Wednesday, March 11, 2020

50-Year Businesses (part 2)

A handful of Maynard businesses present at the centennial made it to the sesquicentennial, criteria being no name change. Last week featured the oldest – this week includes those that just crossed the line.

Pleasant Cafe, est. 1945 Maynard, MA (This is the old sign,
currently mounted on an inside wall.)
Pleasant Café: Maynard's oldest food/drink establishment. Per the website: "Serving cold beer since 1945." According to a walking tour compiled by the Maynard Historical Commission, the building was built around 1899. Earlier tenants were the Cleary & Williams Dry Goods and Millinery, Jersey Butter Company, Arena & Sons Grocery, and the Royal Cafe. The Pleasant Cafe, also known as the "PC," actually dates further back. The town's 1936 business directory lists an establishment by that name at a different address. The current owners confirm that the family business opened at 157½ Main Street around 1934-35, closed for World War II, then reopened at the current site after the war.

Fine Arts Theater: Although the Coughlans, father James and son Burton, were both involved with Peoples’ Theatre, on Nason Street, Burton decided to build his own theater on the family property at 17 and 19 Summer Street. James had started there with a horse stable in 1897, later converted to an auto repair shop. Burton’s vision, the luxuriously appointed Fine Arts Theatre, with 400 seats, opened on June 29, 1949 with a showing of The Red Shoes. As a student, Burton had been heading toward the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but switched to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. He had a studio next to the theater, and was responsible for the murals that adorn the main theater and hallway. An adjoining second theater (later split in two), was added in 1969. One employee reminisced: "...the projectionist had to scamper across the roof to get to the [projection] booth for the smaller of the theaters." The theater remained a Coughlan-owned property – Burton’s daughter – until sold in 2013. Steven Trumble has been the owner since then, carrying on what the Coughlans had started.

John's Cleaners, est. 1963. Maynard, MA
Click on photos to enlarge
John’s Cleaners: Oldest mention is as a sponsor of the Maynard High School yearbook “Screech Owl” for 1963. Business may be a few years older than that. Started by the son of the owner of the Maynard Coal Company, with which for a while it shared the building. The site – with a two-story, wood-frame building – was home to the business of William F. Litchfield, Dealer in Coal and Wood, started around 1900

The Paper Store: Began in Maynard in 1964 as newspaper and magazine shop, by Bob Anderson. Over time, his wife, sons and daughters joined the business. Still family-owned, the business has expanded to more than 80 stores across New England and into the mid-Atlantic states. Intriguingly, the name appears to be far older than the business. Starting 1908, James “Jim” Ledgard had a store at that site that was informally known about town as “the paper store,” as it sold newspapers and magazines. When Babe Ruth, a young Red Sox pitcher at the time, was wintering in Sudbury, he came here for newspapers and dime novels.

Jarmo’s Auto Repair: Located east of the east end of Main Street, Jarmo’s is a full-service automotive repair center. The business was started by R. Michael “Jarmo” Jarmulowicz III in Concord, moved to Maynard in 1969. Previously the site had been Barber Chevrolet. The building itself dates to 1920 when it was erected by William Holly and John and Herbert Comeau for their moving company. Earlier still, the site had been Maynard’s two-classroom high school (1877-1892).

Ray & Sons Cyclery: Serving the bicycle business since 1969. Prior to that, same site, same family, Ray’s TV. In the early 1950s, different family, different business: Millstream Café (restaurant main floor, barroom downstairs). Explains the fancy wood floor.
Maynard Outdoor Store: Under this name, just makes 50 years. An Army & Navy Surplus store opened in Maynard in 1950 just south of the Peoples' Theatre building. It moved to 24 Nason Street in 1968 and shortly thereafter changed its name to the Maynard Outdoor Store, one reason given being that Levi Strauss & Co. would not sell jeans to Army & Navy stores. Same site, 1942 to 1967, had been home to an A&P supermarket. A&P (short for The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company) was the Walmart of its era. Its self-service stores, with sections that provided groceries, baked goods, meat, produce and dairy, plus its low prices and preferential selling of its own A&P branded products, put thousands upon thousands of small shops and suppliers out of business. The façade of the Outdoor Store features a panel that reads "CASE BLD 28." Nason Street addresses 24-30 were once the Case Block, built 1892, home to W.B. Case & Sons, dry goods (clothing, shoes, hats, gloves, etc.). Case went out of business around 1935.


  1. If you look at the outdoor store from the parking lot behind it, you can see a thin brick chimney and what looks like a cottage roof poking out of the building. (See area circled in red in picture You can't see this at all from the front. From my Maynard postcard collection, I know Nason street used to have a number of cottages/small houses on it around the turn of the century, could the outdoor store building have been built off of one of them, and due to the size of the building, completely hidden it?

  2. This photo from the Historical Society collection shows a peak-roofed commercial building next to the W.B. Case & Sons store. It was site of the original "Paper Store" (note that the sign on the side reads New York, Worcester and Boston papers). Possible the front was remodeled to create the flat-roof, north side part of The Outdoor Store while leaving the peak-roofed part with the chimney intact.