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Primary Resources on Jewish History in Arizona and the Southwest

Capin Family Business Records (MS 626) Previously listed as (SJA 05)

About this collection

Capin Family Business Records consists of business records, ephemera, photographs (some framed), paste-ups and advertising, and newspaper articles relating to the Capin family, the Capin Mercantile Corporation, and its predecessors.

This collection is part of the Southwest Jewish Archives. The Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives were founded by David A. and Leona G. Bloom, longstanding members of Tucson’s business, religious, and social service communities. The Archive serves to highlight Jewish contributions to Tucson and surrounding southwest areas. This collection was previously SJA 005. The materials were transferred to Special Collections in 1998.

Historical background

Hyman Capin (nee Kapinski), was born in Ponevezh, Lithuania, in 1874. He was the son of a tailor and served as an apprentice to his father. In 1886, he and his family emigrated to Manchester, England, then one of the clothing capitals of the world. In 1892, when he was 18, Hyman emigrated to the United States. Seven years later, he became a United States citizen. Hyman Capin settled in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where some of the Capin family had preceded him. It was there he met Dora Loon and married her in 1896. He worked as a tailor for several years. In the early 1900s Dora became ill, and the doctor advised that they move west to a drier climate. In 1906, the Capin family, now numbering seven, moved to Tucson, Arizona. Here Hyman worked as a tailor and eventually operated a dry cleaning establishment.

Troubles on the United States and Mexico border brought military troops into Texas and New Mexico. In 1913, the Capin family moved to El Paso, Texas, to take advantage of Hyman's expertise as a military tailor. He opened shop and began to make military uniforms. In 1916 Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico and President Woodrow Wilson sent General Pershing and his soldiers in pursuit. As Columbus increased in size, Hyman took advantage of the activity there. In 1918 he opened a branch tailoring and clothing store and placed his son-in-law, Harry Chernin, in charge. When General Pershing failed to capture Pancho Villa, the military units in Columbus were withdrawn.

In 1919 the Capin family moved to Nogales, Arizona where there was another military camp. He and his prospering young family opened a tailoring business where he employed forty tailors. As exclusive tailor for Camp Stephen D. Little, Hyman Capin designed a basic uniform pattern that could be adjusted to fit all sizes. One hundred people were then employed by Capin to take care of handmade work.

The Capins bought their first retail store, S. Leeker Dry Goods, in Nogales, Arizona in 1922, which was later renamed Capin's Department Store. In 1924, they purchased a second store in Nogales called La Ville de Paris from Charles Dumazert. In 1925, Hyman Capin, three sons, and two sons-in-law purchased a retail location in El Paso, Texas, from Stolaroff Dry Goods. This became the Boston Store. In 1934, the family purchased I. Schwarz Department Store in Texarkana, Texas. Both of the Texas stores were closed in the 1930s during the Depression. Hyman Capin retired in 1931, and died four years later in Tucson.

His family continued to manage the business affairs, and Capin's Department Stores incorporated in 1949, as the Capin Mercantile Corporation. In 1960, Capin's expanded their retail business in Nogales, with an additional store, the Parisian. In 1967 they purchased Robinson's Hardware Store in Nogales, and in 1968 the family opened the Duty Free Warehouse. The duty free business was expanded in 1969 by opening another store in San Luis, Arizona. In 1971 the Capin family continued their retail expansion by opening a Capin's store in Douglas, Arizona. They also built and opened the Americana Motor Hotel in Nogales. In 1973, another Parisian store opened in Douglas, and a new location was opened in Nogales called Capin's Annex. In 1975, a Capin's Annex was opened in Douglas as well.

A major devaluation of the Mexican peso occurred in 1976 and the Capins expanded into other markets. In the late 1970s the Capins diversified by adding two stores in Phoenix, Arizona, one of which eventually became the Factory 2-U divisions. In 1982 another major peso devaluation negatively impacted border merchants. At this time, Factory 2-U was growing rapidly, with over thirty outlets throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. To accommodate its expansion, a 220,000 square foot corporate office and distribution center was built in Nogales, at a cost of approximately 7 million dollars. In 1995, amidst another peso devaluation and the effects of NAFTA, the Capin Mercantile Corporation sold their Factory 2-U stores to Family Bargain Corporation for $1.8 million.