. Cermak Rd. in the Little Village community Brothers Sol and Sammie Kaplan first opened it in 1949.


"I lived on the West Side all my life," said Sol Kaplan, now 95.

Kaplan has been buying and selling as long as he has been living. He started at the old Maxwell Street Market.

"I got a job on Maxwell Street selling shoelaces," Kaplan said.

At the time, Kaplan was 14 – and he made $10 on his first day.

"When I brought home the $10 to my mother, she couldn't believe it," said Kaplan, "and that was the start of my selling things and trying to sell things at a reduced price."

Sol and Sammie Kaplan went to business together, selling discount clothes and shoes.

Sol (left) and Sammie Kaplan CBS 2

"Sammie ran one little store, and I ran the other," said Sol Kaplan. "We were doing pretty good until the Martin Luther King riots, when he got killed, and they burned down our store."

Sol and Sammie reopened in Little Village, working together at K's Department Store.

"He was with me until two years ago - he died," Sol Kaplan said of his brother. "We were like brothers should be."

Sol Kaplan couldn't have bargained for a better brother – or extended family. Anita Navarro has been on the staff at K's ever since they opened at their current location in 1968.

"I was 17 years old, and now I'm 73," Navarro said. "Like my second home."

Employees like Navarro stuck by the brothers right up until the end. After 75 continuous years in business for K's, there were just two weeks left to go Friday.

"Time takes care of everything," said Sol Kaplan. "I can't walk, and I can't come to the store like I used to."

"He's retiring," added Navarro. "It's too much for him now."

Sol Kaplan at K's Department Store CBS 2

Before he cleared the shelves, Sol Kaplan sold the building.

"Rents are high. Help is high. Utilities are high," he said, "and I don't know how little stores can do it."

But the brothers did it for more than seven decades.

"I want him to relax, take it easy, enjoy life," Navarro said of Kaplan.

"I guess I found my niche," added Kaplan himself, "the only thing I was good."

Of course, all would agree that Kaplan was selling himself short there.

"It's starting a new chapter, but I'm glad," he said.

K's Department Store closes its doors for good on March 31.

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