Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Let's go to the Kress Five & Dime
Remember how it smelled? Popcorn and ladies' makeup. Old wooden display cases piled with scarves and wallets. Unmistakable sales ladies who spoke just so. It was an indescribable mix of sights, sounds and activity that could only be a five and dime store. Everyone shopped there. The S. H. Kress and Co. building on North Franklin Street in Tampa's downtown opened in 1929. It was part of the S. H. Kress chain of five and dime stores. It's a great old building that has stood empty and almost forgotten for many years. The four story building is certainly ornate in all its crumbling decay. It's terribly sad to get up to close to the entrance and see the coat-of-arms hanging centered on the sidewalk overhang. The facade is said to be Renaissance Revival and its obvious to me that in its day, the architect's plan was intended to set this design apart from every other store on Franklin Street. The first Kress in Tampa opened in 1900 and at this location in 1908. The street was one of Tampa's premier shopping destinations then and by 1929 Kress tore the second building down. Business must have been really good...before the Crash of 1929. But Kress survived the Depression. And wars. This Kress has stood tall. Against every change. In shopping. In prodiucts. In "consumer behavior." And it still stands 80 years later. Franklin Street and Florida Avenue were Tampa shopper's heaven, and the sidewalks were filled with moms, families and shopkeepers. Kress would eventually own 400 stores in the country. S.H. Kress's business went away and the entire company was liquidated in 1980. But, that was long after Tampa's downtown was the place where people shopped. Replaced by shopping centers such as Britton Plaza and then Westshore Mall, these stores became irrelevant and empty. Maas Brothers and others were abandoned and torn down. The Kress building still stands. Begging to be discovered and recognized as the beauty it once and still is. This photo concentrates on the features still proudly intact up high. The handpainted KRESS sign is still visible on both sides. The building stands alone. But for how long. Its windows and entrances are boarded up and the sidewalks are vacant and quiet of life. It was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1983 but that has not caused it to awaken from its long restless sleep. It's time!