Memory Lane: Kaplan Brothers Fish Market

Memory Lane: Kaplan Brothers Fish Market

For fifty years—from about 1920-1970—Kaplan Bros. Fish Market stood at the same spot that Ossie’s Fish occupied in later years (the current site of Buzz Electronics, on 50th street).

It seems as though the first kosher fish store in Boro Park was actually established by the Kaplan family—brothers of Harav Baruch Kaplan, zt”l, who was the husband of Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, a”h, the legendary founder of Bais Yaakov in America—and old Boro Park residents themselves.

Yankel, the oldest son of Harav Binyamin Beinish Kaplan, came over in the year 1922, with his family. Other members of his family followed soon thereafter. Rav Baruch returned to the Mir, while Yankel established a fish store together with his brother Shloime and named it Kaplan Brothers Fish Market.

A number of the Kaplan descendants are sprinkled throughout the United States—the most senior of which was Mrs. Goldie Kleidman, a daughter of Yankel Kaplan.

She related: “Three of the grandchildren—Alan Magnus, and Yudy and Bert Kaplan— went to the yeshivah across the street, and that was Yeshiva Etz Chaim (across 13th Avenue). They would come into the store, and those memories… they would come every day to stand and gaze at the way they filleted the fish… This was the Depression era. And if I got a tip in the amount of a dime, I was happy. My job was to roll the quarters into piles of 50… “

Mrs. Kleidman related that she never liked fish all that much, because she would be fed fish at least twice a week. Her nephew Allen related that at Eitz Chaim they would serve fish from Kaplan’s fish store, and he recalled that the friendly lunch lady would tell him, “this is from your grandpa’s fish store.”

Yankel’s family davened at the Sephardishe Shul (Mrs. Kleidman remembers that when Yossele Rosenblatt came to the shul, there were people lined up outside listening through the windows to his marvelous voice that would reverberate outside. She remembers that on Thursday the store was open late and she would be the one to bring her father dinner.

 

Lenny Magnus is a grandchild of Yankel Kaplan. He relates how his grandfather once locked himself in his freezer for many hours, and only survived—barely— by rubbing himself furiously.

 “My grandfather would always had live carp in the store, and as a child of seven or eight, I would be lifted up to see these gigantic carp looking out at me. He would never behead the fish in front of me, though. And I remember the wooden slats that covered the floor so people wouldn’t slip.

“On Purim, the extended family gathered in the Zion Center on 49th Street. My grandfather would slice carp down the length and bake it in his friends’ bakery oven.

Yankel never drove a vehicle, and so Shloime would always be giving the children rides in the fish truck—which would also be the way they brought the fish from Fulton fish market—around town in Boro Park of the 1950’s. One summer, Shloime gathered everyone in the fish truck and took them to far Rockaway for their summer vacation.

 

Allen Magnus remembers, “On Thursdays, a little guy would come in with chickens that had just had Schechted at the 39th street live market, and he would singe the feathers with a blow torch in the back. Also in the back was a Meat grinder in the back where they would make gefilte fish. Yankel and Shloime were very strong men, and they worked very hard providing fish for the Jews of Boro Park those many decades ago—until the 1970’s when they sold the store to one Mr. Shulman who called it Ossie’s… opening another chapter of selling fish in Boro Park.

 

In the photos featured here, we see Yankel Kaplan, his father Rav Beinish, and the site of the store at 13th Avenue and 50th street.

 

Memory Lane is a special project of Boropark24.com tracing the history of old Boro Park

 

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