Hill & Markes: Amsterdam, NY residents Amos Hill and Charlie Markes became partners in a candy, ice cream and ice cream cone distributorship in 1906. They dubbed the new business Hill & Markes and began making sales calls and deliveries by horse-drawn buggies and sleighs. Forty one years later Harry and Harriet Finkle purchased the company and expanded the product line to include school supplies, paper products, rental dishes and cutlery. The company was originally built and managed to serve the candy, sundries, toys and holiday decoration needs of small mom & pop grocery and convenience stores which used to dominate the northeast market until big-box stores moved in and discount priced those mom & pop’s into oblivion. Harry and Harriet’s son, Jeffrey Finkle; their daughter, Andrea Finkle Packer; and Andrea’s husband, Neal Packer joined the company in the 1970’s. These new generation owners recognized what was happening to the company’s traditional business model and fought back by diversifying their product lines and expanding their market. Today the company distributes janitorial supplies; foodservice disposables; industrial packaging; office supplies; ice cream toppings and supplies; and organic, gluten-free and vegan snacks and products to thousands of institutional and retail customers throughout New York State. The original horse and buggy have been replaced by a fleet of trucks that are loaded up daily at the firm’s gleaming new facility in the Town of Florida.
Mary and Belle’s Flower Shop: Mary Hutchinson and Belle Burrell opened up their little flower shop in a storefront at 123 East Main Street in 1944. They had plenty of competition at the time but Amsterdam back then had four seeds essential to success for new florists; plenty of churches, funeral parlors, cemeteries and people with jobs. The ladies worked hard to successfully find and retain new customers and by 1955 the business had grown successful enough to relocate to a bigger shop across the street. But it was probably the addition of Belle’s son Hugh Burrell to the store’s staff in 1957 that was the fertilizer to the shop’s dramatic growth into one of the most successful retail establishments in town. In addition to being a very good business manager, he became one of this community’s most active volunteers. When Urban Renewal forced the business to relocate 1980, Burrell chose a site on upper Market Street near the Amsterdam Memorial Hospital campus.
GO Oil: They had each run popular Amsterdam service stations back in the day when you only went to a service station to get gas or service your car and somebody actually waited on you. Frank Greco ran the very busy Market Hill Service Station at the site now occupied by Zanella’s automotive repair business. Jerry Ottati’s station was on the corner of West Main and Evelyn Street, opposite Russo’s Grill. The two men were friends who had grown up in Amsterdam’s West End and in the early 1970’s, they decided it was time to move up the retail gas business ladder and become distributors. They each kicked in the first letter of their last names to form GO Oil. They became the distributor of Mobil gasoline and oil products to a network of six Amsterdam gas stations, which included both their respective stations. Their timing couldn’t have been better. Within a few years, the Arab oil embargo had changed this nation’s gasoline business model forever. GO Oil’s sales and property leasing revenues increased rapidly. Greco continued on in the business until 1987 before selling out to Ottati. Jerry’s four sons now run the still thriving business.
Morrison and Putman: William Morrison opened a music store on the east side of lower Market Street in 1893. Thirteen years later, Morrison and his brother-in-law, Henry Putman became partners in the business and relocated the store to the then brand new Blood Building, across the street from its original location. For most of the following century, Morrison and Putman’s became Amsterdam’s go-to destination for musical instruments, music lessons, sheet music, records and stereo equipment. Paul Baker, the son of the treasurer of Mohawk Carpet Mills, purchased the store in 1948 and ran it extremely well until Urban Renewal forced him to relocate in 1970. Underscoring his commitment to his community, Baker became the first downtown business forced out of its home by Urban Renewal to rebuild within the city. He constructed a beautiful new state-of-the-art store at the corner of Division and Wall Streets. The business did well there for several years but eventually closed
Kaiser-Boswell Co: In 1917, two Amsterdam, NY sheet metal workers named Harry Boswell and Robert Kaiser began a sheet metal and heating business together at 5 Bridge Street, just over the northern end of the old river bridge, near Main Street. The firm became one of this regions most respected sources of all types of sheet metal, heating and air conditioning and roofing products for the balance of that century. The parlors and dining rooms of my late grandmother’s old duplex home in Amsterdam’s West End feature intricately designed tin ceilings that were manufactured and installed by Kaiser-Boswell and those ceilings are in as good a shape today as they were when they were installed over eighty years ago. The plant relocated to a modern one-story facility on the South Side of Bridge Street in 1967. Harry Boswell , the founder of the firm lived until 1966. Three of his grandsons then took over the operation. Kaiser Boswell went out of business in 2002.
Who are my five other choices for Amsterdam’s Top Ten Two-Person Business Partnerships? You’ll find out when my “Book of 50 Top Ten All-Time Amsterdam Lists,” is released later this year.
Once a month, I will be sending out a newsletter that includes a portion of the All Time Amsterdam Top Ten Lists I happen to be working on at the time. I will also use this monthly newsletter to announce the topics for upcoming Top Ten Lists and welcoming readers to put forth their own nominations for these compilations. If you’d like be included, please add your e-mail address here.