Sites we remember from downtown shopping’s glory days through the years

       By Steve Cichon

For most of Buffalo’s history, the easiest place to shop was Main Street downtown. Until the 1980s, the largest and best-stocked dry goods and department stores had names like AM&A’s, Hengerer’s and Hens & Kelly.

AM&A’s around 1910. This original AM&A’s location was torn down to make way for the Main Place Mall in the early 1960s.

Today we look back at the blocks that would eventually become those stores that any Buffalonian over the age of 40 or 50 will fondly remember – especially this time of year.


The building that was constructed for Hengerer’s opened in 1904 but was a famous Buffalo address long before that.

In 1880, is was the location of one of Buffalo’s leading hotels, the Tifft House.

The Tifft House replaced the Phoenix Hotel, which was built in 1835 on the east side of Main between Court and Mohawk.


For more than 90 years, AM&A’s was across Main Street from the spot we now remember. Adam, Meldrum and Anderson took over the more familiar spot from JN Adam & Co. starting in 1959, and lasting until the store closed in 1996.

The JN Adam & Co. store building was purchased by AM&A’s in the late 1950s.

JN Adam built his store on the spot where the Arcade stood, until it burned in 1893. When built, the Arcade was Buffalo’s largest office building.

The light-colored building is the Arcade, which burned down. That block of buildings was replaced by storefronts for Kleinhans, Woolworth’s and, eventually, AM&A’s. The ornate building across Lafayette Square is the German Insurance Co. building, and was replaced by the Tishman Building, now home of the Hilton Garden Inn.

Hens & Kelly:

Hens & Kelly’s downtown flagship store was built on “The Old Miller Block” at Main and Mohawk.

The store was opened in 1892, and closed 90 years later.

Lafayette Square’s “The Arcade,” then Buffalo’s largest office building

By Steve Cichon

Our 1880 map shows “The Arcade” at the corner of Main and Clinton, on the south edge of Lafayette Square.

It was Buffalo’s largest office building, and around 1880, it was the home of many businesses that endured for generations, like Michael Shea’s Music Hall and TC Tanke’s smith shop.

T.C. Tanke was one of Buffalo’s early prominent citizens and was one of the city’s first silversmiths in 1857. Thousands of finely crafted pieces of jewelry and silverware made their way into Western New York homes through the 131 years Tanke’s was in business downtown. The last wedding present left Tanke’s with the store’s closure in 1989.

The Arcade was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1893, and it “was a mass of roaring flames inside of 10 minutes after the fire was first discovered,” read the report in The News that evening.

An unnamed “scrub woman” was held up as the hero who “rushed through the corridors crying fire and and warned the night watchman to call Mr. Shea.”

Not only did the future theater magnate run his music hall from the building, he also lived there, on the third floor.

“Get up for your life, Mr. Shea! The building’s on fire,” The News quoted the watchman saying, “as he cried as he kicked and pounded on the concert hall man’s bedroom door.”

“As soon as he got a reply and got the door open he hustled tho bewildered man’s clothes on and hurried him down the stairs to a place of safety.”

No one was killed in the fire, which caused $2 million in damage.

But as the embers still smoldered, The News’ front page opined, “The destruction … while in some respects (is) a loss to the city, will eventually prove a blessing” with new development.

The Mooney-Brisbane building opened on the spot in 1895, and just like its predecessor, it was the home of several retailing giants with Buffalo roots.

Buffalo’s Seymour H. Knox opened a 5&10 in the new building. It became a Woolworth’s store when Knox joined his cousin F.W. Woolworth incorporating in 1911 to create a nationwide retail empire. The Woolworth’s at Main & Clinton closed in 1997 after more than a century in the spot.

Woolworth’s on Main Street, late 1980s. The store was in the spot for more than 100 years. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Edward Kleinhans opened his first men’s store in 1893, but moved into the brand-new Brisbane Building when it opened in 1895. His men’s store didn’t quite make a century at Main and Clinton, closing up shop in 1993, but of course his name lives on as the patron of the Kleinhans Music Hall.