At the period of massive influx of newcomers from all over Europe~ and the Middle East ~to Lawrence at the end of the nineteenth century, the increase of small retailers reflective of particular ethnic groups was correspondingly rapid. In 1890, according to the City Directory, Elias Kapelovich began his business in Lawrence as a peddler, probably of clothing. There is some confusion about when his fixed retail shop was established. The first reference to a shop in the City Directory is 1904, which identifies his clothing store as being at 527 Essex Street.
On the other hand, the photograph above is identified as of the semi-centennial parade of 1903. It clearly reveals a store labeled Kapelson’s, the changed family name, at 141 Essex Street, located in the building owned by the P. Sweeney heirs according to the 1906 atlas. This "second named store" does not appear in the City Directory until 1905, when Kapelson’s is the name of stores at both 141 and 527 Essex Street.
Elias’s son Benjamin is listed as a clerk at this time at the 141 Essex Street store. He assumed management on the death of Elias in 1918 at a single new location, 109 Essex Street. By 1923, his brother David appeared as a clerk.
In 1924, the business again split into two parts, with Ben’s Toggery Shop at 501 Essex Street and Men’s Furnishings at 109 Essex Street. In 1926, Ben’s Toggery Shop was located at 415 Essex Street, and Kap’s Toggery ShopBarbara Brown, at 501 Essex Street, was headed by David. Kap’s Toggery Shop was the only store listed in 1927, continuing at 501 Essex Street. But in 1928, Kap’s Toggery Shop was located at 415 Essex Street. Benjamin was still listed in that year as occupied with men’s furnishings, but with no store, simply his home address.
In the 1940s, Kaps moved to 377-379 Essex Street. David’s son Richard took over as President in 1962. Almost until his death in 1983, David served as Treasurer. Richard was active in contributing to downtown revitalization and the local hospitals.
In the 1990s, Bob McCartney, owner of another Lawrence clothing store which had moved to Andover earlier, wanted to go out of business.
McCartneys on Essex Street, Lawrence - 1908.
He asked Richard Kapelson if he would take over the property at 5 Main Street, Andover. Kapelson agreed, and Lawrence lost another long time business. Now, however, as with McCartney’s, Kaps will be gone entirely.
Read Brian Messenger's Tribune article about Kaps