Remembering Simon Kaplan

The founder and CEO of NJ-based Crest Furniture is remembered for his love of, and unflinching dedication to, the furniture industry, family and friends

MOUNTAINSIDE, N.J. — Simon Kaplan, a decorated World War II veteran who went from selling furniture door to door in New York to an industry icon leading the Top 100 Crest Furniture, died peacefully in his sleep here Jan. 13. He was 97.

Industry friends and associates were remembering Kaplan this week as a generous and genuine leader, one who loved the industry to its core, and a fighter to the end.  The founder and CEO of Dayton, N.J.-based Crest, doing business as Value City Furniture, Kaplan led the company from its start more than 50 years ago as a single store operation to the current network of 20 Value City Furniture and Ashley HomeStores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with sales of more than $100 million last year.

Simon Kaplan

“Simon was one of the smartest furniture retailers in America,” said Julie Feinblum, founder and chairman of Julius M. Feinblum Real Estate.

“He understood how to be an entrepreneur and run a very solid business. He had very strong principles and really understood the consumer,” added Feinblum, who knew Kaplan for more than 30 years. He loved the furniture industry. You would see him attending shows at a very (advanced) age, and he was active until the day he passed away.”

Mitch Keller, executive vice president of marketing and purchasing for Crest would attest to that. Recently, Crest’s executive team had convinced Kaplan to stay home two days a week because of the Covid pandemic, “but he was in three days a week and for the entire day,” Keller said. The news of his passing came as a shock.

“He was at work yesterday (Wednesday). We had our executive meeting, and he was sharp as a tack. Nothing was ailing him. “And by “sharp as a tack,” Keller said he doesn’t mean “for his age.” 

“I’m 63, and he remembers more about what happened in his life than I remember about mine. He could tell you stories about World War II that would just blow you away.”

Keller worked with Kaplan for 28 years. “Anybody who knows Simon knows that he loved this business. It was his whole life. This was his country for him.”

Among other things, Kaplan played an active role in the founding of Furniture Marketing Group, an industry buying group that today counts among its members many of the industry’s Top 100 furniture store retailers. 

Joe Cracolici, Crest executive vice president of administration and finance, who worked with Kaplan for nearly as long as Keller, noted how Kaplan was a follower of Edwards Deming, the renown engineer, professor, author and speaker credited with launching the “Total Quality Management” movement. Cracolici said Kaplan led all of the culture and orientation meetings for Crest’s new hires and ran the business, using Deming’s 14 principles for effective business transformation.

On LinkedIn, Crest noted Kaplan’s wartime service and how he was the recipient of numerous medals including the Purple Heart. In 2018 during the October High Point Market, he was honored by Ashley Furniture Inds., with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the industry.

Patrick Cory and Simon Kaplan

In Sept. 2011, about 400 industry friends gathered to pay tribute to Crest and Kaplan during a City of Hope dinner cruise around Manhattan that raised some $170,000 for the medical center with close ties to the furniture industry.

“He was as genuine a person as you could ever come across,” said Patrick Cory, former CEO of Cory Home Delivery, who was there for that tribute and considers Kaplan a mentor and friend.

“It was not only his generosity in dealing with people — his employees, his family — but in the way he cared about the industry and the way he gave back to the industry.

“He was a great man. That word gets thrown around a lot, but he was a great man.” 

Cory got to know Kaplan first through his father, the late Joe Cory, and said Kaplan’s insight into business and relationships was invaluable to him. 

“He really taught me about the value of relationships,” Cory said. “He believed in being honest and forthright with people. He was not a guy who ever tried to cut corners. There were no half measures with Simon. If he was going to do something, he was going to do it all the way, and his success proves that out.” 

Connie Post with Simon Kaplan. She sent him a framed copy of this photo for his office.

Connie Post, CEO of Connie Post Affordable Design Solutions, remembered how much Kaplan loved to dance and how his wife Annette never minded the two dancing at every industry dinner.

He was the most gracious, kind, funny and loving human being,’ she told Home News Now. “He will be missed by many in this industry.”

On LinkedIn, Crest said Kaplan “has proven himself on the battlefield and in the business world. The core values of honor, loyalty, truthfulness, commitment and dedication have defined his life and career.”

He is survived by daughter Karyn Kaplan and three grandchildren. The family is planning a private service. Crest will hold a celebration of Kaplan’s life at a date still to be determined.

“It will probably be at our distribution center,” Keller said, “which is right where he’d want it to be.”

Clint Engel

Clint Engel is a veteran home furnishings industry journalist and executive editor of Home News Now. Please share your feedback with him at

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One thought on “Remembering Simon Kaplan

  1. Clint,
    Thanks for writing this great story about a true industry icon. All of us “kids” who were lucky enough to work with Simon learned a lot. His legacy will love for a very long time in the values and actions of the many of us who he pushed, mentored and collaborated with. R.I.P Simon. We miss you.

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