MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories Escalators

Escalators at Maison Blanche on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

While Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store was the first department store on Canal Street to install an escalator, MB wasn’t far behind. MB Memories for me include a lot of up and down on those escalators.

Early Escalators

Krauss added an escalator from the ground (first) floor to the “Mezzanine” in 1927. Not to be outdone, Maison Blanche acquired an escalator system a year later. Those first escalators were “up-only” systems. They were meant to get shoppers upstairs quickly. Getting down was another story. The store wasn’t all that motivated to get folks out of the store. So, initially, the paths back down to the first floor included stairs (from the second floor), and the elevators.

Eventually, MB expanded the escalators to all five floors. The elevators were towards the rear of all the stores. The open architecture of escalators made them attractive to customer and retailer alike.

Maison Blanche in the 1950s

This Franck Studios photo is from the early 1950s. The post-war boom was in full swing. Returning vets finished their educations. They moved out of mom and dad’s house, to Gentilly and Lakeview. Really adventurous folks headed to the suburbs, Metairie and Chalmette. Maison Blanche recognized this, opening stores in Mid-City and Gentilly in 1948. The Airline store wasn’t far behind.

Throughout all that expansion, Canal Street anchored the chain. The five-story store continued drawing shoppers from all over the city. Buses replaced streetcars on many transit lines, but that didn’t stop the shoppers. They still came to Canal Street.

Many older shoppers didn’t trust escalators. They didn’t like stairs, so they continued to use the elevators. MB’s elevators had human operators for years. Automatic, push-the-button service, was considered bad treatment of customers. Cheerful smiles encouraged buyers to buy!