Amsterdam’s greatest days were fueled by its location at the confluence of a fast running creek and a good-sized river and by the later additions of an east-west rail line, canal and turnpike that passed right through its heart. These natural and manmade attributes attracted young bold first generation entrepreneurs who used them to manufacture and transport products like rugs, linseed oil, knitted goods, buttons and brooms to markets around the world.
These pioneers of manufacturing built huge multi-story factories, filled them with machines and trained thousands of immigrants from Europe to run them. As time went by and the products made by this first generation of entrepreneurs grew outdated or could be produced cheaper elsewhere, a new generation of product makers took advantage of the infrastructure and labor pool left behind and Amsterdam became the place where toys, litterbags, auto antennas furniture finishing products and fiberglass got made.
There was also another entrepreneur with great courage and business instinct on the scene. Unlike most of the product makers that preceded him, John Tesiero Jr. was born and raised here. He was the son of an immigrant He went to public schools, graduated from Lynch, served in the army, played poker with the boys down at the St. Agnello Club on West Main Street, married a local girl and started a family. After the war, he and two of his buddies made the very accurate forecast that pre-fabbed concrete blocks were going to be huge in the construction industry so they decided to start making them, first in a Cranesville barn, then in a building on Amsterdam’s south side, on Erie Street.
By 1964 Tesiero was ready to go really big-time. Up until then, the cement used to make the company’s blocks had to be purchased and shipped to the Erie Street location. Tesiero wanted to make his own so Cranesville purchased the former Adirondack Power Plant, a huge and familiar landmark visible from both sides of the Mohawk River just west of Amsterdam. It was turned into the company’s executive and manufacturing center. Ready mix concrete was added to the company’s product line and during the next decade, Tesiero begins gobbling up every ready-mix location in a four-county area. Next came a crown jewel in Tesiero’s rock hardening empire, he buys a stone quarry and is now able to control his products’ entire supply line. Soon he starts expanding his ready-mix operations beyond the Capital District and with Republican George Pataki’s election, Tesiero’s longtime support of the GOP pays off with a friend in the New York State Governor’s mansion and Cranesville became a huge player providing concrete for massive public road and building projects. That takes Tesiero westward in search of new ready-mix locations so he can better and more efficiently serve any area of the state.
At the turn of the 21stCentury, Tesiero’s bold leadership has turned Cranesville into one of the top 100 concrete producers in the nation. Content with the scope of his manufacturing operations, Tesiero sees another opportunity back in his home town investing in distressed properties. He buys the Amsterdam Mall and eventually relocates the Cranesville executive offices from the old power plant to the complex known as the Riverfront Center. He soon adds the landmark seven-story Key Bank building to his holdings along with Antler’s Country Club, the TeePee Restaurant and the former Albany State Savings Bank building on the corner of Main and Church Streets.
He had become the most successful businessman in Amsterdam and a civic-minded one too. Many organizations, including his beloved St. Mary’s Church, have benefitted from his generosity over the years. He was a devoted family man who was married to his wife Elizabeth for 65 years. They had four children and twelve grandchildren and Tesiero adored them all. He died in November of 2015 at the age of 88.
(Tesiero shares his July 2 birthday with one of the all-time great Amsterdam High School defensive ends.)