As shoppers head out for the ‘second shopping season’ - the season of returns - it seems a good time to recall some of our favorite old stores that have long-since closed.
The Western New York retail scene continues to evolve with new stores like Cabela’s and Nordstrom Rack, where future generations may make memories of their own. But for now, the rest of us cling to fond memories of retailers past.
For some, the gold standard of shopping was a bustling downtown Buffalo and decked out department store window displays. For others, it’s the little pencils you placed orders with at Brand Names or the popcorn at the Hills snack bar.
Maybe it’s the golden-hued wash of nostalgia, but something about those old stores seemed magical.
Let’s take a shopping trip down memory lane with 15 long-gone retail institutions you loved and miss.
1. AM&As. Younger Buffalonians know AM&As only for its association with the long-languishing former location on Downtown’s Main Street. But the locally-based chain department store was a Buffalo institution from the time it opened in 1867 until it was sold to Bon-Ton in 1994.
2. Brand Names. Brand Names catalogs were ubiquitous in Western New York households from the time it opened in 1959 to the day it closed in 2001. The locally-owned company’s Christmas commercials, which featured the jingle “Bring Brand Names home for the holidays,” sent kids scurrying to the catalog to write their wish lists. Customers could pick up merchandise, everything from electronics to toys to sporting goods, at any of the store’s 18 catalog showrooms scattered throughout the region.
3. D&K. Before there were dollar stores, there was D&K. Most items – dish towels, knickknacks, pantyhose, coloring books – cost less than a dollar, and were arranged in tidy, square bins. The New Jersey-based discounter had about 100 variety store locations, just a handful of them in Western New York. Some D&K stores added discounted food in 2003.
4. Gold Circle. Founded in Ohio in 1967, the discount department store went out of business in 1988 when it was bought by a development group. The group sold roughly half of the company’s 76 stores to Hills Department Stores and the other half to Target.
5. Hengerer’s. The Wm. Hengerer Co. was founded in Buffalo in 1876 and merged with Rochester-based Sibley’s in 1981. The flagship Main Street store closed in 1987.
6. Hens & Kelly. Matthias Hens and Patrick Kelly opened Hens & Kelly in Downtown Buffalo in 1892. In the late 1960s, it was bought by Sperry & Hutchinson of S&H Green Stamps fame. In the 1970s, the chain was sold to Twin Fair.
7. Hills. You knew Christmas was around the corner when you heard Hills’ mascot singing “Hills is where the toys are.” Founded in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1957, it closed in 1998 after being sold to Ames. Ames closed in 2002.
8. Jenss. Founded in Lockport in 1887, the department store chain had six locations, including those in the Boulevard, Summit Park and Eastern Hills malls. Jenss closed its department stores in 2000 before partnering with Reeds Jewelers to offer home decor, collectibles and bridal registries alongside Reeds’ fine jewelry in 2002.
9. LL Bergers. In 1905, Louis Berger opened its first and flagship store downtown at 500 Main Street. The high-end department store catered to the Buffalo region’s more affluent shoppers. The upscale fashion retailer flourished and expanded locally before declaring bankruptcy and closing its doors in 1991.
10. McCrory’s. Founded in Pennsylvania in 1882, it was one of the last surviving five and dimes with a lunch counter in place. The company went bankrupt from 1992 to 1997, shedding 600 stores, including those in Salamanca, Dunkirk, Amherst and Albion. In 2000, it converted its remaining local stores to the Dollar Zone dollar store format, before going defunct a year later.
11. Murphy’s. In 1899, former McCrory’s manager G.C. Murphy struck out on his own to open a five and dime in Pittsburgh. Murphy’s was sold to Ames in 1985, then to McCrory’s in 1989. The chain went under in 2001.
12. The Sample. Founded on Hertel Avenue in 1928, the high-end apparel retailer originally sold department store “sample” dresses brought in from New York City. The 11-store chain entered bankruptcy in 1990 and was shuttered in 1991.
13. Sattler’s. Opened as a one-room shoe store called the Broadway Market Shoe House in 1889, Sattler’s grew into a six-location department store chain. It closed due to bankruptcy in 1982, and its flagship East Side location was demolished in 1987.
14. Twin Fair. The Buffalo-based store opened its first location on Walden Avenue in 1956. At its peak, it had 37 stores in New York, Ohio and California. It sold to Meijer in 1978, then Gold Circle, before closing in 1982.
15. Two Guys. Founded by Sidney and Herbert Hubschman in 1946 New Jersey, some of the discount department store chain’s locations contained grocery stores. It had its own Green Stamps-style trading stamps that stamp-collecting customers could exchange for merchandise.