Stanley B. Caplen, 84, of Blue Bell, former owner-operator of one of the nation’s largest food service supply and equipment companies, died Thursday, Jan. 23, of pancreatic cancer at his home.
Born in South Philadelphia and raised in Oak Lane, he was the son of Harry A. and Gertrude S. Caplen. He joined the family business after graduating from Central High School.
In 1929, Harry Caplen founded National Products Co. on North Second Street in Old City. The firm, which sold food service equipment to restaurants, hotels, and club bars, grew to encompass most of a city block.
In its heyday in the 1970s and ’80s, the firm employed more than 100 workers. In 1995, it had $12.6 million in sales, according to Dun & Bradstreet.
“My grandfather was a pioneer and one of the hardest workers I ever met,” said Larry Caplen, Stanley Caplen’s son and the founder’s grandson. “Stanley … followed that tradition until 1996, when the company closed.”
Mr. Caplen joined the company in the early 1950s, and learned the business from the ground up, working his way from salesman to vice president to president. For many years, he was the firm’s top salesman.
“He was loved by all his clients,” his son said. “He just had the gift of gab and the intelligence of knowing what they needed and wanted.”
Operating in Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware, Mr. Caplen sold equipment and food service supplies to the Four Seasons Hotel, the Warwick, the Bellevue-Stratford’s Hunt Room, and the Kite and Key Room at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel.
He furnished kitchen equipment for Old Original Bookbinder’s, Le Bec-Fin, City Tavern, the Union League, the Locust Club, the Vesper Club, and the William Penn Inn in Gwynedd.
Other clients were the Flyers, the Eagles, the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University, Campbell Soup Co., and Aramark.
Mr. Caplen made many friends through his work, and, wanting to show his appreciation for their patronage, supported numerous charities, his family said in a statement. In the 1970s, he donated an entire kitchen to the Golden Slipper, a Bala Cynwyd nonprofit organization, for a camp in the Poconos.
In 1996, beset by an intra-family feud over Harry Caplen’s estate, mounting debts, tax liens, and an inability to obtain a large-enough line of credit to meet its obligations, National Products shut down, The Inquirer reported at the time.
Mr. Caplen was an honorary life member of Equity Lodge No. 591 and a 32nd-degree Mason. He loved boating at the New Jersey Shore, attending Eagles and Flyers games with his children, and spending time with his grandchildren.
In addition to his son, he is survived by Barbara Geiger Caplen, his wife of 57 years; a son, Neil; a daughter, Jill Schecter; six grandchildren; and a sister.