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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Kaplan's Fades Into Oblivion

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 10:45 AM

click to enlarge Done and done - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Done and done

A troop of sturdily built, blue-shirted men cart a hulking mass of particle board out of the Market Street storefront and, on the count of three, heave it into a truck. Until the moment it leaves their hands it's a vestige of Kaplan's Surplus & Sport Goods, a 75-year-old mainstay of mid-Market and a family business on its fourth generation of Kaplan. 

With a splintering crash, the load shatters upon hitting the flatbed. And now it's junk. 

In the weeks and months leading to Kaplan's mid-February closure, the once-teeming repository of vintage odds 'n' ends took on an increasingly barren air. Popular goods weren't restocked, leaving only the truly bizarre, decades-long holdouts resting on the uncluttered shelves. Walking in felt, increasingly, like entering a world of the past revealed by receding oceans. 

Those walking in now won't get so far. Cathy Kaplan will politely, but firmly, tell you the place is closed and give you the boot. Glancing about, it's easy to believe her. The store has been picked clean of virtually everything of value; it resembles the hollow hall that just hosted the annual Looter's Society Convention. 

Kaplan, however, allows your humble narrator to peruse what's left. And there is a bit more than you'd think. 

click to enlarge There's treasure everywhere - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • There's treasure everywhere

"Oh God, there's so much!" she wails. There were nine truckloads the day before. There will be at least nine more today. One of those sturdily built, blue-shirted men begins dismantling an erstwhile display with bolt-cutters. He does this and then asks if it's aright to use bolt-cutters. "This isn't going back up, is it?" 

No. It is not. He continues with the bolt-cutters. 

The Kaplans have long owned their building and, in December, struck while the iron was rather hot indeed, selling the edifice to developers hoping to erect a 90-foot hotel. Whatever direction things are going on mid-Market, there seems to be little room for a family-owned curio shop where the query "Do you guys use bar-coding?" induces 45 seconds of uninterrupted laughter. 

Anything not broken to pieces and hauled off to parts unknown by the men in blue will be donated to Goodwill "and another place; I hope they're legit," says Kaplan. Hopefully Goodwill et al. have a use for dusty Panama hats, knee pads, wristbands, and 1980s-vintage athletic supporters. 

These devices were intended to protect the loins of the generation from which sprang forth the current crop of potential shoppers. Perhaps that wasn't an appealing sales pitch. 

The store must be "broom-ready" by Wednesday; "I think that's some kind of real-estate term," ponders Kaplan. Her 87-year-old father, Zane, sits on a folding chair watching the ongoing dismantling of his life's work. Had the movers not carted off his counter, he would be seated in the exact place from which he used to greet customers while perched behind that counter. 

Cathy Kaplan asks Zane if he'd like to stick around and monitor the store's progress toward being broom-ready. His answer speaks volumes. 

"No," he says quietly. "I'm done here." 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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