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July 1, 2013 - Mike Donahey
An unobtrusive building at 106 S. Third Ave. in Marshalltown, is ironically, one of the town’s most recognizable.
The red and white sign, and modest, but functional, marquee are all it needs. That is because word-of-mouth advertising has been its best advertising for many, many years. Taylor’s Maid-Rite is here.
The home of the famous loose-meat sandwiches, ice cream and pie serves as a “must stop” for former Marshalltownians. However, they make up but a fraction of its business — it has a busy lunch, supper and carry-out trade.
The business is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, and, fittingly, it will be the cover story for the July edition of Past Times.
Cliff Taylor started the business in 1928, at 105 S. Third Ave., across the street from its present location. It featured a special secret recipe for a ground beef sandwich.
After his death in 1944, his wife, Emma, and son, Don, continued on. Emma passed away in 1958, and that was the same year the business made its only move across the street. In 1958, Don became manager, and after his death, in 1973, his wife, Polly, took over. In 1978, Taylor’s celebrated their 50th anniversary by selling Maid-Rites for the 1928-price of ten cents.
“We are the third oldest Maid-Rite in the state,” said Sandy Taylor Short. She and husband Con run the business now. “Muscatine was opened first and Newton was next. However, the business has remained in our family — four generations now — since it opened. We are the oldest Maid-Rite in the state owned and operated by the original family."
While change is a constant in the world of commerce, Taylor’s Maid-Rite belies the concept. On the menu in 1928 was one hot sandwich, the same as it is today. Some changes have taken place, though.
Other than the move in 1958, personnel serving the food has changed from primarily men to women. Before World War II, Maid-Rite used men as servers. The restaurant began using women as men were in short supply during the war, and they never did go back to men exclusively. Maid-Rite once featured hamburger buns made by Strand’s Bakery of Marshalltown and pies made by the late Queenie Wier, a local, pie-making legend. Strands closed in 1977, upon its sale to Metz Bakery. Wier retired in 1984, and moved to Florida. And a number of years ago Sandy and Con put ketchup bottles on the counter.
Read more about Taylor’s Maid Rite in the Past Times insert included with this Sunday’s Times-Republican.