Buffalo in the 50s: W.T. Grant’s 10th location opens in Riverside

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Grants — which was, as the company’s slogan said, “known for values” — opened its 10th “bigger, better” Buffalo-area location 65 years ago today on Tonawanda Street in Riverside.

The national chain of variety stores expanded in Buffalo as the city’s population did and was a fixture in many early strip malls, such as University Plaza and in the retail build-out at Main and Transit. The national chain filed for bankruptcy in 1976.

This Grant’s location is now occupied by the Riverside library branch.

Looking back at Buffalo through matchbooks

Today, marketing is a highly skilled and nuanced mix of artistry and science. It wasn’t so long ago that the most thought that most businessmen would give marketing is making sure people leave their business with a pack of matches with the business name on them.
Everybody smoked. Every business sold cigarettes. Everybody had a pack of matches in their pocket, and if they didn’t– they needed one. Everyone handing out matches was a win-win.

Matchbooks eventually became more that just a means for lighting a butt.

People might hold on to colorful, fun, or borderline pornographic (from a 1950s sensibility) matchbooks. Some became souvenirs of visiting a restaurant or a city.

Matchbook collecting became a serious hobby for many through the second half of the twentieth century.

eBay seller uniqueanteek has recently posted over 12,000 matchbook covers for auction, several dozen of which are from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the immediate area.

Especially for some of the smallest businesses, like neighborhood grocery stores, corner taverns, and storefront restaurants, these matchbooks are the sole surviving proof that these businesses ever existed.

Most of these matchbook covers date from the 40s and 50s, with a few as late as the 70s or early 80s.

Enjoy this unique, broad look at Buffalo’s pop culture history through the matchbook covers of uniqueanteek, and if the spirit moves you, head over to any of uniqueanteek’s auctions, and pick up one of these or any of the thousands of cool covers listed for sale.

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If you have anything to share about any of these places, drop me an email: steve@buffalostories.com

 

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Marker’s Gay Way was at 1321 Broadway.
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Link’s Tavern 2715 Seneca St stood where I-90 crosses over Seneca near Harlem.
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The Hotel Graystone on South Johnson Park was recently renovated into luxury apartments.
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Jew Murphy’s Steel bar at 369 Pearl St stood in a spot now occupied by The Key Towers.


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Teddy’s Beauty Shoppe, 3173 Main St. Today the spot is Slice of Italy pizza, next door to The Lake Effect Diner.
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Salemi’s Club Rainbow was on Court St. behind Buffalo City Hall. The burlesque style entertainment was accompanied by 25¢ spaghetti plates.
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Laube’s Cafeterias were all over Buffalo and “famous for food,” but the name “Laube’s” lives on in reference to “Laube’s Old Spain,” which outlasted the cafeterias for decades.
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Curt’s Stop Inn , 1341 Kensington Ave. It’s still a bar, and still has a stop sign on the front– No word on Curt.
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Pop & Freddie’s Call’s Grill, 140 Forest Ave. between West and Grant on the West Side.

 

