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Kaplon Building

A Brunswick Icon

Victor Kaplon & Family

Victor Kaplon emigrated to the United States from Russia in 1885. He worked as a street peddler in New York selling pencils until he saved enough to  send for his wife and daughter, Annie. He expanded operations and sold goods, first on foot, then by horse and wagon, through Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. In 1889, he settled in Brunswick and partnered with his brother Abraham, who ran the Kaplon Store of Harpers Ferry, to open a Brunswick, then known as Berlin, location. His family expanded to include Myer, Abraham (Amos), Fannie, and Elizabeth.

The Kaplon family. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

The Town Between the Tracks

This first store was located south of what are now the westbound CSX (former B & O) Railroad tracks in the Berlin Opera House (the three-story building in the photo on the left). As the B & O expanded operations, they purchased additional land for a car yard and built a second set of tracks (now the eastbound CSX tracks). All the structures located in the area “between the tracks” were gradually torn down and relocated.

Generations of Service

The Kaplon Bros. relocated to the corner of West Potomac Street and South Maryland Avenue (then High Street and Second Street) in 1908. The new store had three stories plus a finished basement level and was built in classic turn-of-the-20th-century style. Each floor is approximately 2,500 square feet, with a total building size of 10,500 square feet. The entire family worked together to sell quality merchandise for 78 years.

Victor Kaplon passed away in 1957. The store survived him another ten years, making its final sale in March 1967.

This photo captures the “Going Out of Business” sale flyers in Kaplon’s windows.

Patti Taylor (Zientek) gazes in Kaplon’s window circa 1960.

A Place of Dreams

Kaplon’s, like most small-town department stores of its era, was the heart of its community. It was a place to shop, yes, but also a place to socialize, a window into the world outside Brunswick, and a place to make wishes that might come true when one wrote to Santa, or saved enough, or grew big enough.

The question before us now: what do we dream of for the Kaplon Building’s next chapter?