Maplewood History: Bring Back the Big Kat!

It is some exciting news we learned recently when Doug Miner posted an article about the purchase of the Katz Drugstore building (more recently the Monarch restaurant) by David Schlafly.  As Miner’s article makes clear, Schlafly has done some remarkable work in Maplewood.

Though I’ve never met or spoken to David Schlafly, I did meet Tom a few times whom I believe is no longer connected with the brewery.  Super nice fellow and all round good guy.  I’d have to say my experience with him and others at the brewery was great.  They were all very community focused.  I have no idea how he’s related to David.

Now plastered across the façade of the Katz Drugstore building is a sign advising anyone interested in leasing space there to call August Schlafly. This is the first I’ve heard of him.  Perhaps we’ll learn more about him later.

Commenting on Miner’s article, 40 South News reader, Sally Walters coined the phrase, “Bring back the big cat.”  Hopefully with her approval I’m going to alter it just a bit to “Bring Back the Big Kat!”, changing the “c” to a “k” as a nod to the original owners of the building, the Katz Drugstore family.

David or August, you have a wonderful opportunity to return to the strip an icon that is still mentioned regularly by the old timers…The Big Kat!  The fleur de lis on your rendering is a nice touch but it has long been connected with the City of St. Louis.  It’s on their flag.  The Katz Drugstore building is in the heart of downtown Maplewood.  The Big Kat presided over downtown happenings for many decades.

The big cat sign that was once the symbol of the Katz Drugstore is probably owned by someone.  We realize that.  But “The Big Kat” isn’t and you can have it.  A clever designer can certainly come up with your own version of a sign.

I think there are many of us out here who would love to see this happen.  I’m attaching a few photos with the hope they may inspire you.  If you’d like higher resolution versions, give me a call.

Look at that Big Kat. Is that thing cool or what? I am uncertain at the moment as to where this photo was found.

Look at that Big Kat. Is that thing cool or what? The Katz sign right over the policemen is a great one as well. 1949 From the Missouri History Museum.

Seen here from the air when the Maplewood bank was still just across Sutton. Courtesy of Dan Walper at Citizen's National Bank.

Seen here from the air when the Maplewood Bank was still just across Sutton. Courtesy of Dan Walper at Citizen’s National Bank.

A night time view when the electric streetcars were still running. Also from 1949 which is the year the tracks were paved over after the service ended. I can't say for certain where this image was found.

A night time view when the electric streetcars were still running. Also from 1949 which is the year the tracks were paved over after the service ended. I can’t say for certain where this image was found.

Standing right in front of the Katz store and looking east. this image came from the Missouri State Archives by way of our community Development Director, Ms. Rachelle L'ecuyer.

Standing right in front of the Katz store and looking east. This image came from the Missouri State Archives by way of our Community Development Director, Ms. Rachelle L’ecuyer.  Thank you, Ma’am.

I don't know what was going on here but it is happening again. The crowds are returning. Sure would be nice to have that Big Kat once again. From a newspaper clipping at the Maplewood public Library.

I don’t know what was going on here but it is happening again. The crowds are returning. Sure would be nice to have that Big Kat once again! From a newspaper clipping at the Maplewood Public Library.

 

 

18 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Bring Back the Big Kat!

  1. Tom Bakersmith by email recalls some of the magic of neon. “As I recall. The neon whiskers on the cat flickered up and down in a mischievous kind of way.” A lot of us would love to see that. Thanks for the recollection, Tom.

  2. In looking at the plans for the renovation of the Katz building I was disappointed to see that the awning (for lack of a better term) that is now over the front door has been removed. Without that distinctive feature the new design looks like a strip mall type design-too modern and common looking. If the Big Kat can’t be brought back, could the awning stay?

    • Jan, I certainly hope they decide to do something distinctive. I like the scalloped edge on the original awning. Folks would quickly learn where the Big Kat building in Maplewood is. It would give the building an identity, a better one than say the old Monarch building or 7401 Manchester. Joe Edwards in the Delmar Loop understands this very well. He has created or recreated: the moon on the Moonrise Hotel, the fascinating sign on the Pin-up Bowl, ditto on the Peacock Diner, the fabulous multi-story signs on the Tivoli Theater and the Pageant Theater, and the entertaining marquee over the door at Blueberry Hill. What a streetscape! People love those signs, myself included.

  3. My grandparents’ house was just up the street on sutton. It was torn down to build Kmart which was there before shop and save. Used to love to visit them and go down to Katz and the dimes stores

    • Charlotte, You’re an eyewitness to what downtown was like before the ill-fated redevelopment. Let’s hope it can be that way again. Thank you for your recollection.

    • K-Mart was a disaster. Fortunately my grandparents house still stands at sutton and zephyr

      • Scott, You’re not going to get any arguments with the first part of your comment. Isn’t your grandparents house the only one on that block that has an address on Sutton?

  4. A new, creative rendition of the Maplewood Kat at that corner would enhance the uniqueness of our tradition. I agree, Doug.

  5. Doug, thank you for your thoughtful writing on historic Maplewood.

    August is my son. Tom Schlafly is my 1st cousin.
    Tom is still very much involved with Brewery. Tom and I were at Art Fair yesterday for couple of hours.
    I have been chair of Laumeier Sculpture Park and our signature event is Art Fair. The event requires immense work and I am very impressed with this weekends Art Fair at Bottleworks.

    The 7401 Manchester building plans are not complete and the rendering is by Matt Wolfe of Wolfe Design. Matt is located across the street at 7414 Manchester.

    The development plan for the building is similar to other projects. We intend to open the large expanses of brick fill and install modern glass storefront coupled with interior demolition and rebuild. The intent is to provide future businesses an expressive presence toward Manchester and Sutton while inviting customers “in” to shops.

    The underlining plan is to create modern environments within Maplewood buildings to attract the creative class of St Louis at reasonable rents.

    • David, You are welcome. Also thanks for clearing up the mystery on how all of you Schlaflys are connected. I was surprised to learn that Tom is still involved with the brewery. I regularly attend both of the art shows you mentioned and enjoy them a great deal. Thank you both for those.

      I do greatly appreciate you sketching out your plans for the Katz building. I know many others are curious as well. In this post I included every historic photo that I have of the Katz Drugstore. If Mr. Wolfe would like to have higher resolution versions, I’m happy to supply them. This is an excellent opportunity to give a nod to our buildings history in your new design. I believe the response would amaze you if you could find a way to resurrect the Big Kat.

      I have been in most of the buildings you have redone in Maplewood. They’re great. Maplewood benefits much from your efforts. However there is one unfortunate outcome of your restoration of the Cape/Harper building that I’d love to discuss with you. That, of course, is the removal of the historic cabinetry from the Harper pharmacy.

      You have my email address. Let’s meet. Perhaps we can come up with something that would be better for Maplewood than the current situation.

      Much thanks for your comment.

  6. Love these old pictures! Am I right when I see that the large bank building was torn down and is now part of the Shop and Save parking lot? If so, what a shame.
    As always, thanks for another great article, Doug Houser.