Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cappy's World of Spirits

I've never actually been inside. I can't even tell you for sure if it's open for business -- butcher paper on the windows is always a bad sign. I can, however, try to describe some of the many ways I love this place...

First, it's not called Cappy's liquor store. Instead, it's the more ethereal "Cappy's World of Spirits." That sounds to me like you could go in and find Aleister Crowley behind the counter levitating as he rings up your bottle of Jack Daniels, and possibly a secret back door painted with a golden triangle or an eye of Horus. Next, the sign proffers general merchandise -- something vaguely quaint and 19th Century, and perfectly suited for our historic little town. It also promises gifts. But gifts in a World of Spirits store that also offers general merchandise sound like no gifts I've ever received. And why aren't any of them displayed in the window? Finally, it has that odd picture of the man in the hat. I assume the man is Cappy. I like not knowing whether or not the man is Cappy. Throw in those gorgeous old bricks and the cool street lamp and now you can see why I just had to take a picture.

I'm sure someone in the area has a story or two about Cappy's. I'd love to hear it.

31 comments:

My Life In Montreal said...

Thank you for your comment on my web site:) See you around.

sbuser said...

Now we have a mystery place in the wandering around in the back of our minds. You have stirred my imagination.

Meead S. said...

Nice B&W photo! Tell us the story if you found it.

Thanks Laurie for your visit and comment, I answered your question here:
http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=4947784621105861822&postID=3201948944917933824&isPopup=true

Virginia said...

This is what I call One Stop Shopping. Spirits, Gen. Merch. and your fine gifts. You gotta love it. Go on , knock on the door and see what's up!

Jutilda said...

I think you can get everything from tombstones to caps to a bottle of MD20/20 in there. Maybe a crystall ball and a potion to bring back a long lost lover. The black and white conversion just makes it that more mysterious and aged. What a great shot. Love the story behind it. (especially the part about levitating) %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% May Cappy live forever on some level or another.

Sharon said...

Great photo and your description of why you like this little place was perfect.

Eki Akhwan said...

That's an interesting picture, Laurie. And with that story, now you make me curious what we could find inside ... (visually that is). Would you venture inside and take pictures if you had a chance? :)

Jutilda said...

Heh, we need to satisfy eki's curiosity during my visit - let's check out the interior. :~)

Dixie Jane said...

I just love a place where you can buy a jug of booze and a bolt of calico. I left my horse tied up outside and shall venture inside. I find that I also need thread and a shoe horn. Love the photo and all the mystery.

USelaine said...

Delightful "cap"ture, Laurie. There are New Testament traditions of "spiritual gifts", and now we see Cappy could dispense them! Just drop on by, and leave with the ability to demonstrate compassion. Or to teach. Or to exhort. I'm in!

Lily Hydrangea said...

I very much enjoyed your great post Laurie.
You are full of keen observations, making it all the more interesting!

Laurie said...

Hi all,

You know, I almost don't want to go inside because I am certain the reality can not possibly compete with the fantasy I have created. I mean, if there isn't a portal to another dimension then I'm going to be seriously bummed out...

Judy and Dixie Jane -- MD 20/20 and a shoe horn. Now that's a kooky shopping list!

Lily, thank you!

And thank all of you for your comments.

Mister Earl said...

As a 25-year resident of South Pasadena, I believe that Cappy's has been closed for several years. It was an interesting place. It had everything you'd expect to find at a liquor store, and seemed to have a long history, with older people working behind the counter. The best thing about it was that the front window and many of the counters were havily populated with figurine-shaped liquor bottles that the liquor companies give to dealers as promos. There were hundreds of these all over the shop. I remember bottles in the shape of a railroad locomotive and several railroad cars in the front window. There were Jack Daniels bottles in the shape of Elvis, racing cars, pretty much anything you can name. As liquor stores go, it was a blast from the past. I don't know who Cappy is/was, but I'm sure some of the older townspeople knew him well.

Laurie said...

Mister Earl, thank you for the fantastic information! I can picture it from your description.

Mister Earl said...

Can you picture that many of the figurine bottles had not been dusted in a long while? ;-)

Mister Earl said...

Found this:
S.Cappy Capsuto
Formerly of Alhambra, Calif.
He was co-owner/operator of Cappy's World in South Pasadena
Died: June 5, 2008 in Shelbyville, Ky.
Age: 93
Born: Chicago
Wife: Elsie May Thurston Capsuto, deceased
Son: Kenny Capsuto, deceased
Daughters: Kathy Capsuto of Shelbyville, Holly Hawk of Alhambra

Laurie said...

My goodness... I'm going to have to do a Cappy's update post. This is amazing information and I really appreciate you for sharing it.

Mister Earl said...

If we really wanted to dig into this, we could contact Cappy's daughter, Holly Hawk, in Alhambra!

Mister Earl said...

http://web1.lovinghonors.com/cgi-bin/CompanyInternal?stdout+116+webbfuneralhome.com+102+4+1112

The above link will give you a photo of Cappy in his later years. Is he the man in the hat?

Trish said...

Agree with earl---the place was closed some time ago. It was a little place (my memory suggests Fosselman's was next door or nearby for a while?!?) with a lot of character, just about any odd item related to a liquor store, you could purchase there. Kids were afraid to go in because we were not allowed to drink, so theoretically, not allowed in, or so legend went. Most of us were not interested in attempting to test the theory. Ironically, Cappy's used to sponsor a girls softball team. Then again, the old "Salt Shaker Restaurant" used to sponsor too (any wonder why they are no longer in biz?).

