Chicago’s West Side Department Store Closing Doors After 75 Years in Business

Brothers opened K’s Department Store three-quarters of a century ago, and now one of them must close it permanently.

The yellow and red shop spreads across many properties at 2816 W. Cermak Rd. in Little Village, where Brothers Sol and Sammie Kaplan opened it in 1949.

“I lived on the West Side all my life,” said Sol Kaplan, 95.

Kaplan has spent his entire life buying and selling. He began at the old Maxwell Street Market.

Chicago's West Side Department Store Closing Doors After 75 Years in Business

“I got a job on Maxwell Street selling shoelaces,” Kaplan was quoted as saying. Kaplan was 14 years old at the time, and his first day earned him $10.

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

Sol and Sammie Kaplan started a business together, selling discounted clothing and shoes.

“Sammie ran one little store, and I ran the other,” explained 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 returned to Little Village, working together at K’s Department Store.

“He was with me until two years ago–he died,” Sol Kaplan recalled of his brother. “We were like brothers should be.”

Sol Kaplan couldn’t have asked for a nicer brother — or extended family. Anita Navarro has worked at K’s since 1968, when they first opened their current location.

“I was 17 years old, and now I’m 73,” Navarro explained. “Like my second home.”

Employees such as Navarro were loyal to the brothers to the very end. After 75 years in business, K’s had only two weeks remaining on Friday.

“Time takes care of everything,” Sol Kaplan stated. “I can’t walk, and I can’t come to the store like I used to.”

Chicago's West Side Department Store Closing Doors After 75 Years in Business

“He’s retiring,” said Navarro. “It’s too much for him now.” Sol Kaplan sold the premises before clearing out the shelves.

“The rents are high.” The need for assistance is high. “Utilities are high,” he remarked, “and I don’t know how small stores can handle it.” But the brothers did it for more than 70 years.

“I want him to relax, take it easy, and enjoy life,” Navarro stated about Kaplan. “I guess I found my niche,” Kaplan explained, “the only thing I was good at.”

Of course, everyone would agree that Kaplan was underestimating himself there.

“It’s starting a new chapter, but I’m glad,” he told me. K’s Department Store will close permanently on March 31.

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