Of the many things I rue about long-gone St Petersburg, the Maas Brothers department store is one in particular that sticks in my craw. My dad and uncle worked at the store in the 1950s as young, college-age window dressers; I shopped there in high school if for nothing else than the awesome bargain basement sales; and later worked there briefly as a temp, then part-time salesperson, then assistant to the Store Manager. I even bought my first Eighties "word processor" from their electronics department!
It was a comfortable, if not exactly beautiful, store on the inside; high-ceilinged, with long, tall escalators, a classic candy and nut counter, and wide, open retail spaces. At Christmastime, it sparkled and was a sight to behold. Maas smelled of new fabric, leather, perfume, roasting nuts, mechanical oil, and the occasional, intermingling smells emanating from the upstairs restaurant. Two stories high, and not completely comprising a city block, Maas was a special world in and of itself in one of the country's foremost tourist towns.
Here is a flickr photo gallery showcasing most of the Bay Area's Maas stores; and you can read the history of the chain here.
And, to indulge your sweet tooth, here is an original recipe for Maas Brother's Cinnamon Twists.
When Maas went out of business the building in downtown St Pete served as the Florida International Museum for a time. It was razed in 2005 and at the site now, stands a disappointing, unremarkable building housing Progress Energy.
Needless to say, I miss it. They don't make department stores like this anymore.
Labels: department store