Amsterdam, NY Trivia Quiz – Downtown

 

Answer to Question No. 1: Remember when the building pictured above dominated the upper eastern half of the first block of lower Market Street? It was built in the 1880’s by the Sanford family and was known as the Sanford Block. The upper floor apartments were at one tome considered to be the among the most desirable in the city. That’s Ralph Canale’s first Amsterdam eatery in the second storefront from the right. He named it “Your Hostess Coffee Shop” and on every week day the place was standing room only at lunchtime.  It was located right next to Piccolo’s Candy & Tobacco Shop owned by Canale’s uncle, who happened to also be one of the biggest bookies in Rug City history. In addition to his pastrami sandwiches, Ralph’s roast beef, corned beef and baked ham sandwiches compared favorably to any served in New York City’s finest deli’s. He was also famous for his charbroiled beef burgers.

 

Answer to Question No. 2: It is gone now and so is the downtown corner on which it sat, but not enough years have yet passed to erase the aging memories of what was certainly one of Amsterdam’s most favorite five & dime department stores. S.S. Kresge Company’s Amsterdam store was a handsome two-story yellow-brick building that sat proudly on the corner of East Main and Railroad Streets. That corner was a favorite downtown meeting place. “I’ll meet you in front of Kresge’s” was part of Rug City’s lexicon. The second floor housed the offices of Dr. Dunning, one of this town’s favorite dentists and was also home to Gallagher & Trull, this city’s most skilled jewelry and watch makers. Kresge’s was one of those places where as soon as you walked through the front door you smiled. Greeting you as you walked in was one of downtown’s all-time great lunch counters, landmarked with a huge Richardson’s Root Beer Keg, where you could purchase a hot dog for 7 cents, three submarine sandwiches for a dollar and one of Lillian Reichel’s amazing blueberry muffins as a delicious stand-alone breakfast. Generations of Amsterdam’s parakeets and a river- full of this town’s gold fish emanated from Kresge’s pet section, which was situated at the very rear of the store. A sweet little lady everyone called Muggsie ran the toy department with a memorable smile and every aisle in the place was packed with merchandise that cost between a nickel and a dollar. Rug City residents bought enough of it to keep Kresge’s busy for decades but by the time Urban Renewal’s wrecking ball beckoned in the early seventies, Kresge’s was in the process of becoming K-Marts and replacing the five and dime motto with “Blue-Light specials.” I liked Lillian Reichel’s blueberry muffins a whole lot more.

Answer to Question No. 3: The answer to this question is Woolworth’s, which sat just two doors east of Kresge’s. The lunch counter there was run by a wonderful lady named Helen Nadler. In addition to their great french fries, they also served a mean milk shake and put their grilled hot dogs in oddly shaped butter drenched rolls. One of the counter’s most memorable promotions was their balloon game. You ordered a banana split and then threw a dart at a board filled with colored balloons to find out how much you paid for it. Another trademark of the store was the old fashioned crank-run cash registers Woolworth’s cashiers used. One of the things long-time Amsterdam natives like myself can remember is the significant numbers of people who used to staff downtown stores. Their cumulative payroll composed a huge chunk of this city’s economy. And the employees of these downtown stores were more than just co-workers. They hung around with each other after work and became lifelong friends. An example of their camaraderie was the girls softball league the downtown businesses used to sponsor. Pictured above is the Woolworth’s team from way back in 1940!

Answer to Question No. 4: When Enterprise closed in 1965 Manny Rosen opened the first Hobby Center on the north side of East Main Street. Business was so good he moved to a larger storefront on the south side of the street at 75 East Main. That’s the location shown in the above photo. Then the downtown mall construction forced him out and he moved to Schenectady, where he opened a similar store called The Center. He then gave Amsterdam a final shot with a new Main Street store called Dollars and Sense. A charming Englishman, Rosen was one of the folks who made downtown Amsterdam such a special place.

