Answer to Question No. 1: 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.
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.
My 20 question Amsterdam NY Downtown Trivia quiz will be distributed to everyone on my mailing list later this week. There’s no cost to join the list and you can do so here.