NYC KLEPPER STORE GONE AFTER 38 YEAR REIGN
The closing of the NYC Union Square Store!
This webzine as well as many of us (maybe even you) would not be paddling today if it wasn't for Hans Klepper's Folding Kayak, the Klepper store in Union Square, NYC or the consistant efforts of Dieter Stiller, Klepper's #1 salesman and mentor to a generation of kayakers.
This article is a reminder to many of us of our start in a sport that would encompass our lives. For the new kayakers out there, share a bit of our memories as we shift back to the closing of a landmark in the history of sea kayaking.
by Robert Huszar
On April 7, at approximately 8pm, Dieter Stiller drove away in his tightly-packed van, leaving an empty store behind.
For those not living in the area and who have never had the pleasure, Klepper wasn’t a business, but a loose, extended family; related not by blood, but by a passion for the crafted excellence of their folding kayaks. But ultimately, the boat was only part of the bond. The glue that held it all together was Dieter and his dedication to his customers and his passion for his product.
Klepper was never a place where you could just drop in for a piece of equipment. Inevitably, even the shortest visit would snowball into several long, fact-filled and engrossing conversations, either with the Klepper staff or the equally fascinating customers, who all had their ideas and stories to share.
Living only a few blocks away, I was blessed with many opportunities to drop in and chat. I learned much from those visits and I’d like to think I even sold a few boats (being an enthusiast, it was always a joy to regale some prospective customers with kayaking adventures).
The Klepper Store is Presently a successful Mini-Brewery !!!
Now the store is empty and a 34-year legacy has moved on, leaving everyone it touched sadder for its departure. But Klepper was always an exciting place and remained so, even during the emotional trauma of the move.
Working with Neil Hoyte were George Perkins, Al Ysaguirre and myself spent a pretty incredible week and a half helping Dieter sort through his treasure-chest basement of spare parts, catalogues and memorabilia, getting an education in the obscure and soon-to-be-forgotten fleet of Klepper boats.
Before the Klepper dealership, the present location hosted a bowling ally demonstration firm and before that a restaurant. Left in the basement from the restaurant were 3 huge walk-in coolers, perfect for storing the beautiful mahogany parts of the Tradewind, the Master, along with numerous parts of the Klepper ‘Edsel,’ the heavy and unmanageable Aerius 20. So many of these finely crafted wooden parts, however, were obsolete.
Many handcrafted parts ended up in a dumpster !!!
Consequently, those that didn’t find homes or weren’t shipped back to Germany were consigned to the dumpster, along with a few torn and beaten Tradewind and Master hulls and a mountain of dated literature. Of course, junking such riches was enough to make any aficionado’s heart ache. So much so that, afterwards, when the nightly load was safely on its way to Jersey, we would rummage like children through the dumpster, much to the amusement of the patrons of the posh restaurant immediately adjacent.
“If there was only more time,” someone would inevitably say as they unearthed some treasure or another, “maybe we wouldn’t have to throw all this out.” But there wasn’t time and in the end we filled two huge dumpsters and when they were hauled away, those magnificent parts were gone forever.
To Dieter, Karen, Eric, and the ever helpful Neil Hoyte, may your next 34 years be as rich as the riches you have bestowed on your friends and customers during your first 34 years.
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