By Erika Webb
For Hometown News
On a recent breezy Tuesday, the changing angle of the sun promised fall. Light played on the Halifax River in front of the Daytona Beach Kress Building on Beach Street. The four-story structure is situated as though standing sentry over the skyward-jutting Broadway Bridge.
Heidi S. Webb's law office is on the fourth floor. Behind her desk, just to the right of her computer, is a how-does-she-get-any-work-done view. Ms. Webb said she and her husband, David, were thrilled at the opportunity to buy the Kress building from longtime owner Mac Smith, to whom she gives complete credit for the building's upkeep and ongoing appeal. The Webbs took over in August.
"Onsite ownership is what makes us different, someone who really cares about it," Ms. Webb said. "It is a great building, full of eclectic people. We have everything from a hair salon to attorneys and even a medium."
The Webbs have just completed construction on Work Webb, the fourth-floor "shared office space" they feel will offer solutions to small-business owners in the community.
"There is a communal work area with individual desks and wireless internet, semi-private offices with two desks, and a conference room with video conferencing and Whiteboard," Ms. Webb said. "It's all overlooking the Halifax River so it should really impress clients."
The idea behind Work Webb is that small or home-based businesses will have access to updated amenities and a professional atmosphere without high monthly overhead. Prices range from $25 for a "day pass" to $299 a month for "all access."
In December 1938, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 39th Street in New York City, holiday shoppers were mesmerized by Giorgione's Allendale Nativity, which was on display at the popular discount store known as Kress.
S. H. Kress & Co. 5-10-25 Cent stores, established in 1896 by Samuel H. Kress, purveyed "affordable, durable and cheerful domestic merchandise," according to the website kresslegacy.org. "Designed to exacting company standards, the chain of stores were cherished not only for their quality merchandise, but also as prominent local landmarks."
Back then stores beckoned, and the website touts the downtown Kress stores as "celebrated beacons of prosperity and progress, exemplars of urban art and sources of municipal pride".
Outside, golden letters spelled out Kress, and curved glass display windows led shoppers through heavy bronze doors into an interior with a wow factor - rich marbles, fine woods and large customized counters. There were 4,725 inexpensive items on display.
The "flagship" store in New York City was one of 50 Art Deco buildings - heralded as the most distinctive and best remembered of the 221 Kress stores - designed by the company's longtime chief architect, Edward F. Sibbert. His polished constructs, lavishly ornamented with terracotta, reportedly modernized and streamlined the Kress image.
Constantly restocked merchandise, "gracious" retiring rooms and a basement soda fountain encouraged customers to linger in the store, a popular destination during hard economic times.
But the seven-story structure in New York City was demolished in 1980.
Built in 1932, The Daytona Beach Kress Building was added to the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places in 1983. Though completely renovated, the building still boasts the original curved-glass windows as well as the marble, wood, detailed tray ceilings and terracotta accents that contributed to Mr. Kress's dream of making each store a gift of civic art to its community.
Today there are 45 suites in the 28,000-square-foot building at 140 S. Beach St. Some are combined to provide more space. Ms. Webb said occupancy is 80 percent.
"Each floor has something for everyone," she said. "The first and second floors have the exposed brick and tray ceilings, and the third and fourth floors are completely updated and refurbished."
Tenants in the building since 2009, Mr. and Mrs. Webb enjoyed the cohesive atmosphere and were compelled to become permanent fixtures in the downtown landmark.
"They're happy people, and we have some real long-term, old-Daytona people in here," she said. "It just has such a family feel. Everybody knows everybody and they're all cooperative. That's the norm in here for everybody."
Award-winning Zgraph Web Design and Marketing occupy half of the first floor and have been tenants for nearly 13 years. Lasseter Appraisal and Daytona Beach Racing District have each been there for nearly 20 years. Many others have been in place for close to a decade. Volusia County Growth Management has an office on the third floor and the building is home to the Mary McLeod Bethune Educational Legacy Foundation Inc., founded in 2002 by Ms. Bethune's granddaughter, Dr. Evelyn Bethune.
The Webbs recently hosted an open house in the building and Ms. Webb shared her culinary skills with tenants and community members.
In addition to estate planning, preparing wills, creating trusts, and managing the Kress building, Ms. Webb and a friend own Gourmet Girls Catering.
"I would say I'm divided pretty equally in thirds as far as jobs go," she said.
Back downstairs, dime store merchandise has long since been replaced. Artist Paul Baliker's driftwood sculptures of dolphin, smaller fish and birds are on display behind the curved glass. Their dramatic emergence from a rough and weathered element demonstrate how the rudimentary can become extraordinary with a little vision.
And with hard times afoot, a little majesty goes a long way.
Call (386) 366-1360 to schedule a building tour.