Tic Toc, the Arcade Bakery, & Kaufmann’s Department Store

Started in 1871 as a men’s tailoring and ready-to-wear shop on Carson St. on Pittsburgh’s South Side, Kaufmann’s expanded both in size and in the variety of merchandise it carried after moving downtown a few years later. Referred to by the 1890s as, “The Big Store,” Kaufmann’s took up much of the Smithfield block between Fifth and Diamond St. (now Forbes Ave.).

Sign that used to hang in the Kaufmann's Department story employee's cafeteria.
Sign that used to hang in the Kaufmann’s Department story employee’s cafeteria.

While Kaufmann’s displayed a vast selection of consumer goods, the store also boasted an impressive array of food services, dedicating significant floor space to this endeavor. Over the years, many eateries came and went at Kaufmann’s, from the white linen Forbes Room to the S.R.O. (Standing Room Only) hot dog stand. The 13th floor housed a large employee cafeteria that fed the staff. On the 11th floor, three restaurants – Michael’s, Edgar’s, and the Forbes Room – shared a central kitchen. There were snack bars in the basement and candy, ice cream, and coffee stands spread throughout the store. When Macy’s took over in 2006, they kept two of the more iconic establishments open – the Tic Toc restaurant and the Arcade Bakery.

The Tic Toc opened in 1955 as part of a grand expansion that took Kaufmann’s from 753,505 sq. ft. to 1,158,852. New amenities included a smoking lounge, larger rest rooms, “tot-toters” (strollers), and expanded departments. A contemporary article detailing the more than $10,000,000 store expansion mentions a new eatery, the Tic Toc snack bar, which would become a Kaufmann’s staple. The name paid homage to the famous Kaufmann’s clock. The clock’s image decorated both the restaurant tables and menus and it became a popular lunch time spot best known for its tasty burgers and desserts.

The front page of the Tic Toc Restaurant menu, Kaufmann's Department Store.
The front page of the Tic Toc Restaurant menu, Kaufmann's Department Store. Kaufmann’s Department Store Records, MSS 371, Detre Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center.
An inside page of the Tic Toc Restaurant menu, Kaufmann's Department Store.
An inside page of the Tic Toc Restaurant menu, Kaufmann's Department Store. Kaufmann’s Department Store Records, MSS 371, Detre Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center.

For much of Kaufmann’s history, the store also featured a bakery on the arcade level. Their treats were made famous by bakers such as Stephen J. Vanderach, a native of Switzerland, who made baked goods at Kaufmann’s from 1941 to 1971. Eventually the arcade level bakery became known as the Arcade Bakery, most famous for its thumbprint cookies.

With the closing of Macy’s downtown store earlier this year, the city of Pittsburgh obtained the rights to both the Tic Toc and Arcade names. Perhaps we will see both of these famous institutions come back to life in some form in the future. In the meantime, the thumbprint cookie has now travelled to Prantl’s Bakery in Market Square, where former Kaufmann’s baker Kevin Ulrich is creating a look-alike version to satisfy customers who miss the sweet treat.

Clocks from the Tic Toc Restaurant at Kaufmann's Department Store
Clocks from the Tic Toc Restaurant at Kaufmann's Department Store.
Tables and chairs from the Tic Toc Restaurant at Kaufmann's Department Store, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Tables and chairs from the Tic Toc Restaurant at Kaufmann's Department Store, Pittsburgh, Pa.

The History Center recently worked with Macy’s to preserve artifacts from these iconic eateries including tables, chairs, clocks, mugs, and menus from the Tic Toc restaurant and an assortment of baking tools from the Arcade Bakery.

The front page of the Kaufmann's Bake Shop menu.
The front page of the Kaufmann's Bake Shop menu. Kaufmann’s Department Store Records, MSS 371, Detre Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center.
Dinner menu, 1942, Kaufmann's Dining Room
Dinner menu, 1942, Kaufmann's Dining Room. Kaufmann’s Department Store Records, MSS 371, Detre Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center.

Emily Ruby is a curator at the Heinz History Center.

30 thoughts on “Tic Toc, the Arcade Bakery, & Kaufmann’s Department Store

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for these memories. My mother and I went there often and later went there myself. I seem to remember eating at the TicToc when shopping for my baby’s layette in 1962! We bought nearly everything at Kaufmanns in those days (& Gimbels and Hornes) – my, time DOES fly. My grandma was a cosmetic’s department mgr. at Kaufmanns.

    You didn’t mention Vendome – their 11th floor restaurant and adjacent decorative object shop. Both were so special.
    Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for reviving many memories! My mother worked at Kaufmann’s in the late 50’s through the 60’s. Mom worked in the cosmetic department on the first floor. I’d meet her for a meal or snack or school clothes shopping as a kid. I miss those days but the memories live with me!

    1. Hi Jennifer! We do have a few images that you might like to take a look at. You can view them here and here. You can take a closer look at these if you visit the Library & Archives as well.

      Additionally, if you would like to learn more about what we have in our Kaufmann’s Department Store Collections, you can check out the finding aid for the collection

      1. I have fond memories of those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because my grandmother used to take me to Kaufmann’s in the mid 1960’s. As I recall, a “Kaufmann sandwich” was like a club sandwich except that it had peanut butter and jelly in each layer and then the crusts were cut off. The sandwich was quartered like a club sandwich and served with milk. My family moved away from Pittsburgh in ’69, but I ate those sandwiches well into the 70’s!

  3. My dad had two old white wooden chairs that have a small metal plate on them that say “kaufmann’s 5th Avenue pittsburgh” do you know what/where these would have been used at the store?

