Exhibit takes visitors on flight through time

Photo courtesy _______
Photo courtesy _______

Tucked away on the second floor of the CocoWalk shopping center in Coconut Grove is a cultural treasure. First Flight Out is a destination-apparel retail store that doubles as a Pan Am Airways exhibit.

“[We] have always wanted to open an exhibition for Pan Am,” owner Stephen Licata said. “… The birthplace of Pan Am is Coconut Grove.”

Owners Licata and Gailen David intended for there to be an aviation museum in Coconut Grove, but more recently they have teamed up with Pan Am to develop an exhibit based on the classic airline, smack dab in the middle of the store.

“ … I own a chain of stores called Palm Produce …,”  Licata said. “We have been carrying the Pan Am products and then came up with the idea of putting First Flight Out together.”

Walking into the store is like stepping into a time machine. The classic ‘60s tunes catapult visitors back to a time when Pan American World Airways ruled the air, a time when being a stewardess was the most elite job in the sky, and flying was a luxury only a lucky few could enjoy.

“It’s just such a totally different world … today we get a bag of nuts,” Licata said.

The entire right side of the store is dedicated to the Pan Am exhibit. There is a full timeline of Pan Am’s history, original travel documents and authentic crew uniforms. To the right of the exhibit is a 747 first-class cabin, fully-equipped with original seats, posters and a dinner menu.

“What we did here is sort of basically represent what the ‘60s look like, that’s the way the store is built out,” Licata said. “On display we have route maps, and we have menus and utensils and things that we used during that period.”

They also have Pan Am merchandise ranging from modern graphic tees to bags made of vintage seat fabric.

This store is not the only Pan Am resource available in Miami. UM’s Special Collections holds the official Pan Am records. The 1,600 boxes of photographs and documents contain information from its opening in 1927 to its closing in 1991.

“It’s important to keep it well-preserved because there is still such an interest in the company,” said Beatrice Skokan, special collections librarian. “It just played such a pivotal role in social history in general … there is a high demand and we are going to preserve it as much as possible.”