Buffalo in the 70’s: Everyone seemed to love The Ground Round

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Through the 1970s and 1980s, The Ground Round was a popular casual dining spot with locations at Seneca and Thruway Malls and on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Created by Howard Johnson’s, it may have been the first place you threw peanut shells on the floor and kids ate for a penny a pound on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

The Seneca Mall Ground Round was two years into its run when the Bills opened Rich Stadium in 1973. Many fans sought ways to avoid having to drive into Orchard Park– Ground Round offered a park and ride solution. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Buffalo’s first Ground Round opened outside the Seneca Mall in 1971.  “The Ground Round,” explained General Manager Burton Sack, “is a fun-type family restaurant featuring a player piano, nostalgic wall decorations from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, free peanuts on all tables, beer by the mug and pitcher, and free toys and games for the youngsters.”

Buffalo Stories archives

Five years later, The Howard Johnson’s restaurant at Sheridan and Delaware in Tonawanda was converted into a Ground Round, as was the Cross Bow Restaurant on Sheridan Drive in Amherst.

Buffalo Stories archives

In 1989, there were 215 Ground Round restaurants in 22 states– six in the Buffalo area. Those local stores were located at 3545 Delaware Ave. in Tonawanda; 208 Seneca Mall in West Seneca; 8529 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Niagara Falls; Thruway Mall and 1445 French Road, both in Cheektowaga; and 3180 Sheridan Drive and 7566 Transit Road, both in Amherst.

The Seneca Mall location was the first to open and the first to be closed– and then bulldozed– as the Seneca Mall was demolished starting in 1994. By the end of the year, half of the  remaining stores were sold to become the home of Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurants.

This photo shows the last Buffalo area Ground Round location on Niagara Falls Blvd. in the Falls in 2004. (Buffalo Stories photo)
Buffalonians love to remember The Ground Round, but fish fry from a national chain? (Buffalo Stories archives)

Amherst turns 200!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Today is Amherst’s 200th Birthday! It’s official because it says so on Wikipedia:

The town of Amherst was created by the State of New York on April 10, 1818; named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst. Amherst was formed from part of the town of Buffalo (later the city of Buffalo), which had previously been created from the town of Clarence. Timothy S. Hopkins was elected the first supervisor of the town of Amherst in 1819. Part of Amherst was later used to form the town of Cheektowaga in 1839.

Here are a few of our looks back at the Town of Amherst over the years:

What it looked like Wednesday: The Village of Williamsville, 1933

Torn-down Tuesday: Ice cold beers in Williamsville, 1888

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main Street, Williamsville, 1960s

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

Torn-Down Tuesday: Henry’s Hamburgers, Sheridan at the Boulevard

Buffalo in the ’70s: Twin Fair is closed on Sundays, but Two Guys is open for business

 

Torn-Down Tuesday: Sheridan Drive, early 1960s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A snowstorm and a couple of jackknifed tractor-trailers had Sheridan Drive backed up from just after Harlem Road all the way to Niagara Falls Boulevard in this early 1960s photo.

Buffalo Stories archives

The “C. Hettinger for Rambler” car dealership is in the foreground on the right – today, it’s about where Northtown Kia and Northtown Mazda are located. Charles Hettinger opened for business in the spot in 1960.

Next door, Herb and Burt Wallens opened Sheridan Lanes and its “broad expanse of 48 precision Brunswick Lanes” in February 1957. It was billed as “one of America’s finest bowling establishments, for your bowling pleasure” upon opening.

Beyond is Kinney Shoes and the final legible sign off in the distance, which belongs to the La Hacienda Sheridan Restaurant.

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.

 

Torn-Down Tuesday: Henry’s Hamburgers, Sheridan at the Boulevard

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Back when living along the Tonawanda/Amherst border was like living in a real-life version of “American Graffiti,” Henry’s Hamburgers at Sheridan and Niagara Falls Boulevard was one of the many places a cruise down the strip could have landed.

Buffalo News archives

By the time the photo was snapped about a year into the operation of Henry’s in 1960, the Western New York version of guys like Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss and gals like Mackenzie Phillips and Cindy Williams had already eaten 720,000 hamburgers and 33 tons of French fries. The numbers were easy to hit when hamburgers were 15 cents each — or a bag of ten for a buck.

Within a year, there were three Henry’s locations — this one, another on McKinley Parkway in South Buffalo across the street from Park Edge (later Bells) Supermarket, and another across Union Road from Airport Plaza — right about where the Kensington Expressway eventually cut through.

Through the ’60s and ’70s, at least a dozen different Henry’s locations came and went around Western New York — most notably, the two (one at Main and Dewey and one on Jefferson) owned by Bills great and Channel 2 sportscaster Ernie Warlick.

The Main and Dewey location is the only one that survives as a restaurant. It’s now Tony’s Ranch House.

As far as the Sheridan Drive location, the area has obviously lost the rural feel of this photo. The gas station selling 26¢ gas at its two pumps was soon replaced by a Firestone shop. The Henry’s lot has been filled in with a small strip plaza and a former Denny’s restaurant.

Back to School 1960: New schools debut in Cheektowaga, Orchard Park, Amherst

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Fifty-five years ago this week, The 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.

Children around Western New York were getting ready to start in new schools that are still in use today.

The new Cheektowaga High School opened on a still mostly rural Union Road in 1960. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Maple Road was also more rural than it is today in 1960. When St. Gregory The Great opened that fall, the parish’s current largest neighbor– Milliard Fillmore Suburban Hospital– was not yet built. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Opened as Orchard Park Junior High School in 1960, the building was enlarged in 1976 and it has been the home of Orchard Park High School ever since. (Buffalo Stories archives)