  4. Do I remember a pecan ball: a scoop of ice cream coated in pecans and smothered in butterscotch syrup? Also, an ice cream pie sclice with pecans and butterscotch?

    1. I remember those desserts too. Club sandwiches, a melted cheese over toast dish (Welsh ??), always a choice of cakes or pies served by the friendliest waitresses ever. Loved the Tic Toc!

  5. It’s a shame downtown isn’t anything like it used to be. I loved going to the Tic Toc room and Horne’s Tea Room. I could shop in those stores for hours. Remember the bargain basements. Nothing will ever come close to downtown, and it’s not because I’m old, it’s just that it sucks the way it is now!!!!!

  6. I was a waitress at the Tic Toc restaurant in the late ‘70s, and a student at Pitt. I believe I worked with your mother, Dolores! I also have fond memories of Rose Higgins,who was the manager at the time. The tea sandwiches were a favorite menu item and they always had homemade desserts to include the pecan covered ice cream ball topped with your choice of butterscotch, hot fudge or bittersweet chocolate ( have yet to encounter that topping anywhere else!) Also, there was sometimes an apple layer cake for which I cannot seem to find a recipe – sometimes that would be available to the employees in the 13th floor cafeteria! I really enjoyed my time there!

  7. I would love the Kaufmann’s cookbook, but it shows as not available. Any ideas where I may find? I worked at the Tic Toc restaurant. Thank you.

  8. You are correct. I am fortunate to work and one of the oldest pizza shops in Pittsburgh, in Market Square. I love hearing from people who love Pittsburgh back in the sixties and seventies like I did.

  9. My dad was Tony, he worked upstairs in the carpet Department. He ate lunch at the Tik Tok everyday. He would take my mother and I to the 11th floor for lunch when we would visit. I wonder if you ever waited on Tony.

  10. When my mother went to town without me, she would bring me home a salt roll or a caramel type covered marshmallow. Do you remember the salt roll?

  11. I worked as a waitress at the Tic Toc restaurant from 1978-1980. There was a number of waitresses that had been there for 20 years or more. Also, a lot of store employees were regulars, although I don’t remember any by name. There was a young man who was a waiter there at the same time, I think his name was Mark. And, again, I was there when the manager, Rose Higgins, retired after 25 years. She kind of scared me in the beginning, but I came to live her! I wonder if anyone remembers her?

  12. I worked as a “Extra” in the store. You’d get the call from Mrs. Heindenlighter on the Extra Desk for work that day or week. I worked in many different departments from ladies shoes, Warehouse Inventory, dressed Models in a fashion show and wrapped gifts in Vendome!… The best part was the Tic-Tock! The apple pie with cheddar cheese was the best! But I’ll never forget the wonderful aroma of perfume that would welcome you entering from Smithfield Street…

  13. Hello Patricia and all others reading….I also worked as a waiter in Kaufmann’s-Downtown while in college during the late 80s. I worked on the 11th floor in Edgar’s, directly adjacent to Michael’s. While both were sit-down restaurants, Edgar’s was a little more elegant, with linen napkins & table clothes and a full bar; Michael’s was less elegant but had a walk-up buffet/soup & salad bar. I also encountered many veteran staff members whom I fondly remember: Maxine with her pilled-high beehive hair-do & Beatty Martin had been working there for more than 20 years when I worked with them. The bartender at Edgar’s was there more than 20 years, though I do not remember his name. There was also a woman who must have been around 70 y/o who had been working in the restaurants nearly 30 years. There were also several junior veterans of around 10 years of service that I worked with: Jeannie Rivetti was the floor manager/hostess at Edgar’s and Randy Sherrow was a long time waiter. All of the veteran wait staff had very particular stations and VERY particular regular customers who had been coming to eat lunch with them for years, with many coming from the near-by Lawyers Building. The 11th floor restaurants were mostly open for lunchtime, Monday through Saturday, with dinner hours until 8PM on Mondays & Thursdays. Between Thanksgiving & Christmas, the restaurants on the 11th floor would have extended dinner hours along with the Downtown store. During gala events like the Fall Fashion Show (or was it Spring Fashion Show?) or designer events at the store, like for Calvin Klein or Pauline Trigère, the 11th floor restaurants would host evenings with food buffets or wait staff walking around with trays of food & beverages. Christmas and Easter seasons had special menus. The mainstay items that I remember regular customers ordering from the menu were The Tea Plate (small finger sandwiches of various types with various small salad helpings), turkey devonshire, port wine torte (my favorite) and the above-mentioned hot fudge or butterscotch pecan balls.

  14. So happy to see this article and Tic Toc menu! I have many fond memories of shopping downtown as a little girl in the mid 70’s with my mother. We would always have lunch at the Tic Toc and I never forgot those cream cheese olive sandwiches. My favorite! I miss the days of Kaufmanns, Gimbels and Horne’s.

  15. I worked as a hostess/cashier at the Tic Toc Restaurant in the early 80’s. Most of the servers had been there for years, had regular stations, regular customers and even with the small menu prices made a decent wage with generous tips. The French Onion soup and Mile High ice cream pie were my favorites. My mom worked across the street at Mellon Bank and on the rare occasion when we both were done at the same time, we would both get a soup and share the pie. Such good memories of the kind, hard working people that I had the pleasure of working with at the Tic Toc. If I recall Mrs. Lillian Vincent was the manager of all of the restaurants in Kaufmann’s at the time. Mrs. Grace Galbreath was the manager of the TIc Tic Room. I can picture most of the waitresses behind the counter (prime real estate) and one waiter named Tony.

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