Meet Mr. Northside
By Dee Ryan – After 40 years in Wayne, I finally met “Mr. Northside Hardware,” Mr. Phil Kaplan. He’s owned the store for 58 years. Built in 1930 and at one time owned by Harley Smith, Mr. Kaplan bought Northside from John Valance. In 1983 the store underwent a major renovation and enlargement. Although ACO was across the street for many years, it didn’t have as large an impact on Northside’s business, as Lowe’s and Home Depot—the ‘big box’ stores. What really helped was the store’s affiliation with True Value, plus attention to service and merchandise. Northside offers many choices for tools—a less expensive type for the average household, or a better quality for your job. Northside Hardware has a slogan…”We have everything you need—and if we don’t have it—you don’t need it.” Phil Kaplan was the youngest of 5 siblings. His parents emigrated before the First World War, from what is now Ukraine. Mr. Kaplan studied Mechanical Engineering at Wayne University—which is now Wayne State. He and his wife, Diane, were married when just teenagers, and have two sons, a daughter, and many grandchildren. Mrs. Kaplan, Diane, retired as a Detroit schoolteacher. She spent many years as a volunteer at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Together they’ve traveled the world. One of my questions for Mr. Phil was going to be—“why are you so good to our Library?” But after talking to him for a few minutes, I knew—he’s an intellectual, very wise, very interested and knowledgeable about our world and all its events. When he started quoting Voltaire, there was no doubt—definitely an intellectual. When asked if he remembered Dave Young, he answered, “Dave Young was one of the finest gentlemen I ever met.” When he was just staring Northside Hardware, Dave Young came to the store, introduced himself and offered any help he could give. At the time the Young family owned D &D Hardware at Annapolis and S. Wayne Rd. An award that Phil Kaplan is proud of and that he keeps at his desk is a tribute from the Wayne’s Rotary Club. “Phil Kaplan—Rotary recognizes your 56 years of Community Service and Leadership. Honorary Member—November 2007.” Although Mr. Kaplan is 88, his biggest joy is coming to work each day. In his words—“My biggest thrill is seeing my customers.” My final questions were about the fateful day in December 2010. The day of the explosion at Frank’s Furniture. He remembers driving down Chestnut St. when it occurred. The blast was so intense that his new car received $15,000 dollars’ worth of damage. But mainly he feels sadness at the death of two valued employees, the injuries that Paul Franks endured, plus the loss of a great store. Each time he comes to work and looks at that vacant lot he remembers the awful day in 2010. I think we all do Mr. K. I think we all do.
The Wayne Garden Club extends an invitation. John Blair will tell us how to start a butterfly and hummingbird garden using a variety of plans. So please join us to hear his advice and view his photography. It will be March 12, at the Wayne Library. Time: 12:30 p.m. There’ll be refreshments and we can all think spring.
The Wayne Historical Museum will present “Old Wayne before Urban Renewal” See the slide show at the Museum on Thursday, March13 at 7:30 p.m.
May your troubles be less, and your blessings be more-and nothing but happiness come to your door. Happy St. Paddy’s Day.