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Before there was Lombardo’s, there was Tommy’s Tavern– Tom Lombardo, proprietor– Michigan Avenue at East Utica.
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Arkansas Bar & Lounge, 12 Grant Street. Stood where Rite Aid now stands near the corner of Hampshire.
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The Friendly Inn, 844 Washington, looks like it would have been the corner of Washington and Virginia, one block west of Ulbrich’s.
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Style Beauty Salon, 108 York St, at the corner of 17th on the West Side, about a block from Kleinhans
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Casa Di Amici, 1066 Abbott Rd, South Buffalo. Now a doctor’s office at the corner of Carlyle.
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Carrot Top Inn, 222 Katherine St, Old First Ward. at Hamburg St, today it’s Cook’s Bar & Grill
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Little Harlem Hotel, Michigan Ave. One of Buffalo’s most famous/infamous jazz nightspots.
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Tudor Arms Hotel, 354 Franklin St. Now apartments, half a block south of Edward.
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Ryan’s Hotel Niagara, on Niagara St. near Niagara Square, was known in the 1950s as one of the first places in Buffalo known as a “gay bar.”
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Ricardo’s Steak House & Lounge, 252 Delaware Ave. Was located in the recently demolished Delaware Court building at Delaware and Chippewa.
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Western Auto, 1393 Seneca St., was located about where I-190 crosses over Seneca near Bailey.
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Bison brand sausage. Also the makers of Buffalo’s classic Bison Dip.
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The Park Lane at Gates Circle. One of Buffalo’s most elegant dining experiences for generations.
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Mure’s Campus Restaurant, 1110 Elmwood Ave., home for decades to Mister Goodbar.
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Merry time Restaurant & Lounge, 305 Oak St. Located about where Oak, Huron, Sycamore meet, one block east of the Electric building.
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Leonardo’s Tasty Italian America food,                   386 Pearl St., just south of Chippewa. The site is now a parking ramp.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jay’s Catering, 1257 Genesee St. Two blocks north of MLK Park. Now a vacant lot.
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Maroon Grill, 382 Pearl St., same block as Jew Murphy’s and Leonardo’s, just south of Chippewa.
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The longtime home of Theo Phillies’ Chippewa Liquor Store, 86 West Chippewa St. is now the home of the Emerson School of Hospitality (and one of the best lunch deals in Buffalo.)
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Sterns Electric Equipment, 66 Broadway, near Broadway and Oak.
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Kam Wing Law Chinese Restaurant, 433 Michigan Avenue. Michigan near William
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Kenney’s Hotel and Grill, 605 Michigan Avenue. Michigan Ave at Sycamore
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Stage Door 416 Pearl Street
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EW Edwards Smoke Shop
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Sears, Roebuck & Co, Main & Jefferson
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Hertel Stamp & Coin 1283 Hertel near Colvin
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KR&G
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Miniature Falls Restaurant 27th & Ferry Ave, Niagara Falls NY
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Miniature Falls Restaurant 27th & Ferry Ave, Niagara Falls NY
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Blasdell Hotel, 149 Lake Ave, Blasdell, NY
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Angola Hotel, Angola, NY
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Statler Hilton, Buffalo
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The Bowlers Lunch, 39 Buffalo St, Hamburg
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Goodyear Wende Oil Corp., Buffalo
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WRCA Radio, 660 AM New York City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chez Ami, 311 Delaware Ave, Home of the Revolving Bar
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Chez Ami, 311 Delaware Ave, Home of the Revolving Bar
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South St. Auto Wreckers, 88 South St, Lackawanna
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Wa-Ha-Kie Hotel, River Rd at Tonawanda City Line
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Ilio DiPoalo’s Ringside Lounge
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The Hayloft Restaurant, Chickenon-the-Rough, Jamestown
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South St. Auto Wreckers, 88 South St, Lackawanna
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The Bowlers Lunch, 39 Buffalo St, Hamburg
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Annex Grill 2847 South Park Ave Lackawanna
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Evans Restaurant Southwestern Blvd & Abbott Rd, Orchard Park
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Hotel Gowanda, 26 S. Water Street, Gowanda
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Helen’s Grill, 2232 Hamburg Turnpike, Lackawanna
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Paradise Motel, Pine Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY
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Lancaster Roofing Co, 5154 Broadway, Lancaster
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May’s Grill, 11 Ridge Rd, Lackwanna, NY
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Triangle Motel, 627 E Main, Batavia, NY
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Bradshaw’s / Schneider’s Lewiston
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Steve’s Grill, 2748 Bailey Ave
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ABC Motel, Niagara Falls Blvd
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Wanakah Grill Pleasant Ave Hamburg
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Otto Hollnberger, 13 West Main Street, Lnacaster
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Randazzo Tavern, 40 Main Street, Akron, NY
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Sunrise Motel, 6225 Pine Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY
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La Salle Sportsmen’s Club, Tuscarora & Porter Rds, Niagara Falls, NY
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Urkainian Club, 75 17th Ave, North Tonawanda, NY
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Stanley’s Restaurant, 239 24th St, Niagara Falls
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Water Wells– Joe Sheldon, 177 Sheldon Rd, Orchard Park
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Busy Bee Grill, 315 Erie Ave, Niagara Falls
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Club Ray-Ott, Falls Street, Niagara Falls
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Feldman Bros. Furs 1812 Main St, Niagara Falls, NY
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Busy Bee Grill, 315 Erie Ave, Niagara Falls
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Orchard Park Hotel, 51 N. Buffalo Rd, Orchard Park, NY
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Lucille Beauty Shoppe, 822 E. Delavan Ave, Buffalo



Buffalo in the 50s: Buffalo’s 4,500 grain workers idled by elevator strikes

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When we think romantically about “Buffalo’s good old days,” when a man could walk into any plant of factory in town, put in a good day’s work and provide well for his family, one part of the equation we often forget is labor strife.

This week in 1950, about 500 grain elevator employees walked out on strike. That decision had an impact on another 4,000 workers who refused to cross picket lines or were idled because their work was reliant on the strikers. These included grain scoopers, grain car coopers, longshoremen, construction workers and railroad switchmen. In many cases, grain stored in the elevators was transferred to nearby Buffalo grain mills for rendering. The mills were also closed down.

As 300 carloads of grain sat on docks a few days into the strike, there was some mild violence and minor injuries. The state also ruled that none of the 4,500 idled workers would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Buffalo in the 50s: South Buffalo’s Republic Steel aims for nearly a million tons

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A DEC photo from 1967: Historic photo of the Buffalo River. The former Republic Steel plant is to the left of the river and the former Buffalo Color plant is to the right.

Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna plant was at one time the largest in the world and employed 20,000 workers in the manufacture of steel.

