Buffalo in the ’80s: Hills at Transit & Main

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Not sure what Buffalonians will have more fun remembering: Hills or gas prices at $1.13.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

The shopping plaza known as the Clarence Mall, complete with empty Ames, G&G Fitness and Burlington Coat Factory stores, was bulldozed in 2005 when the name was changed to the Shops at Main/Transit.

Barnes & Noble, Old Country Buffet and Bed, Bath, & Beyond now fill the retail strip between the Eastern Hills Mall and Main Street along Transit.

Bells Markets and Liberty Shoes were among the stores at the Clarence Mall in 1981.

Bells Markets and Liberty Shoes were among the stores at the Clarence Mall in 1981.

When the Clarence Mall held its grand opening in 1967, ads called the place “the shopping plaza of superlatives.”

clarencemall67

Grant City, the fourteenth store in the W.T. Grant chain, was by far the largest at 135,000 square feet when it opened. The 30,000-square-foot Park Edge grocery store that opened at the plaza was the largest in Western New York, with “the area’s largest dairy case,” measuring 80 feet long with four levels.

parkedge-1967

Buffalo in the ’80s: Holiday shopping at Hills

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you were getting ready for Christmas in 1985, one place you were likely to turn to figure out what you wanted or what you wanted to buy was the weekly Hills ad.

There were eleven Hills location around Western New York in 1984, making the discount retailer just about ubiquitous — and a likely stop for most Western New York shoppers over the 20 years the company operated here.

Buffalo Stories archives

By the time the local Hills stores were bought out by Ames in 1999, there were 10 Hills locations. With a combined 20 stores, Ames closed its local outlets in 2002.

 

 

Hills is where the toys (and memories) are

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – 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

The Golden Age of Buffalo’s Great Retailers

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY  – The outpouring was amazing.

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.

Consider this page a taste of the Golden Age of Buffalo Retailing talk that’s been seen by thousands of Western New Yorkers (and can become a part of your next meeting or event. )

Take a stroll down memory lane, and play some classic jingles while looking over some images of Buffalo’s by-gone retailers.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com