Katz Drug Store, Kansas City, 1935
Isaac ‘Ike’ Katz and his brother Mike were entrepreneurs in America’s pharmacy business, pioneering the business model that combines the practice of dispensing medical drugs with grocery services that pharmacies still use today.
Ike emigrated from Ukraine in 1892 with his family to St Paul, Minnesota, and at the age of 13 dropped out of school to earn a living. He sold items like newspapers, straw mats and blankets to passengers on the Northern Railroad –and cleverly collected the discarded items to re-sell to the next passengers that came through town. A young businessman was born.
In his early 20s, he and his brother moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and opened fruit stands. When the city inaugurated its Union Station in 1914, the brothers opened two cigar stores nearby.
After WW1 was declared in 1917, America went on a war footing and, to get around federal laws that mandated the closing of all stores at 6pm - except drug stores – the Katzes hired a pharmacist, stocked up with medicines and continued with their business.
During the 1920s, Katz Drug Co expanded into a chain of stores, filling prescriptions, selling grocery staples and even exotic items like alligators and monkeys. This ‘pet’ trade would be banned today, of course.
In 1934, during The Great Depression, the brothers opened a new drug store in a specially commissioned building in the central business district of Kansas City, at Main Street and Westport Road.
The art deco building and clock tower was designed by architect Clarence Kivett, a nephew of the brothers, and the company’s logo – a black cat wearing a bow tie and a play on the Katz name – was displayed on a large sign above the building.
In the 1950s Ike’s son Earl took control of the business and Katz Drug Co chain of stores grew to $100 million sales volume annually. In the 1970s, it merged with Skaggs Drug Co.
The iconic Katz building has been placed on the Kansas City Register of Historic Places and plans are underway to build apartments above and around the much-loved building that is a permanent reminder of the ingenuity and work ethic of the Katz brothers.
This menu is dated March 5, 1935, and offers coffee at 5c a cup, sandwiches at 20c or 25c and ‘Genuine Chinese Chop Suey' at 25c a plate. From the Soda Fountain, there was the Katz Special Sundae at 15c and a Jumbo Ice Cream Soda for 15c.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.