Katz pays the tax

Michael Bushnell
Publisher


When Isaac “Ike” Katz was 13 years old, he quit school and went to work for the Great Northern Railway selling newspapers to help support his family that had emigrated from the Ukraine to St. Paul, Minn., in 1892.


Katz walked the aisles of passenger trains bound for the Klondike, hawking everything from newspapers to chewing gum and cigarettes. According to later interviews, the experience helped the young Russian immigrant think fast on his feet and seize opportunity quickly.


In 1898, Ike Katz settled in Kansas City, Mo., to open a fruit stand along Union Avenue. Soon his brother Mike came to Kansas City and opened a similar stand on Union Avenue, not far from Ike’s stand.


The two made a comfortable living peddling wares to railroad travelers coming through the Union Depot in the West Bottoms. The brothers, in 1914, expanded their operation by buying a storefront location in the Argyle building and another on the corner of Eighth and Grand Avenue.


The onset of WW I, however, brought a wartime curfew on businesses. The Katz brothers hired a pharmacist that allowed their “nonessential business” to remain open past the curfew in order for customers to procure their needed medications. The brothers also absorbed the newly imposed 10% tax on cigarettes, thus introducing their new tagline, “Katz pays the tax.”


In addition to the typical offerings of a drug store for the time such as a pharmacy, a small grocery and a soda fountain with a lunch counter, Katz stores also frequently sold home appliances, a large selection of records, Katz-branded beer, and even live animals at some locations.


The Katz brothers expanded quickly, pioneering the mass-market drug store chain that stores like CVS and Walgreens are modeled after today. The chain of between 65 and 70 stores in five states was sold to Skaggs in 1970 and then to Osco in the late 1980s, ultimately becoming CVS in the early 2000’s.


On March 18, 1930, the Katz family was the center of attention in Kansas City when Michael Katz was kidnapped just after he left his fashionable home on Ward Parkway. His Packard Sports Coupe was forced to the curb by two men in a Chrysler. One of the kidnappers jumped onto the running board of Katz’s car, struck him on the head and commandeered the vehicle after throwing a hood over Katz’s head.


Throughout the course of the day, the Katz family was instructed through a network of various crime associates to leave $100,000 cash wrapped in newspaper on the seat of a car to be parked on Reservoir Hill overlooking Cliff Drive. Two Katz associates did as instructed and as they walked away from the car with their eyes straight forward, heard a car approach, pause, then drive away. When they returned to the vehicle, the ransom money was gone.


Returning to the Sexton Hotel to await further instructions, a call came in to the switchboard at roughly 7:15 p.m. The voice on the other end of the call told them to go to the Concourse on Cliff Drive and park. “Your man is waiting for you there.”


Sexton Hotel Owner Louis Rose, along with other Katz associates, went to the Concourse and found Katz sitting under the Colonnade with the hood in his hand, unharmed. Although the ransom was paid with marked bills, the kidnapping has never been solved.


The stores sponsored a summertime baseball team in the local Ban Johnson leagues. Uniforms consisted of a navy blue ball cap featuring the famous Katz white cat logo and a grey jersey with “Katz” across the chest.


This week’s linen era postcard shows the Katz drug store at Westport Road and Main Street, complete with its black Katz sign and signature clock tower. Designed by prominent local architect and nephew of the Katz brothers Clarence Kivett it was built in 1934. The building is a classic example of the Art Deco style, popular throughout the country at the time.


The store has been vacant since 2006 and has been considered for a variety of uses over the years. Most recently, the City approved a developer’s proposal for tax breaks to turn the iconic Westport Road Katz location into luxury apartments after the threat of demolition loomed over the property.

Want Northeast News articles sent straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
Enter your email address and click on the Get Instant Access button.
We respect your privacy

Comments are closed.

  • Remember This?

    May 25th, 2022
    by

    Cartoons and cereal are a perfect match, especially when the spoon is decorated with your favorite character. The popularity of […]


    Snap, Crackle, Pop, Rice Krispies

    May 25th, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell This week we feature two postcard-like, ink blotter cards marketed by the Kellogg’s Cereal Company of Battle […]


    Remember This?

    May 18th, 2022
    by

    By Dorri Partain Floating along and holding the soap, Snoopy’s in the bathtub providing good, clean fun. Avon Products, Inc. […]


    Livestock Exchange Building stands as a testament to once proud Stockyard operation

    May 18th, 2022
    by

    By Micheal Bushnell About two years after the opening of the Hannibal Bridge over the Missouri River in 1869, the […]


    Remember This?

    May 11th, 2022
    by

    By Dorri Partain Only “three apples high,” these little blue men have grown in popularity since their first appearance in […]


    Great Flood displaces 22,000

    May 11th, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell This black and white photo postcard, published by the Southwest News Company of Kansas City, shows Union […]


    Remember This?

    May 4th, 2022
    by

    Dorri Partain Contributor Since its first issue in 1932, The Northeast News has been headquartered at several different addresses. Founding […]


    Old flower shop slated for newsroom as award-winning Northeast News transitions to non-profit business model

    May 4th, 2022
    by

    Michael BushnellPublisher Rose Marie Serrone opened her flower and gift shop in a single story Art Deco-style building in 1946 […]


  • Mount Washington Park still a gem

    April 27th, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell This postcard, published by the Webb-Freyschlag Mercantile Company, shows a peaceful view of Swan Lake in Mount […]


    Remember This?

    April 27th, 2022
    by

    By Dorri Partain Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle! Jelled desserts have come a long way since the 15th century, […]


    Let’s go see Kansas City!

    April 20th, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell “See Kansas City and know what you’re seeing,” states the description on the back of this Curt […]


    Remember This? Ecology Flag

    April 20th, 2022
    by

    By Dori Partain Creation of the Ecology Flag, the official flag for Earth Day, was truly a grassroots effort. The […]


    Nathan Scarritt, Melrose Methodist Church keys to early Northeast development

    April 13th, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell A far cry from its humble beginnings in 1887 as a tent, this week’s real photo postcard […]


    Remember this? Plaza Bunnies

    April 13th, 2022
    by

    By Dorri Partain Whether the photo is black and white or taken in today’s digital format, generations of Kansas City […]


    Remember This?

    April 6th, 2022
    by

    By Dorri Partain By today’s soft drink consumption standards, would a family size bottle only contain 24 ounces? As produced […]


    Private mailing cards a true work of art

    April 6th, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell As a public communication medium, postcards made their debut at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ill., in […]


    Remember This?

    March 30th, 2022
    by

    By Dorri Partain The Old Maid rockets into space with this version of the popular card game aimed at the Baby […]


    Camp Prairie Schooner – Still a destination for girls in Scouting

    March 30th, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell The description on the back of this real photo postcard describes Camp Prairie Schooner Girl Scout Camp […]


    Remember This?

    March 23rd, 2022
    by

    By Dorri Partain If you’re putting away your snow boots and getting your sneakers ready for spring, a pair of […]


    Colonnaded apartments a Kansas City icon

    March 23rd, 2022
    by

    By Michael Bushnell The Collinwood Apartments, located at 2501-2519 E. Linwood Blvd., were developed and built by William H. Collins […]


  • Faces Of Northeast


  • Postcard


  • Remember This?

    Remember This?

    March 15th, 2022
    by

  • Want articles sent directly to your inbox each week? Subscribe below!
    We respect your privacy and will not distribute your information.