Family legend has it that Russian Czar Nicholas II was hot on the heels of the Anapolskies when the clan’s grandmother shepherded the children out of the country.
The situation was much the same for other Jewish families in 1904 Russia. On Tuesday, descendants of the immigrants, who settled in Sacramento, celebrated the longevity of a downtown business that has remained in the family for more than 100 years.
Three generations of brothers, as well as a wife-husband team, have run the business for the last century. The business has changed over the years to become Sacramento’s oldest family-operated pawn shop, California Loan & Jewelry Co. The current owners, brothers Larry and Warren Anapolsky, raffled away $30,000 in diamonds and gold Tuesday afternoon as the culmination of a year-long celebration.
"I’m very proud that my grandfather could start a business that today we are still running," said Warren Anapolsky, standing in the shop at 916 J St. "It’s a very important tradition for me that we are able to carry this on."
In 1904, Leah Anapolsky led seven grandchildren to New York. Mystery surrounds the fate of the parents, who never left Europe. A small yet solid woman, Anapolsky told her oldest grandson, David, to go as far west as he could, find a place for the family and send for them, Larry Anapolsky said.
Then in his 20s, David Anapolsky considered San Francisco, then headed to Sacramento. Most of the family were tailors. Anapolsky opened a tailoring business in 1906 and slowly sent money to bring the others west.
"He found this was the best place to start up a clothing business," said Larry Anapolsky, 59. "It was a new frontier."
Three years later, twins William and Joseph Anapolsky opened a used merchandise store, New York Second Hand Store, at 1014 Third St., near what is now known as Old Sacramento.
"It wasn’t Old Sacramento then," laughed Larry Anapolsky. "That was Sacramento."
An old photo of the first store shows their grandfather William in the doorway and a storefront sign advertising "Hats, Clothing, Shoes & Gents Furnishings, BOUGHT and SOLD." Another sign proclaims, "Revolvers a Specialty."
"In those days, the true, old second-hand stores dealt with everything from Timex watches and razors to pocket watches and suitcases. Virtually anything that had value," Larry Anapolsky said. "It would almost be a store that was the equivalent to a flea market."
In 1922, the twins’ brother Julius opened a men’s outfitter or "haberdashery" called Julius Clothing, also still in the family. Others later opened Capitol Clothing, which is not still run by the family, said Warren Anapolsky, 60.
In the mid-1940s, the second-hand store also began operating as a pawn shop, loaning money to people with goods for collateral, unless the loan and interest were paid back within a deadline. From 1942 to 1964, the family sold many goods to Mexican immigrants coming to work in the region under the Bracero Program.
William and Joseph both died in 1947. William’s sons, Sol and Milton, took over the store and renamed it California Loan and Jewelry Co. The boys’ father and their Uncle Milton continued to sell "everything under sun" and offer more pawned-goods loans. Sol’s wife, Bernice (mother to Larry and Warren), joined day-to-day operations after Milton died in 1952.
The only robbery the brothers could recall almost ended their father’s life. In 1961, Sol Anapolsky was shot twice in the doorway as he tried to flee during the crime. Witnesses followed the gunman and tipped police off to his location, and Anapolsky survived.
The store moved three times to various locations on K and J streets, before settling across from Cesar Chavez Plaza, where it still sits. The store shares the block with another pawn shop, taco and teriyaki spots, a Christian Science Reading Room on one end and the redeveloped Citizen Hotel on the other.
Today, more than 90 percent of the merchandise is jewelry — new, consigned, pawned or reset. Their father sent both boys to the Gemological Institute of America as they got involved in the store about 40 years ago. Electronics such as stereos, clocks and transistor radios were slowly phased out, as were other goods that became obsolete, including typewriters and cameras.
"We look at things that have value, and if we think we can sell it later on, we’ll take it," Warren Anapolsky said. "Every pawn shop finds its own niche. We’ve been lucky to find our niche with jewelry."
The front of the shop is filled with jewelry for sale in glass cases. Guitars, which have always been a strong seller, line one wall. A back storage area holds items in pawn. A dark and drafty basement holds a Corvette, a Porsche and a black 1906 Studebaker physician’s buggy acquired two years ago.
Over the years, the shop has taken in and sometimes sold exotic and pricey items. Those include books, such as a rare copy of "Songs of Innocence," hand-written and illustrated by William Blake and later sold for $500,000 at Sotheby’s; a Renoir painting; and a 1973 Miami Dolphins Superbowl ring, Warren Anapolsky said.
Their father worked in the shop until his death in 1979, and their mother until well into her 80s. She stopped working only days before her death in 1999.
The shop is poised to be taken on by a new generation when the time comes. Larry’s and Warren’s children — three girls — haven’t shown an interest. But a young cousin, 24-year-old Adam Anapolsky, has been working in the store in his free time since he was 13. A recent graduate of UC Santa Barbara, he is now working there full time. He said he would feel "a lot of pride" to be able to continue the family business now being taught to him.
Warren and Larry said their family has passed down a tradition of integrity in business.
"We treat customers the way we want to be treated — with honesty and fairness," Warren Anapolsky said. "For a business to last 100 years, you have to have a lot of those elements."