Great pic, keep 'em coming!

Mister Earl said...

Stopped by Cappy's today. The man in the hat IS Cappy! There's an obituary notice taped inside the window, which means that although the store has been closed for years, the family or someone who knew Cappy must still own the building. There is also a grungy looking plaque in the window bearing the seal of the South Pasadena Police Department showing the date 1980.

A friend of mine told me he was at a garage sale years ago and saw a calendar with a photo of Marilyn Monroe on it. The calendar said "Cappy's Liquor" or "Cappy's World of Spirits" but the address was in El Sereno, a part of Los Angeles not far from South Pas. So Cappy's may originally have been located in El Sereno.

Calendars of Marilyn Monroe, grungy Police Department plaques... such was Cappy's.

pasadenaadjacent said...

I knew his granddaughter Cathy. She had a horse down at San Pasqual stables back when it was run by the Wartzes (and went by the same name) Back then, young girls could afford the board on baby sitting money.

DINOSAUR CHRONICLES said...

Cappy's. In the 60's high school kids would get their kegs there for parties and it was right across the street from the police station! You have to love the irony.

John said...

It was a marvelous place, and a fond memory. In fact, I found your page because I was searching specifically on Cappy's.

I used to live on the border between S. Pas. and Alhambra in the late '70's, sharing a house with other young adults just out of college, one way or another. And we threw a lot of parties: you can justify almost one a month if you have a good venue and put your mind to even the minor holidays. And each of them involved a trip to Cappy's.

Not just for the staple well booze, which might have been cheaper at Ralph's, just down the street, or at the run of the mill liquor store halfway to Ralph's.

No, what justified the trip to Cappy's was the shopping experience. Our mission was not just to repair the devastation our friends had wreaked on our stock, but to find, for each party, some new treasure. Something no one could expect. It was an imperative, and Cappy never disappointed.

Carribean Cane liquor. Polish Alcohol (that was the label: this was 175 proof, you would have had to add water to get vodka). Essence of Burning Village (thats what we called it, the label was all in chinese, and the name evoked the taste and effect). Potato vodka steeped with buffalo grass. I still have many of those bottles, their contents enjoyed or evaporated over the years.

But the reason I decided to write was the collectors' editions. The place was overrun with them. It was part of what made the treasure hunting fun. We used to joke that it had to be a combined effort: he never turned down a salesman with a bottle to sell, no matter how strange, and she never met a ceramic she didn't like.

Those hundreds of Elvises (Elvii ??), John Waynes, bears, trucks, and all the rest were actually "collectable" bottles, each full of some variant of the demon rum (well technically, almost exclusively bourbon). And they were, in some weird way, inventory, awaiting the cutomer whom destiny had in mind. A lot of those customers apparently couldn't read destiny's handwriting on the directions to Cappy's, unfortunately.

Yes, there was a lot of dust, especially on the stuff on the high shelves, almost like a little balcony of their own for the biggest and gaudiest, if memory serves. But there was a lot of dust on many of the gems we mined from between them as well, down on the low shelves, out of sight and mind.

Thanks for stoking the memories, and providing a place to share them.

SewJoe said...

On a couple occasions, we dropped in to pick-up racing forms at Cappy's on the way to Santa Anita. It was just as Mr. Earl said.

RyeNoel said...

To this day I refer to it as simply the liquor store. I love the rustic, old time feel it has, inside and out. It was where I spent the majority of my childhood. My older sister and i would wander around the store, being little nuisances to the customers, or entertainment if need be. We would watch the business below from the balcony, and come down to greet the regulars, ask if they brought us any treats. I remember one guy always brought in two huge great danes, whom I eagerly played with; another bicyclist brought me chocolated ice cream from the pharmacy on the corner. My mom, Holly, and grandpa, Cappy, seemed to know most of those who came in. The comprehension I had of the store was a place where mommy and papa's friends came to visit and laugh, and for some reason left with a brown bag. Never did I know of its contribution to parties and whatnot.. I miss the smell of the tobacco/cigar room, as well as the cool feeling in the wine cellar.
It's been almost a decade since we've closed, and it may be forgotten by many, but my grandpa's old store remains an enchanting place in my seven-year old memories.
I love this picture, by the way. You capture it's essence perfectly, so thank you.

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Clement Joshua said...

I worked at Cappys in the late 1980's. I needed a job, I was between jobs at the time, and Cappy hired me with a handshake. Little did I know what I was in for. The basement was stocked high with liquor cases, some from the 1950's and maybe earlier. Keepsakes, trinkets, last minute gifts. The people that worked there, Cappy, his wife Elsie, Wally, Tom, Dennis Cappy himself had such an influence on me and my life. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't find myself using language, gestures that he passed on to me, whether that was his intent or not. A most personable and kind man and giving man. It was supposed to be a job to hold me over until something else came along. Even after getting hired with a new job, I stayed to work at Cappys after getting off of my "real" job. I stayed almost 4 years. I will miss that man and have so much to thank him for.

Laurie said...

Thank you so much for this message, Clement! I am going to cut and paste and put it over on the Glimpses of South Pasadena Community Forum. (Look at the Community Tab at the top of the page!) I've always wondered about who worked there ... now I can say I know! :-)

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