The whole Red-Kap crew in 1934 including Hy Kaplan, Harry Kaplan and Olney Redmond, seen holding the microphone.

 

In 1910, the Kaplan family embarked on a journey from Belarus to America in search of the American Dream. Initially settling in Brooklyn, NY, the family moved after five years to a farm in the in the hamlet of Arkville, New York, nestled in the western Catskill Mountains. Passed down through the generations is the tale of the family surviving their first long-cold winter only by eating frozen apples and what their one cow produced. It was fortunate that they survived.   In the following years, the young Kaplan brothers, Harry and Hyman came to develop a close relationship with their neighbor, Olney Redmond. Redmond lived in Schenectady, NY, but vacationed in Arkville where he was born and raised. At that time (from 1913-1916) Redmond sold secondhand cars as a Ford representative, and later became a Chevrolet dealer for Schenectady County. Little did the Kaplan brothers know then, but Olney Redmond was going to play a pivotal role in helping the boys realize the American Dream.

Hyman and Harry were hard workers and dedicated students. Olney noticed. When the brothers were in high school, Olney made a promise to both of the boys. If they graduated from school, and were accepted into Union College he would hire them to work for him so that the could pay the tuition. The brothers accepted the offer and worked 44 hours per week for 40 cents per hour until they graduated from college. Harry, being three years older than Hy, was the first to take the offer. Hy soon followed.

During this time, Redmond created O. Redmond, Inc. and owned the first drive-in gas station in America. He claimed the world's record for the sale of gasoline in one day of 33, 339 gallons during a special promotional offer. Even by today's standards, that is outstanding. Upon graduation in 1925, Harry was brought on as inside marketing manager, and in 1928, Hyman joined as salesman, working on commission only. In 1933, Olney Redmond formed Red-Kap (Redmond-Kaplan) and gave Harry the title of Vice President, and also made Harry a minority sharholder. While the brothers had an amicable working relationship, around that same time, Harry noticed that Hyman was making a lot more money than him through his commissioned sales position. He decided it might be more fair to bring Hyman in as a shareholder. He sold Hyman 50% of his shares of Red-Kap.

From the same day in 1934. Olney Redmond is holding the microphone and Harry Kaplan on his right.

 

Having no heirs of his own, Mr. Redmond agreed over time to sell his shares to Harry and Hyman. Fifteen years later, they became the primary shareholders of Red-Kap. The company's focus was on gasoline, fuel oil and lubricants. In 1953, Red-Kap sold their fuel oil business, and put their energy behind building the gasoline business.

In 1956, Hy's son Fred came to work for the company after attending Colgate University. He was responsible for sales, calling on service station dealer accounts. Red-Kap invested the funds received from selling the fuel business back into the company, and purchased more gas stations, building the wholesale business under the Atlantic brand.

At a Colgate reunion in 1961, Fred met up with an old schoolmate who worked for Texaco. It was then that Red-Kap decided to switch its ten service station accounts from the regional Atlantic brand to the national Texaco brand. Also, to compliment the lubricant division, the company added automotive accessories such as tires, batteries, fan belts, spark plugs to it’s offering. Simultaneously, Red-Kap was building their commercial lubricant business.

When Fred started with the company, it had two trucks. One, a tractor trailer, which delivered 4,500 gallons of gas. The other, a rack truck, with a 700 gallon tank, but it could only hold 695 gallons of gas, as the tank was dented. The retail price of a gallon of gas averaged around 25.9¢ a gallon --that is unless there was a price war or special promotion, when the cost for a gallon could go as low as 15¢.

 

Original station decorated for the holidays.  If you look closely you can see Hy Kaplan filling his car with gas.

 

In 1967, Harry Kaplan was quoted in the No. 2 edition of the Texaco Wholesaler, "We haven't had a closed station in years, and I can truthfully say that in 30 years we haven't lost a single dealer we've wanted to keep. It's a record we're proud of, especially since hardly a day goes by that some competitor doesn't approach one of our dealers.

"At the risk of sounding conceited," Kaplan continues, "I think I can say Red-Kap Sales is probably the toughest company in the world to take a dealer away from."

Taking on this legacy of success, in 1971, Harry's nephew, Fred became president, and was responsible for the day-today management of the company and its ten employees.

The 70s proved to be a challenging time for Red-Kap because of the gas shortages, which led to long lines, fear and uncertainty, and OPEC price escalations. As a Texaco distributor, Red-Kap developed a close working relationship with Tony Famiano, who at the time was employed by Texaco as its area manager. Hearing rumblings that Texaco may be moving its business out of New York State, Tony made it known to the Red-Kap that he would very much like to work for them. In 1978, he officially joined the firm as sales manager. Shortly thereafter, Texaco formally announced that the company was leaving New York State, along with many other brandname suppliers. While this was not very good news, Red-Kap saw it as an opportunity, and Tony and Fred went about acquiring new businesses. It took three more years before Texaco wrapped up its business in New York, and in 1981, Red-Kap signed with Gulf Oil and bought an Amoco Distributorship to secure the Amoco brand.

 

Olney Redmond’s station setting a world record by selling 33,339 gallons of gasoline in one day.

 

Shortly after re-branding its dealer accounts to Gulf and Amoco, both companies decided to leave the State as well. But this bump in the road didn't slow Red-Kap down. Citgo was making a bold business move to market its gas only through distributors. It was in a high-growth mode and looking for companies just like Red-Kap to partner with. As far as Red-Kap is concerned, Citgo helped pave the way for them during a time of uncertainty. Thus began a solid relationship between the two companies that has stood the test of time. This relationship continues to this day.

The third generation of Kaplans joined the firm in 1984. After attending Hobart College, Jon Kaplan did exactly what his father and father's father had done before him--he became a salesman for Red-Kap. In 1985 Mobil approached Red-Kap to become a brand distributor, and Red-Kap agreed. For the next decade, the company experienced dynamic growth through this relationship with Mobil.

The motor oil and accessories business units were sold in 1993 in order for the company to concentrate on the wholesale gasoline business, which remains to be the largest segment of red-Kap’s business to this day.

Red-Kap entered the retail business in 2001, opening its first retail store in Schodack, and today its operates a chain of five stores. It then opened its first car wash facility in Schenectady, NY to add diversification into the mix.  They now operate a chain of three car washes.

Today, Fred Kaplan is Chairman of the Board, Tony Famiano is President and CEO, and Jon Kaplan is Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. The Company has 60+ employees and sells more than 60 million gallons of gasoline and diesel annually. Red-Kap is well-positioned to continue the tradition of success -- from its two trucks which barely held 6,200 gallons of gas to its fleet of five 12,000 gallon trucks, from one service station to a chain of retail C-stores, and more than 60 wholesale customers. You can say the company has done very well indeed.