PITTSTON — If you live or work in greater Pittston, chances are you’ve driven on William Street literally thousands of times. While traveling on this very busy street, it’s hard not to notice a very large gray building known as the Duchess Outlet.
The Duchess Outlet at 75 William St. has been a retail store for many decades and, if you’ve never stopped in to shop, you may have been pleasantly surprised at all the merchandise sold there. In fact, Duchess Outlet may be Pittston City’s greatest secret.
Before it became home to the Duchess Outlet, the original building, built in the last 1870s, was four times larger than the existing structure. It extended from William Street to Broad Street, housing Pittston Stove Works where stoves were manufactured and shipped all over the world.
Pittston Stove Works eventually succumbed to a devastating fire in 1950 that destroyed a third of the building, ending a legacy of the internationally known premiere stove manufacturing company.
After lying dormant and empty for six years, the building was purchased by Pittston business owners Sam and Theresa Caprari in 1956 where they set up shop as leaders in the garment industry, producing clothing while employing as many as 150 workers.
“They had 150 people cutting all the material and manufacturing the clothing and my grandmother sold the items on the retail side,” Julio Caprari said of his grandparents’ business.
As fate would have it, fire struck again in the 1970s, destroying the clothing factory portion of the building. It was decided that rebuilding to produce clothing was not an option, so the Capraris reopened the remaining third of the building as a clothing outlet, the same third that stands today.
Sam’s son Paul Sr., along with Paul’s wife Paula, took over the family business in the early 1980s, introducing London Fog raincoats and other name-brand suits and sports coats.
In 1984, Paula took an interest in selling collectible dolls, namely Madame Alexander Dolls, as well as heirloom quality doll furniture and accessories.
Over the years, Duchess Outlet won many honors and awards in the doll industry. It received the “Outstanding Retailer of the Year Award” by Doll Reader Magazine and “Diamond Retailer of the Year Award” by Alexander Company, an award that recognizes excellence in customer service and selection of Madame Alexander dolls.
In 2010, Duchess Outlet opened a doll museum, displaying thousands of dolls on two floors, featuring primarily Madame Alexander Dolls. The following year, Paul Jr. and Julio launched an online point-of-sales site (www.duchessoutlet.com), offering heirloom quality toys and collectibles.
Over the last several years, Duchess Outlet became the distributor for many companies, selling everything from outdoor pavilions, pergolas, gazebos and just about any outdoor furniture you may be in the market for, to swing sets, trampolines, bounce houses, waterslides and, don’t forget, clothing.
When the Capraris’ sons, Paul Jr. and Julio, became the third-generation members of the family to enter the business, Paula decided to retire in the ‘90s.
With Paul Jr. and Julio fully involved in day-to-day business, the family decided to renovate the building in 2014, painting the exterior, replacing windows and expanding the sales floor by 3,600 sq. ft.
In addition to two floors of men’s and women’s clothing, Duchess Outlet introduced Anchor Uniform, specializing in American-made fireman and emergency personnel black raincoats.
“We carry the same raincoats that are used by the firemen and police officers in New York City,” Paul Sr. said. Pittston City firefighters have also purchased the same outerwear from the Capraris.
Duchess Outlet is an authorized retailer of Hansa Toys, Folkmanis Puppets, Kidkraft and Backyard Discovery, the largest residential swing-set manufacturer in the United States.
This past year, Pittston Stove Antiques was created by Paul Jr., an antiques collector, who claims to have competitive pricing where you can find plenty of Pittston-related items.
“We get new items in daily,” he said, regarding the businesses’s antique selections. “People would be surprised with my pricing on the antiques; our items are very reasonable.” He plans to expand the antiques business over the next few years.
Duchess Outlet is unique and distinctive. Where else can you find an doll museum, a display of Pittston Stoves, rare Pittston artifacts, antiques and high-quality clothing discounted with up to 60% off manufacturer’s retail prices under one roof?
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at email@example.com.