Baltimore restaurateurs Lenny and Gail Kaplan


May 19, 2007|By Jacques Kelly

Preakness Saturday used to be a hectic workday for veteran Baltimore restaurateurs Lenny and Gail Kaplan.

It still is for Gail, whose father, Leon Shavitz, co-owned the old Pimlico Hotel. Gail will be managing a private party today for the catering business where she works.

"I'm 67 now, and I still like to work," Gail said one day this week. "It came from my father. I have a need to please people."

Her husband, Lenny, who is fully retired, might play a little basketball or read a newspaper from cover to cover. He also is on the board of TurnAround, a rape crisis center in Towson.

The two Kaplans were each fixtures on the Baltimore restaurant scene for decades - Lenny since his 1959 marriage to Gail. Gail was born into it - her father co-owned Nate's and Leon's on West North Avenue before taking on the Pimlico Hotel.

Both of them were at the old Pimlico (despite its name, really a Park Heights restaurant that later moved to Pikesville), then at their stylish Polo Grill in North Baltimore or Lenny's Chop House in the Inner Harbor or at their catering businesses. On New Year's Eve 2002, Lenny decided it was time to retire. Gail remains in the hospitality industry at Classic Catering.

What else fills their days? Gail has her 97-year-old mother, Minna Shavitz, and then there are the six grandchildren.

And in all their years in Baltimore, Lenny Kaplan has attended only one Preakness. Gail says she has never made it there.

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