Maas Brothers Department store, founded in Tampa in 1887 by brothers Abe and Isaac Maas, tracked the lives of generations of area residents. From christening gowns to toys, Maas Brothers provided for the wants and needs of the community. It was a place where one could buy everything from last-minute necessities to life-long keepsakes.
The Maas Brothers store moved to the northeast corner of Franklin and Zack in 1921. That same year, the Florida Citrus Exchange completed construction of its eight-story headquarters building, adjacent to the ‘new’ Maas Brothers store on Zack Street. It is from this building, into which the Maas department stored expanded in 1938, that we recovered the Maas Brothers sign.
Shopping habits and living patterns changed after World War II, and downtown business districts failed to keep pace. Attempts by property owners to “modernize” their buildings by covering the exteriors with stucco and neon signs did little more than mare the historic facades. Suburban malls lured away all but the hardiest middle-class consumers and business customers from downtown.
The symbolic, if not literal, end of downtown as a shopping destination came with the closing of Maas Brothers in March 1991. The collection of buildings remained largely vacant, save for a few restaurants and a newsstand. Demolition of the block began in early March 2006. The Maas Brothers sign, which faced Zack Street, was removed over the course of two days on March 13 and 14 by Joe Rañon, Anthony Abbuhl, and Steve Hill from Rañon, Inc.