Love him or not, there is no disputing the fact that James D. Griffin relished his time as Buffalo’s mayor, and there were few events where Mayor Griffin was more joyful than he was each year at Buffalo’s St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Buffalo News archives
“This is my 16th parade as mayor, but my 32nd all-around,” recalled Griffin at his last parade as mayor in 1993, as he had a beer outside DuBois Restaurant on Niagara Street. Unperturbed by the 14-degree windchill, he told News reporter Lauri Githens, “This is a great day. Every day is a blessed one for the Irish.”
The parade has been on Delaware Avenue now for decades, but before the building of the MetroRail in the early ’80s, Buffalo’s Irish and Irish-at-heart would parade up Main Street from Memorial Auditorium to North Street.
Bagpipers pipe past AM&A’s at Main and Court in 1972. (Buffalo News archives)
Since 1994, Buffalo’s second St. Patrick’s Day parade, the “Old First Ward Parade,” has brought grassroots marching and wearing of the green back to where it all started.
This 1937 photo shows the start of that year’s parade at Elk (now South Park Avenue) and Louisiana Street.
Buffalo News archives
News reporter Anne Neville wrote a comprehensive history of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2014. You can read that story here.
Looking at the clip art and the premise behind this December 1962 ad for the AM&A’s toiletries department, one can quite easily picture, say, Ward Cleaver showing up in one of the six Adam, Meldrum and Anderson locations with this ad in hand.
Buffalo Stories archives
The perfume counter was on the main floor at the downtown location. Other locations were on Sheridan Drive, University Plaza, Thruway Plaza, Abbott Road and Airport.
The week before the return to school in 1960, The Buffalo Evening News’ special back-to-school section featured articles on the latest in education inside and outside of the classroom, and, of course, plenty of back-to-school ads.
Clothes shopping was a much more gender-specific endeavor in 1960 — while many larger department stores and discount stores obviously offered accouterments for both sexes, there were also plenty of specialty shops that catered to only boys or girls.
Boys buying school clothes 55 years ago were far more likely to be looking for sports coats and ties than jeans and T-shirts, as reflected in these ads.
Burns Bros, Campus Corner, Cresbury’s, H. Seeberg’s and Kleinhans all offered clothes for men and boys.
AM&A’s, Kresge, CG Murphy’s and Penney’s all offered clothes for both sexes.
Adam, Meldrum & Anderson was Buffalo’s largest and most popular department store in 1975.
Locally owned and operated from 1867 to 1994, more than just a place to shop, it was a Buffalo institution.
Starting in the mid-1970s and lasting through the early 1980s, the store’s italicized green-lettered corporate logo was augmented with an ultra-modern swooshy AM&A’s, shown below in an ad from 40 years ago this week.
As can be faintly seen on the renderings of the store locations, the more conservative font remained on the store’s signage. The more modern look was seen in advertisements, shopping bags and shirt boxes, first in an electric green and blue, then in a more subdued dark blue and red.
Within the next few years, it’s expected that Chinese investors will pump anywhere from $60 million to $70 million into the vacant AM&A’s building on Main Street downtown, transforming it into a hotel and restaurant.
Fifty-five years ago today, the “old” AM&A’s building was the “soon-to-be” AM&A’s building. It was being renovated after the JN Adam department store closed up shop and left the building. AM&A’s was moving into the building from its long-time home directly across Main Street.
There is buzz and tempered excitement over the purchase the old AM&A’s department store building on Main Street.
The building was last occupied in 1998 by Taylor’s, a short-lived high-end department store better remembered for its dress code (no sneakers!) than its offerings.
In 1995, Bon-Ton closed what was the flagship store of the Adam, Meldrum, and Anderson Department Store chain. Bon-Ton bought AM&A’s in 1994.
The building is now best known as the AM&A’s building, as it was from 1960-94.
For the 90 years previous, AM&A’s was directly across Main Street from that location, in a series of storefronts which were torn down to make way for the Main Place Mall.
For most of the 20th century, the building we call AM&A’s was the JN Adam Department store. Adam was a mayor of Buffalo and the brother of AM&A’s co-founder Robert Adam. In 1960, JN’s closed, and AM&A’s took over the building.
This photo, probably from the very late 1950s, shows Woolworth’s (which remained in that location until the chain dissolved in 1997), JN Adam, Bonds Men’s store (famous for two trouser suits), Tom McAn Shoes, the Palace Burlesk at its original Shelton Square location, then the Ellicott Square Building.
All of the storefronts between JN Adam and the Ellicott Square building were torn down for the M&T headquarters building and some green space.
Only months after AM&A’s sold its operations to Bon-Ton, Bon-Ton announced the closure of the Main Street downtown location which had been hemorrhaging money for quite some time.
More than 300 jobs were lost with the closure of the store as well as the warehouse behind the store across Washington Street.
The loss of the downtown anchor and landmark 20 ago this month served as a wakeup call to many, that downtown was still far from a full, healthy recovery.
City must keep encouraging a downtown neighborhood
Housing will not appear downtown just because experts say it should. The old chicken-and-egg issue is part of the picture. Downtown would be more attractive if there were more people on the street to create a feeling of security. Downtown would be more attractive if there were more service outlets such as good convenience food stores, convenient dry cleaners and other small service shops. But those things aren’t likely to appear until more people live downtown.
After 78 years in downtown Buffalo, it was announced 55 years ago today that the J.N. Adam department store would be closing its doors — only to have the doors immediately reopened as the new home of AM&A’s.
Within months, it was an amazing sight to see as thousands of items were carried from the longtime home of AM&A’s across Main Street to the building it would call home until the flagship downtown store and all other locations were sold to Bon-Ton in 1994.
J.N. Adam and Robert Adam — the Adam of Adam, Meldrum and Anderson — were brothers who came to Buffalo from Scotland. It was the grandnephew of J.N. Adam and the grandson of AM&A’s founder Robert Adam who, as president of AM&A’s, facilitated the move on Main Street.
“AM&A to occupy J.N. Adam store”
“Some time next year J.N. Adam & Co. will discontinue its operations.
“Its store at Main and Eagle Sts. will be leased by Adam, Meldrum & Anderson Co. Inc. It will be remodeled and air-conditioned before occupany by AM&A.”
For nearly 130 years, Adam, Meldrum and Anderson was a Buffalo-based department store. That streak came to an end in 1994. The following year, the flagship Main Street store was closed.
May 16, 1994: AM&A’s chain is purchased by Bon-Ton, Sale ends era
“AM&A’s been sold to a York, Pa.-based regional retailer, executives announced today.
“Bon-Ton will spend $38.5 million to acquire AM&A’s. The figure includes $2.1 million in cash and the assumption of approximately $21.4 million of debt and $15 million in other liabilities.
“… While the sale signals the end of a 127-year-long retailing love affair between Western New Yorkers and the department store, the entry of Bon-Ton Stores is good for the store and its customers, Alford said.”
After agreeing to give a lecture at Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery about some of the city’s great retailers of the past, I was deluged with people offering up their memories, and thirsty for the memories of the stores of Buffalo’s grand old stores.