Buffalo in the ’50s: The state’s first McDonald’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When New York State’s first McDonald’s opened on Niagara Falls Boulevard just north of Maple Road in 1959, that part of Maple Road wasn’t even built yet. It was mostly open farm land.

New York State’s first McDonald’s, as seen in the lower left corner, was built in 1959. This photo was taken in 1962, and shows the progress of building the Boulevard Mall. A photo from the same vantage point today would show Wegmans, Walmart, and the site for the forthcoming Whole Foods as well as the mall… and McDonald’s. (Buffalo News archives)

That part of Amherst and Tonawanda quickly developed around the McDonald’s Drive-In, with the completion of the Boulevard Mall — Western New York’s first covered shopping mall — in 1962, the area has been in a constant state of development ever since.

McDonald’s was a hit the moment Jerry Brownrout opened the franchise in 1959.

1962 ad. Buffalo Stories archives

Over the first few months in business, the self-service drive-in was frying up 70,000 hamburgers, 30,000 bags of fries, and blending 20,000 shakes a month, and McDonald’s was well on its way to becoming a local and international phenomenon. The location was selling more 15 cent hamburgers than any other in the country.

Over the first five years, 250 tons of hamburger was cooked in that Niagara Falls Boulevard location — enough for five million hamburgers. By 1964, there were nine McDonald’s locations in the Buffalo area.

 

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.