Long­time Eas­ton busi­ness set to move within city

Kaplan En­ter­prises makes flags, ban­ners and cus­tom awnings.

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Christina Tatu

For nearly 100 years, Kaplan En­ter­prises Inc. has called Eas­ton’s river­front home, but next month the maker of cus­tom awnings, flags and ban­ners will move from down­town to the city’s West Ward.

The move will free up a prime lo­ca­tion on Eas­ton’s Northamp­ton Street gate­way for devel­op­ment of apart­ments and re­tail, while at the same time bring­ing new busi­ness to the va­cant Ealer Elec­tric Build­ing at 1298 Spruce Street.

Co-owner Randi Kaplan said her fam­ily has owned the busi­ness in Eas­ton since 1923, start­ing out in a barn be­hind the fam­ily home on Church Street, where they stayed un­til 1928.

From there, the fam­ily moved the busi­ness to three dif­fer­ent Northamp­ton Street lo­ca­tions, be­fore set­tling in their cur­rent lo­ca­tion in a four-story red brick Vic­to­rian-style build­ing at 100 Northamp­ton Street in 1984.

“You fig­ure this is our fifth lo­ca­tion. It’s the busi­ness that’s the his­tory, not the lo­ca­tion,” Kaplan said when asked if she will miss the build­ing af­ter so many years.

Ac­cord­ing to Northamp­ton County prop­erty records, the Kaplan fam­ily sold the prop­erty on July 23 to ODG 100-116 Northamp­ton LLC.

The LLC is tied to de­vel­oper Gar­rett Vas­sel, found­ing pres­i­dent of Op­tima Du­rant Group, a real es­tate com­pany that fo­cuses on devel­op­ment, con­struc­tion, de­sign and prop­erty man­age­ment, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

The New York-based com­pany was founded in 2017 and pur­sues projects in New York, Penn­syl­va­nia and Texas, the web­site says.

On Fri­day, Vas­sel said he’s plan­ning apart­ments and re­tail for the prop­erty.

Like other de­vel­op­ers in the city, Vas­sel was drawn in by Eas­ton’s resur­gence.

In re­cent years, dozens of projects have come to fruition in the city, in­clud­ing the Eas­ton Pub­lic Mar­ket, Si­mon Silk Mill and mul­ti­ple restau­rants and bou­tique shops.

Vas­sel is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in plans for Hearst Mag­a­zines En­thu­si­ast Group to move into the for­mer Her­itage Lanes Bowl­ing Al­ley on South Third Street later this year.

Vas­sel hopes the apart­ment units he’s propos­ing will ap­peal to the young pro­fes­sion­als Hearst will hire.

He says the units will be high-end, but Vas­sel does in­tend to of­fer more af­ford­able units.

He calls his strategy a “mixed­bag ap­proach” with units in dif­fer­ent sizes and for­mats that will of­fer var­i­ous price points.

Cou­pled with Eas­ton’s prox­im­ity to New York City and the po­ten­tial for rail trans­porta­tion in the fu­ture, “I have to be­lieve that this is a very good long-term in­vest­ment,” Vas­sel said Fri­day.

Kaplan said her fam­ily de­cided to move from Northamp­ton Street for sev­eral rea­sons.

Mostly, it’s be­cause the Northamp­ton Street build­ing is too big, she said. The build­ing is 24,000 square feet, in­clud­ing a park­ing lot that Kaplan es­ti­mates would have 15 spa­ces once a garage is re­moved.

The build­ing dates to the 1880s and is across the street from the Sep­a­ratist Beer Project and di­rectly across the Delaware River from Phillips­burg. It has high-arched win­dows and de­tailed trim above striped awnings that top the store­front win­dows on the first floor.

At one time the build­ing was a choco­late fac­tory. Later it be­came Louis Ralph Fur­ni­ture Store, then a liquor store and cloth­ing store be­fore the Kaplan En­ter­prises moved in 1984, Kaplan said.

The up­per floors are used for stor­age, which can be dif­fi­cult for em­ploy­ees be­cause there is no el­e­va­tor, Kaplan said. Although there is a con­veyor belt, it can only carry smaller parcels and isn’t much help when work­ers have to lug cus­tomer’s awnings to the top floors for stor­age in the win­ter, she said.

Be­cause the build­ing is in the city’s his­toric district, the Ka­plans have been lim­ited in changes they can make, such as widen­ing the en­trance doors so it’s eas­ier to drop off large bolts of fab­ric.

“The move makes it so that the busi­ness can run more ef­fi­ciently. It’s just some­thing that makes sense,” Kaplan said.

She said the busi­ness is ro­bust and still plans to have about eight em­ploy­ees — three to four full time and four to five sea­sonal work­ers.

In ad­di­tion to sell­ing brands like Hunter Dou­glas win­dow treat­ments, the com­pany also makes flags, awnings and ban­ners for lo­cal fire com­pa­nies, col­leges, nurs­ing homes, hos­pi­tals and other busi­nesses.

The busi­ness was founded by Mor­ris Kaplan and taken over by Sid Kaplan, Randi’s father. She now runs the busi­ness with her brother David Kaplan. The si­b­lings have been help­ing around the shop since they were both chil­dren. They learned to sew on an old pedal sewing ma­chine be­fore us­ing elec­tric ones.

Kaplan says she still has her grand­fa­ther’s record keep­ing books for 1923 to 1924, which will make the trip to the new West Ward lo­ca­tion.

At the for­mer Ealer Elec­tric build­ing, Kaplan En­ter­prises will oc­cupy the first floor and have about 10,000-square-feet of space, she said.

Prop­erty records show that West Ward build­ing was pur­chased by GLCJ Hold­ings LLC in Oc­to­ber for $335,000.

The LLC is reg­is­tered to an ad­dress as­so­ci­ated with Chad Helmer, a senior project man­ager with Tag­gart As­so­ci­ates in Beth­le­hem.

Helmer said in a re­cent email that he has sold his stake in the part­ner­ship and di­rected ques­tions to for­mer Eas­ton Direc­tor of Com­mu­nity and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Gretchen Rice, who Helmer said is one of the part­ners in the Spruce Street devel­op­ment.

Rice didn’t re­turn a re­quest for com­ment.

City of­fi­cials had been try­ing to lo­cate a gro­cery store in the for­mer Ealer Elec­tric build­ing, but that project fell through last year. The build­ing is two sto­ries. Kaplan wasn’t sure what the sec­ond story would be used for.

[email protected] Twit­ter @Christi­naTatu 610-820-6583

PHO­TOS BY APRIL GAMIZ/THE MORN­ING CALL

Sewing ma­chines used since the Great De­pres­sion are seen here at Kaplan En­ter­prises, in down­town Eas­ton. The com­pany, which makes awnings, flags and ban­ners, is mov­ing from its 100 Northamp­ton Street lo­ca­tion to the for­mer Ealer Elec­tric Build­ing in the city’s West Ward.

Si­b­lings David and Randi Kalplan are the third gen­er­a­tion of their fam­ily in­volved in the Eas­ton-based busi­ness.

Randi Kaplan shows The com­pany still has many of its old records, in­clud­ing this 1925 work or­der book.

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