Friday, March 17, 2017

Martsolf's Furniture Co. and Caplan Wholesale Grocery

The large three-story building that once stood on the southeast corner of 8th and Merchant Sts., which many of us remember as Caplan Wholesale Grocery, is one of the three Ambridge buildings I'm asked about most often; the others are the Slovenian National Home's triangle building at the intersection of Beaver and Merchant Sts., and the Ambridge Hotel on the northwest corner of 8th and Merchant Sts. All three landmark buildings have been razed, but not forgotten.

"Louis Caplan Grocery Co."
798 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen
August 25, 1954

Before 798 Merchant was Louis Caplan's grocery, the building was home to Ambridge's first furniture store, a branch of Martsolf's Furniture, which opened on March 26, 1904, the year before Ambridge was incorporated.

"Martsolfs" Furniture
Ambridge store opening ad
Beaver Times
March 29, 1904

Here's a Martsolf's Furniture ad from 1926:

Martsolf's Furniture ad
Daily Citizen
August 10,1929
Louis Vukovcan Collection

I've been unable to pin down exactly when Marsolf's closed, or when Louis Caplan's store moved into 798 Merchant, but it was in the 1930s.

The 1931 photo below, which came from the late Eddie Dzubak, Sr.'s collection, shows a June 21, 1931, flood on 8th and Merchant, according to a note on the reverse. The 798 Merchant St. store in the background still has a Martsolf's Furniture Co. sign on it.

Flood at 8th and Merchant Sts.
Martsolf's Furniture store in background
June 21, 1931
Eddie Dzubak Sr. collection
courtesy of Lesabeth Trzcianka and Eddie Dzubak, Jr.

The 1954 ad that accompanied the photo of Caplan's Grocery at the top of this post, indicated the business began in 1927. But as late as 1932, Caplan's grocery was on Duss Ave.

Caplan had moved his business into the 798 Merchant building by 1939, because that year's Beaver County Mercantile Appraiser's Report shows Caplan then doing business there.

People who worked in Ambridge area businesses remember buying a range of bulk supplies, from paper bags to candy and cigarettes, at Caplan's, sometimes having to brave the building's old, rickety elevator to get them.

Here's a photo that shows Caplan's in the background, also from Dzubak's collection. The circa mid-1970s photo was taken from Dzubak's Arco station, across 8th St. from Caplan's.

Caplan Wholesale Grocery across from Eddie Dzubak's Arco Station
circa mid-1970s
Eddie Dzubak Sr. collection
courtesy of Lesabeth Trzcianka and Eddie Dzubak, Jr.

According to Louis Caplan's grandson, Glen Russell Slater, Caplan worked in his store until his death in 1988, despite his Parkinson's disease. Slater remembered:
I used to love to work in his store when we visited when I was a kid. I loved being there! My mother, Louise, and my uncle, Ralph, used to work there every day after school. My grandmother, Ruth Caplan, worked as the bookkeeper there. It's really sad that it was demolished, and was replaced by a soulless CVS parking lot. My grandfather, grandmother, mother and uncle's life revolved around that store!
After Caplan's death, at least one other business, Capp's, another grocery business, moved into the 798 Merchant building.

The 798 Merchant building was razed, I believe in 2000, to make room for the current CVS parking lot.

I remember the Caplan's building well, although I remember being in it only twice, both visits in the summer of 1970. One time was to buy supplies for my bridal shower, and the second was to buy supplies for the Ambridge Rec Center's summer playground program's penny carnival. The two events were not related.
The name of the furniture company in various ads and articles over the years is given as: Martsolf, Martsolfs, and Martsolf's.

You can see a photo of the intersection of 8th and Merchant in 1922 in my April 24, 2014 blog article, cleverly titled, "Eighth and Merchant Sts., 1922". Slater's memories are in that post's comments.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Peoples Drug Store

Peoples Drug Store
598 Merchant St.
Daily Citizen 
August 25, 1954

Peoples Drug Store was once on the southeast corner of 6th and Merchant Sts. In the mid-1960s, that building became the location of a Thrift Drug Store.

So far, the most frequent memories of the Ambridge Peoples are of the "snaking" green marble soda fountain and its milkshakes, cherry cokes, and Reymer's Blennd. Plus the candy counter and magazine rack. Which makes sense, since many of the memories are from people who would have been kids when Peoples was in Ambridge.

Earlier in its history, the building had two store fronts, 578 and 598 Merchant. Here's a postcard circa late 1910s - early 1920s looking south from 6th and Merchant. The nearest building on the left is the Peoples Drug Store building in the photo above.

500 block Merchant St. looking south from 6th St.
circa late 1910-early 1920s
Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation

The Ambridge National Bank, Horlick's sporting goods and tobacco store, Barrett's drug store, Katcher's Music, and Katcher's Furniture all occupied one of the storefronts in that building before Peoples moved in.

Here's a Peoples Drug Store ad from 1960:

Peoples Drug Store
Beaver County Times
April 26, 1960

There's a Peoples Drug Store Christmas ad in my December 24, 2015, post "Ambridge Christmas toys ads, 1960."

As of now, I don't know when Thrift Drug closed, but in 1993, DJ's Skate Shop opened in that building. After DJ's closed in 1998, Keystone Rehabilitation Systems, which provided physical and occupational therapy, and, more recently, Let's Get 2gether, an events facility, have occupied that building.

If you know when Peoples Drug Store or Thrift Drug closed, or of other businesses which were once at 598 Merchant, please leave a comment.

Here's what 598 Merchant looked like in March 2014:

598 Merchant St.
March 30, 2014
credit: Nancy Knisley

Here's the August 2016 street view:

598 Merchant St.
Google street view
August 2016