Answer to Question No. 5:  Olender Furniture – The Rug City’s version of Olender Furniture was opened at 81 East Main Street in 1902 by Wlliam Olender. His son Charles became president of the business in 1945. A year later, Olender’s moved to its iconic location at the corner of Market and Main in downtown Amsterdam (see photo above). Arterial projects first began to change the face and layout of Amsterdam’s downtown in the mid 1960’s. One of its first impacts was forcing Olender’s to vacate its corner location. Don began contemplating a move to Amsterdam’s Route 30 and even bought land there. But instead, he purchased the former Enterprise Department Store location on East Main Street and opened up a giant modern four-story showroom and warehouse, underscoring his commitment to the future of the city’s shopping district. But 11 years later he made the very difficult decision to relocate the store to downtown Schenectady rather than become a tenant in Amsterdam’s new enclosed Mall.

Answer to Question No. 6:  The third floor of Lurie’s was the bedding department.

Answer to Question No. 7:  The other downtown store besides Lurie’s to feature a central cashier station with store-wide pneumatic tubes was Holzheimer & Shaul’s.

Answer to Question No. 8: The three furriers operating in Amsterdam’s downtown in 1968 were Waggenheim’s, Skaperda’s and Furs by Gus.

Answer to Question No. 9: The construction of the Holiday Inn and arterial project forced Market Street neighbors Crane & Nevins, Morrison & Putnam and Hotaling Florist to all seek new homes for their businesses. Crane & Nevins moved to the old Good Year Tire Center on West Main Street. That building now houses the El Caribe Market. Morrison & Putnam constructed a handsome new store on the corner of Wall & Division Streets (see above photo). Today, that much-modified structure houses the New Dimensions Health Clinic operated by Liberty ARC. Hotaling Florist remained closest to downtown when they built a handsome one story shoppe right next to what was then the Amsterdam Savings Bank on Division Street. That business is also now long gone and the building is currently vacant.

Answer to Question No. 10: Miller’s – Howard Busseno was a native of South Glens Falls, who moved to Amsterdam as a boy, graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1950 and then served his country in Korea. Shortly after returning from service he was hired by Miller’s. In 1934, Harry Miller had moved his clothing company to Amsterdam, locating it in the upper floors of 68 East Main Street. The Miller Manufacturing Co. made all kinds of occupational and scouting uniforms. Miller also opened a retail store on the building’s ground floor. It was one of the first discount stores in the entire area. While a team of seamstresses was busy making all kinds of uniforms upstairs, the first floor store sold men’s and boys’ dress slacks, shorts and shoes, casual wear, sportswear, work clothes and work shoes, underwear and a large stock of cigars, cigarettes and tobaccos. The uniforms Miller’s manufactured were sold by mail throughout the country. I can remember going in there to buy my Cub Scout uniform when I was a kid and also  the gym suits we had to wear as students at Junior and Senior High. It really was a neat business model, perfectly suited for Amsterdam with its large pool of talented seamstresses, who had learned their craft by working in the knitting mills that used to operate in the city. When Harry Miller passed away in 1962, his son Marvin formally became head of the company. Marvin Miller ran it skillfully. For year’s, his biggest competitor for the Rug City’s male apparel market was the more stylish and expensive Mortan’s. Miller wisely focused his inventory and promotional strategy on the middle class segment of the market, who ate up his high quality at low prices theme. His veteran retail crew was a huge reason why the store became one of Amsterdam’s most popular. The sales staff was headed by the indomitable Busseno, who used to handle five customers at once without making any of them wait. Marvin Miller made a couple of moves to different downtown sites during the four decades the business operated in the City proper. But when the downtown Mall came, Miller headed north to Route 30.

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Answer to Question No. 11: If you look in the yellow circled section of the photo above, you will see the name “Stone’s” engraved in the handsome facade of the “Matthew’s” storefront. That was the name of the men’s apparel store that occupied that space prior to Matthew’s.

Answer to Question No. 12: 

  • A. Corner of East Main & Church Streets: Holzheimer & Shaul’s
  • B. Corner of Market & Division Streets: Crane & Nevins
  • C. Corner of East Main & Bridge Streets: Segel’s Jewelers
  • D. Corner of East Main & Market Streets: Olender Furniture

Answer to Question No. 13: John Sanford, the patriarch of the rug-making clan had the building pictured above constructed in the 1870’s and it became known as the Sanford Homestead Building. It would become arguably the most important building in Amsterdam history. In addition to housing the mighty Sanford family, it would become home to this town’s powerful Board of Trade, serve as city hall and headquarter the Amsterdam Police Department. At the turn of the Century, John Larrabee opened his hardware store in the street level store front and over the next six decades it was one of the most successful retail businesses in the city.

