Hills is where the toys (and memories) are

By Steve Cichon

People love to remember Hills, and I get it. I love to remember Hills, too.

Hills is where your grandma bought you an Icee and a popcorn. You may have got your first bike, Cabbage Patch Kid, or Michael Jackson record there. And it goes without saying (singing), Hills is where the toys are. And of course, most importantly, Hills is not WalMart.

This Hills bag was recently on eBay for $9.34. It did not sell.
This Hills bag was recently on eBay for $9.34. It did not sell.

Hills was in Buffalo for about 20 years. In 1979, there were two Hills stores in Western New York. Store number 77 was in Garden Village Plaza (French and Union Rds) in Cheektowaga, and store number 79 was on George Urban Blvd (at Dick) in Depew (today a Hobby Lobby location).

In 1999, 10 out of the 11 Western New York Hills stores became Ames, when Ames bought out Hills to become the nation’s 4th largest discount retailer. (Ames closed for good in 2002.)

Two decades of great memories. But here’s the thing. Hills wasn’t that great. It was terrible, in fact. It was dirty. All the toys were always open and all over the place.

I got my red GE fake Walkman at Brand Names, but I shopped for cassettes at Hills. For $5.97, you basically had to sort through every cassette in the record department, because they were always out of order and jammed back into the wrong spots. Good luck trying to find a Young MC tape (Y) when it’s hidden behind Belinda Carlisle (C) in the slot marked (J).

And up until the very end, they didn’t take credit cards. No cash or no check and a drivers license, meant you had to put back the VHS copy of “The Bodyguard” you were buying to impress your girlfriend.

“C’mon, I loved Hills,” you might be screaming at your computer. You may love it now, but you didn’t then. A survey taken right before Hills closed showed WNYers preferred K-Mart (#1) and WalMart (#2) by a wide margin over Hills.

Hills wasn’t that great, but neither was your mom’s 1983 Chevette with naugahyde seats and AM radio which carted you and your brother to Hills.

I live to jog people’s memories, and reminiscing every now and again is a good thing. It’s also good, though, to put it in context with how good we really have it right now.

Anyway, ‘member Hills?

Now I can’t wait to read the comments for people to talk about Twin Fair, Two Guys, Gold Circle and Brand Names.

This post originally appeared at TrendingBuffalo.com

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.