ZERSCHLING: Book revives memories of Katz and its cat

2011-10-26T00:00:00Z 2012-02-21T11:45:11Z ZERSCHLING: Book revives memories of Katz and its catBy Lynn Zerschling lzerschling@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal

The drug store sat at an angle on the southeast corner of Fourth and Pierce streets, with an Art Deco inspired design. Shoppers could spot a black cat on the sign.

Why a cat? Because the store's founders, Isaac and Michael of Kansas City, Mo., played on their last name -- Katz. The brothers opened drug stores throughout the Midwest, building Katz Drug Store in Sioux City in 1936, according to the Public Museum's records.

A new book about the Katz brothers illustrates the story of two remarkable men who innovated the modern drug store, according to author Brian Burnes, a reporter with the Kansas City Star. Steve Katz, Isaac's grandson, assisted in compiling information for the book, "The Kings of Cut-Rate: The Very American Story of Isaac and Michael Katz."

It's a fascinating tale. The sons of Russian immigrants, Isaac and Michael Katz started selling fruit in Kansas City's West Bottoms.

"At the fruit stand Isaac realized that when his competitors sold apples for 5 cents each, he could advertise three apples for a dime and attract quite a few customers who were looking for value," the book reports.

In 1914, they bought two cigar stands and turned them into small stores. In 1917, federal officials ordered all retail stores in the country to close at 6 p.m. The goal was to save fuel for the troops fighting World War I. The exception? Pharmacies.

The brothers didn't want to lose their after-work tobacco sales so they hired a pharmacist, setting up a small drug store behind the tobacco, candy and soda fountain. Eventually, they stocked merchandise missing from other pharmacies, such as cameras and whiskey. In the 1960s the Katzes operated 65 drug stores in five Midwestern states.

Ramon Horton of Sioux City told me he liked the first-floor soda fountain with all its treats, the magazine stand, the sundries and the wide staircase.

"When you entered the front door there were baskets that always lined the walls filled with different sale items, and you would pick up items out of the baskets," Gert Stevens recalled of visiting the store from her home in Salix, Iowa.

Eleanor Moline said her father, who worked at the post office, and her older brother, Don Moline who worked at Aalfs Bakery, met frequently for lunch at Katz's. A Katz waitress told her that story years later.

 Maita Sadoff enjoyed eating lunch in the second-floor restaurant, where patrons could peer down on shoppers below.

The book mentions Sioux City once, reporting that when the Katz brothers opened new stores here and in other cities, local newspaper reporters interviewed them about how they had achieved their success.

I could not find out why the Katzes closed the store in 1960. Key Drug Store took over the space from 1961 to 1974, when World Radio Electronics operated there from 1975 until 1983. W.C. Frank sold hot dogs until 1990. Chicago Deli operated on that corner from 1992 until 2005. The store was demolished for a parking lot.

"I felt really bad when that was taken down," Lucy Miller-Harris said. "It always was one of the permanent fixtures downtown."

 

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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