It was the same sort of work happening a few miles away on South Park Avenue along the Buffalo River at Republic Steel. Thousands worked at that plant as well, and the hope was that, with changes announced 65 years ago this week, the plant would be able to churn out 900,000 tons of steel each year.

The plant was closed and demolished in the mid 1980s and is currently the site for the state-funded RiverBend project, set to be home to SolarCity.

Buffalo Evening News, August 3, 1950

The elegance of Pitt Petri

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Thirty-five years ago this week, The News began celebrating the 100th anniversary of the paper’s starting a daily edition.

In the special section called One Hundred Years of Finance and Commerce, The News recounted the history of a handful of Buffalo’s financial and commercial industries and provided ad space for many companies involved in those industries to tout their own contributions.

Pitt Petri’s history as one of the warmly remembered shops of the upscale Delaware Avenue shopping district was recounted elsewhere in the special section.

The reason Pitt Petri is better remembered that most of the other shops on Delaware is probably two-fold. First, Pitt Petri opened a branch store in Williamsville. Second, Pitt Petri was the final survivor out of the dozens of shops from a bygone era.

The small storefront next to the Buffalo Club was the last heritage retailer standing when it closed in 2011.

The “Larkin” behind the Larkin District

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Thirty-five years ago this week, The News began celebrating the 100th anniversary of the paper’s starting a daily edition.

In the special section called One Hundred Years of Finance and Commerce, The News recounted the history of a handful of Buffalo’s financial and commercial industries and provided ad space for many companies involved in those industries to tout their own contributions.

Except for perhaps attending a concert or food truck Tuesday in the Larkin District, most Buffalonians aren’t aware of the impact that Buffalo’s Larkin Soap Co. had on the national and world economy and the way we all shop.

While many of us remember the Sears catalog, it was John D. Larkin’s company that created many of the processes that became standard in mail-order retail and remain the basis for the systems used by Internet age mail-order retailers to this day.

Buffalo Savings Bank looks to the future

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Thirty-five years ago this week, The News began celebrating the 100th anniversary of the paper’s starting a daily edition.

In the special section called One Hundred Years of Finance and Commerce, The News recounted the history of a handful of Buffalo’s financial and commercial industries and provided ad space for many companies involved in those industries to tout their own contributions.

Before the 1982 finality of the closure of Bethlehem Steel, there was hope in Buffalo surrounding the revitalization of the Theatre District, the light rail installation on Main Street, and the building going on at near the waterfront — specifically the Hilton, the WKBW-TV studios and the small boat harbor.

Buffalo Savings Bank was getting ready for the next 100 years by adding onto its classic Beaux Arts gold-domed headquarters, getting ready for what was expected to be a New Buffalo. It was also buying up other banks around the country, and later, in 1983, changed its name to Goldome Savings Bank.

Goldome became caught up in the nation’s Savings and Loan crisis. In 1991, it was sold off to M&T.

M&T shows off its new Elmwood office

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Thirty-five years ago this week, The News began celebrating the 100th anniversary of the paper’s starting a daily edition.

In the special section called One Hundred Years of Finance and Commerce, The News recounted the history of a handful of Buffalo’s financial and commercial industries and provided ad space for many companies involved in those industries to tout their own contributions.

M&T Bank had been keeping Buffalo’s money safe for 24 years by the time The News started its daily editions, but in 1980 the bank was solidly in growth mode — including in the Elmwood Village.

The bank’s new “Elmwood Plaza” office offered state-of-the-art bank technology as well as what they called a “mini-park.”

It’s easy to laugh at the idea of a mini-park — especially since the same bench and trees on concrete slab stand there today. But in 1980, the idea that a tree might be planted in a spot “where a car could park” likely seemed pretty radical.

The elegant evolution of Delaware Avenue shopping

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Thirty-five years ago this week, The News began celebrating the 100th anniversary of the paper’s starting a daily edition.

In the special section called One Hundred Years of Finance and Commerce, The News recounted the history of a handful of Buffalo’s financial and commercial industries and provided ad space for many companies involved in those industries to tout their own contributions.

While much of Buffalo bought most of what they needed from the large department stores on Main Street — and then later their branch stores in shopping malls and plazas, and then, ultimately, at discount department stores — a certain segment of the city’s population shopped in elegance at the chic, more continental-feeling shops of Delaware Avenue.

Mabel Dahany, the Jenny Shop, Tegler’s and Pitt Petri offered a more sophisticated atmosphere to more sophisticated shoppers.

Buffalo in the ’40s: new $4,800 homes in Williamsville

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Pearce & Pearce built hundreds of homes across Western New York in the years leading up to World War II, and hundreds more in the area’s postwar housing boom.

Thirty homes were ready for completion in July, 1940, including in the North Union/Main, Harris Hill/Main, and Lamarck/Wehrle areas.

13 july 1940 williamsville homes
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