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.).
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.
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.
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.
Emily Ruby is a curator at the Heinz History Center.