Answer to Question No. 14: On March 31, 1977 at 10:00AM, the ribbon was cut opening Phase 1 of the Amsterdam Mall.

Answer to Question No. 15: The diagram below shows the names and locations of the ten stores that comprised Phae 1 of the Amsterdam Mall:

Answer to Question No. 16: Gabay’s would become one of the most successful Phase 1 stores in the new Amsterdam Mall. This store was the Mortan’s and Holzheimer & Shaul’s for Amsterdam’s youngest shoppers and their mom’s. Opened in downtown in 1934 by Ness Gabay, it was this community’s first retail outlet dedicated to apparel for children and infants. Golub hired Mary Galinski to manage and serve as the store’s buyer and in 1945 Galinski ended up buying the business from her boss. By 1960, Galinski was ready to expand Gabay’s East Main Street storefront by purchasing a neighboring store and tearing down the wall between the two spaces. My mom and aunt shopped there all the time and later on so did my wife. Galinski’s daughter, Mary Insogna became the treasurer and co-owner of Gabay’s and in 1977 the two women made the huge decision that they would bring the business into a new 6,000 square foot space in the first phase of the Amsterdam Mall. It was one of that doomed facilities longer lasting success stories but it too eventually ceased operation as the Mall’s slump reached its nadir.

Answer to Question No. 17:

Merchant No. 1 – Sam Fox – owned Holzheimer & Shauls

Merchant No. 2 – Pat Luci Jr. – co-owned LuMart’s shoe store

Merchant No. 3 – Paul Guttenberg – owned Mortan’s

Merchant No. 4 – Irving Segel – owned Segel’s Jewelers

Merchant No. 5 – Lenny Sochin – owned Sochin’s clothing store

Merchant No. 6 – Mary Insognia – co-owned Gabay’s

Merchant No. 7 – Hugh Burrell – owned Mary & Belle’s Floral Shop

Merchant No. 8 – Seely Conover – founder of Seely Conover’s

 

Answer to Question No. 18: The store that backed out of it’s anchor store commitment was J. C. Penny’s. Long a fixture in downtown Amsterdam (see above photo) Rug City residents were genuinely excited about the opportunity to shop in a modern and enlarged version of the store. At the time, the Penny’s chain was making wholesale commitments to shopping malls across the country, so when they backed out of the new one being built downtown it was an early signal that the future of this huge investment was not as rosy as we all hoped. Instead, Penny’s opened a very small catalog store and pick-up center on the upper floor of the Mall’s Phase II section.

Answer to Question No. 19: The eight national department store chains located in the pre-mall downtown of Amsterdam included: Kresge’s, Woolworth’s, Penny’s, Grant’s, Sear’s, J.J. Newberry’s, Montgomery Ward’s, and National Auto.

Answer to Question No. 20: The only one of the six things listed that you can’t do in the current version of Amsterdam’s downtown is pick up a prescription at a drugstore. You can still buy a book at The Book Hound; still pick up a pizza at Riverside Pizza or Domino’s; still play a game of pool at Sharp Shooter’s Billiards Pub; still purchase a prom dress at The New Paris Shop, which happens to be the oldest surviving continuous downtown Amsterdam business; still get a haircut at Everett Kendall’s Barbour Palace; and you can get your computer problems solved at the Geek Pantology (see photo above)

I hope you enjoyed this brain-teasing look at the past half century’s history of Amsterdam’s downtown. If someone sent you a link to the quiz or you just accidentally stumbled upon it and you enjoyed the experience, you should consider adding your e-mail address to my Amsterdam Trivia Quiz distribution list. There’s no charge to join and I never share these e-mail addresses with any other person or organization. This is my eleventh Amsterdam Trivia Quiz and I’m hoping to complete several more so why take a chance that you will miss one. You can also add the e-mail addresses of friends and relatives if you are certain they’d love receiving these quizzes. If any e-mail addresses you add are already on my list don’t worry, duplicates are automatically eliminated so they won’t receive second copies. You can add addresses to my list here.

 

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