For over 120 years, Caplan's has been serving Central Louisiana consumers by building our business on timeless values. That is our history. That is our future.
Since David Caplan opened his first store in 1891, our goal has been to serve the public, as nearly as we can, to its complete satisfaction. Then, as now, we proclaimed, "Not the Largest, Not the Smallest, But the BEST PLACE in town To Trade." By valuing our customers, associates, community, products, and services for over a century, Caplan's has built a strong foundation for our future.
Here you will find how we built our foundation for the future by exploring historical information about Caplan's Incorporated, the life of our founder, David Caplan, and the people and merchandise that make up the fascinating mosaic of the Company’s history.
Caplan’s Incorporated Statement of Principles:
We subscribe to ethical business practices in every facet of our business. This principle governs our dealings with customers, with vendors, with all members of the public at large, and with one another.
We will provide quality and value to our customers in all dealings. We will strive to provide products and services that meet or exceed our customers’ expectations. We will be responsive to our customers and their needs. We will keep the customer at the forefront of all that we are and everything that we do.
We will obey all laws. This includes the spirit of the law, as well as its letter. We will not tolerate or knowingly condone illegal activities on the part of those who work for us, or with whom we do business. Neither will we, as a Company, knowingly engage in any such activities.
We will treat others as we want them to treat us. We will be honest, reliable and ethical in our dealings with others. We will be trustworthy, so that our word is effectively our bond. We will not solicit favors. We will not accept or offer bribes.
We will respect the rights and property of others. We will not cheat, steal, participate in or condone fraud or deceptive practices. We will not improperly use confidential information or property owned by others. We will not knowingly misrepresent ourselves or our intentions in any business dealings. We will protect the privacy rights of our associates, and we will insist that they do likewise.
We will be good corporate citizens. We will take an active part in the community where we live and work. We recognize our obligations to give back to the community that has sustained us over the years, and we will act on that recognition. We will encourage all Caplan’s associates to do likewise.
The American Dream
David Caplan was born in the small village of Narevke, Poland. It has been described as a small, pious community--probably not a world of difference from Alexandria, Louisiana, though certainly a lot colder in the winter. In the late 1880's the harsh economic realities of this region forced hundreds of thousands of people to seek their fortunes in the "new world." Young David Caplan was no different, and around 1889 he set sail for America. Arriving in New York City, David Caplan was contacted and hired by a store owner in central Louisiana as a travelling peddler. The young immigrant moved to Alexandria and quickly proved his prowess as a seller of all sorts of merchandise from the pack on his back. Eventually, his success led to his branching off on his own, and in 1891 he established his own store known simply as "D. Caplan."
In the late 19th century, Alexandria was a bustling center of commerce. Surrounded by fertile farm land, and thousands of acres of unharvested timberland, the people of mid-Louisiana were resourceful and hard-working. Centrally located, Alexandria served as a railroad hub, as well as a river port. A successful shopkeeper could make a decent living if he was fair to his customers, worked hard, and selected the right merchandise. David Caplan prospered and his business grew over the years. In 1899, he married Katie Fineman in New York City and returned to Alexandria to continue in his business, where the newlyweds worked side by side.
The Next Generation
David and Katie had three sons, Abe, Ben and Lee. All three worked in the store as they grew up. Abe, the oldest remained in Alexandria and continued in his father's business, while Ben and Lee both moved to New York to start their own families. Abe Caplan married Jeannice Begnaud in 1930 and they joined Abe's parents in the store. This young couple also had three sons, Edwin, Marvin, and David.
In 1937 David Caplan died suddenly at the age of 65. By this time, his business had become a successful store selling clothing for men and boys, work uniforms and accessories.
Abe and Jeannice continued the legacy they inherited upon David's death. Though this was the height of the depression, they worked hard and continued the philosophy established by their father. Times were tough, but the young couple proved to be resilient and the business remained successful.
The War Years
For central Louisiana, World War II started in the summer of 1941-four months before Pearl Harbor-when 400,000 soldiers conducted the largest military dress rehearsal in the nation's history.
By 1939 it was clear the nation would not be ready for the inevitable war in Europe. The U.S. Army ranked 17th in military manpower and effectiveness, and soldiers still used equipment from World War I, including mounted cavalry, horse- and mule-drawn wagons, and antiquated rifles. Under the leadership of Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, mechanization soon would begin-but tanks and trucks had to be tested and new soldiers needed experience in combat maneuvers.
The Army found the perfect location for such practice in Louisiana, where Pineville (pop. 13,829) and Alexandria (pop. 46,342) face each other across the Red River, and 3,400 square miles (spilling into East Texas) were available for war games and field testing. Camp Beauregard in Pineville became U.S. 3rd Army Headquarters, and construction began on several new bases to accommodate a massive influx of troops to the area, including Camp Polk in Leesville, Camp Livingston, and Camp Claiborne.
With the huge influx of military personnel, commerce in the area prospered. The Caplan's operated the Base Exchange at Camp Beauregard in addition to maintaining their regular business in downtown Alexandria. Many nights, Abe and Jeannice would finish work at the downtown store, lock up, grab a quick supper and labor until after midnight at the Camp Beauregard store.
During the Louisiana Maneuvers, some of the nation's highest-ranking military officials passed through central Louisiana. Generals Omar Bradley, George Patton, and George Marshall all patronized Caplan's.
The Post-War Years
Victory for the Allies brought new prosperity to the nation and central Louisiana in particular. The post-war economy, fueled by pent-up demand, new logistical tools, and modern technology brought new businesses and industries to places like Alexandria.
In the mid-1950's, Edwin Caplan and his wife Jacque joined the firm and began a period of significant expansion that dramatically transformed a small "dry goods" firm into one of the leading purveyors of men's tailored clothing in the region.
By the 1960's, Edwin's brothers, Marvin and David, had joined the company, and branch locations were opened in Leesville, Natchitoches and suburban Alexandria. It was during this time that men's fashion was undergoing a radical change with new fabrics, colors, models and styling. The Caplans were quick to adapt to the new styles and their business prospered. The company established business relationships with the leading manufacturers of tailored clothing, sportswear, shoes and accessories. Caplan's was truly a "Doorway to A Man's World."
Abe Caplan died in 1966. His legacy, now in the capable hands of his three sons, continued to grow. In the early 1970's the first enclosed mall was built in Alexandria, and Caplan's established a store featuring the top lines in menswear. In addition to their leadership in the community, the Caplan brothers were fulfilling a leadership role in the apparel industry by serving as president of various national trade organizations (including the Menswear Retailers of America) and buying consortiums.
As times and fashion changed, Caplan's continued to be innovative and even daring. They established Genesis as a department specifically aimed at the youth market. As designer collections came into style, Caplan's built in-store vendor shops to highlight and feature these exciting lines.