Why do they call it that? Tampa shopping icon Maas Brothers

7:08 AM, Jun 27, 2013   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +




Click here for more installments of "Why Do They Call It That?"

Put on that fabulous dress and head downtown to shop in luxury! For so many people in Tampa Bay, the name Maas Brothers stirs memories of the good ol' days.

Why do they call it Maas Brothers Department Store?

When it was time to shop in Tampa Bay, it was the one name everybody knew.

Starting in the 1880's, two brothers -- Abe and Isaac Maas -- grew their tiny store called the Dry Goods Palace into the place to shop for generations.

"It became kind of a mall within one building. They sold toys, they sold silverware, they sold plates, they sold clothes, they sold everything," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Families would dress their best and come to Downtown Tampa's Franklin Street to shop at Maas Brothers, meet friends at Maas Brothers, and even to dine at Maas Brothers. They had restaurants and a bar in the store.

"The sidewalks would be teeming with shoppers. And it's an experience that I don't know that we'll ever see in Downtown Tampa again," Kite-Powell said.

The store expanded with locations all around Tampa Bay. But in 1991, Maas Brothers' century in the spotlight faded.

"Maas Brothers kind of lost its identity within a larger conglomerate called Federated Department Stores," Kite-Powell explained.

The Downtown Tampa store -- the company's flagship -- closed. All remaining Maas Brothers stores took on the name Burdines, absorbed by another chain from South Florida.

And in 2006, the downtown store was demolished. Plans to build condos in that location went bust, so the spot is now a parking lot.

But something special has been preserved.

In the main stairwell of the Tampa Bay History Center hangs a huge stone sign with the words "MAAS BROTHERS". It was taken right out of the wall of the Maas Brothers building as it was reduced to rubble.

"Literally as that building was being torn down, we had a crew go in and take the sign off of the wall," Kite-Powell said.

"And I was in the building at the time and you could feel the vibrations on the south side of the building while we're working on the north side of the building.

"Each one of those letters and letter blocks weighs about 80 pounds. We just knew we wanted to keep it and have some tangible evidence and some tangible piece of that Maas Brothers history."

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

A few of the original Maas Brothers locations are still going today. In the 1990's, they became Burdines stores. Then in 2005, their parent company changed their names again -- this time to Macy's.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Thursday on 10 News at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy Award-winning series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Follow 10 News reporter Grayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.















Grayson Kamm, 10 News

Most Watched Videos