So, I was walking back to my car from the Best of Tampa Bay food orgy at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center on Saturday night when I noticed what sounded like a huge, thundering explosion and a cloud of illuminated dust coming from downtown.
Great, I thought. Someone else has flown into a building downtown.
I followed the noise to North Franklin Street and found this scene:
It was the old Maas Brothers department store being torn down. Finally.
After the store closed in 1991, the 89-year-old building sat abandoned as downtown withered to what it is now. People have haggled over whether to refurbish it, but condo developers who originally bought it to restore the building have instead decided to build a 33-story condo.
I grew up with Maas Brothers in downtown St. Petersburg (where the International Museum is now) and at Tyrone Square Mall (Where Macy's is now, I think) but never made it to this one. I liked the one in downtown St. Pete because it had a great restaurant that overlooked the main sales floor and it also had a basement with a toy department - and no one in Florida had a basement, much less one with toys in it.
More Maas memories: Salad Wife bought her wedding dress at the Maas at Westshore, I believe. I had a girlfriend in school who worked at the cosmetics counter at the Tyrone Store. One of my cousins did, too. Salad Mother-In-Law told me yesterday that the store in downtown Tampa had an old, wood escalator and that she'd go to the store for lunch. When I'd ride my bike downtown last year during lunch, I'd ride past just get a look at the big mural on the south brick wall. I always loved the font that Maas Brothers used in its nameplate. It seemed so glamorous. (You can see the building in all its glory by clicking here.)
A couple years ago, I worked on a project at the Trib that collected the memories of people who shopped at Maas Brothers downtown.
My favorite came from a reader in Valrico:
It was 1960. I was a sophomore at St. Pete High - and so proud to shed my glasses for contact lenses. I was the second person at the high school to wear them. My mother, a widowed school teacher, must have sacrificed a lot so that I could have contacts. After wearing them only one week, I was riding the escalator at Maas when one the the lenses popped out and disappeared between the steps. I was nearly unconsolable. It must have been a Friday evening (the store was rarely open in the evening), but Mr. Futch, an assistant manager (and the father of one of my classmates) assured me that he would look for it after the store closed. Shortly after 9 that evening, he called our home to let us know ... he had taken off his shoes and, flashlight in hand, had gone into the bowels of the escalator. And he found one, unscratched contact lens. I was relieved and ecstatic - and have never forgotten Mr. Futch - or that delightful store where I learned to shop, where I was so lucky to have Christmas vacation jobs while in high school and college, and where I bought my wedding dress. That was probably my last purchase in the St Pete store. I moved across the bay and shopped the WestShore Plaza store until the end.
Anyway, I snapped these photos on Saturday night:
I was the only one out there. Seems like there should have been more fanfare. Maybe the developers figured that this is the kind of thing you sneak in on a Saturday night. (To see a larger version of the above photo, click here.)