Does Wellsville’s past give a glimpse of the future ?
By Andrew Harris
First, thank you to all those who voted in our recent poll question, “What do you miss the most?”
Over one thousand readers chimed in and many responses will bring back the memories. Almost a quarter of respondents provided a custom answer, a sampling of those replies can be found at the end of the article.
In 1988, I was an eleven-year old kid on a bike and downtown Wellsville was my backyard. Riverwalk wasn’t built yet, the Brooklyn Street School still stood, and Ronald Reagan was still the president. It was a different world, days away from the digital explosion of the 1990’s. We had no idea that our group of neighborhood kids and our little downtown were at the end of an era that stretched back a hundred years. I’m grateful that I got to live a very similar “youth” as my parents and grandparents.
By the time I could drive a car, a rapid change was underway: Globalization, Nintendo, MTV, and dial-up internet. Things changed fast and downtown did too.
Fast forward thirty years and looking back seems dreamy; nostalgia works like that. The future is more interesting to me and there is only one reliable way to predict the future: Examine the past.
While I’m not saying that Wellsville will somehow revert back to 1988, this poll predicts one thing that many seem to miss the most, retail shops. More than half of the total responses mention J.J. Newberry’s, a general “five and dime” store that sat on the corner of Main Street and E. Fassett Street(now large church.) As I recall, the store had everything and the back door was the shortcut to penny candy or a new slingshot. Check out this interesting video of an abandoned “Newberry’s,” the company collapsed in the late 1990’s as the big-box stores proliferated.
Today in an age where we can order almost anything on the internet, the thrill of “super stores,” is quickly ending, and generic “dollar stores” offer almost no shopping pleasure: The world craves authentic retailers, especially the old “five and dime” style store. Walmart, Dollar General, and other global retailers supposedly have saved us all money but they took away the enjoyment.
Under what circumstances could Newberry’s or Rockwell’s or Davie’s-style stores return to Main Street Wellsville? When will the demand for “authentic” retail reach the point where you or I could start up a “five and dime?”
I don’t think it will happen overnight but I see evidence of history repeating itself. Just outside the village is the new Wellsville General Store, a hybrid business of retail, ice cream, and hot food. The Wellsville Creative Arts Center and the Little Gem gallery offer a popular mix of art, entertainment, retail, and cafe food.
My crystal ball sees a revamped village building with new purpose. A group of local entreprenuers work together and re-imagine a downtown ‘five and dime.” They start with simple shop that sells the most popular items based on good market research. That shop ads a little wine bar, maybe a street taco grab-n-go, maybe a cell phone repair counter. Amazon starts dropping off packages for rural customers to pick up, maybe even a small scale print shop. In another recently improved building is a outfitter, renting kayaks and selling Genesee River gear. They also sell WNY beers, Boehnke Knives, and fresh Tanbark City Coffee. A few hybrid, new economy retail stores on Main Street Wellsville and we’ve got half of JJ Newberry’s back !
Thanks for voting and entertaining my recollections and visions. This poll has been our most successful by far, especially on our Facebook page. It was a fun for me as well to think back and look forward.
It was made possible by an enduring retail force on Main Street Wellsville: Hart’s Jewelry. This family business has brought a sense of style and quality to Main Street for 40 years. They are the showcase for the future of retail Main Street and provide products and services that you can’t find without hours in the car. Visit the new website, HartsJewelry.com, for snapshots of what is “in the case,” and learn about repair, cleaning, clockwork, and many other great gift items in the store.
Some of the great custom responses:
Wellsville bakery and their subs circa 1977-81
Public outdoor swimming pool
Stevens’ Men’s and Ladies Fashions
Bush’s Sporting Goods
The Ping Pong Ball drop from an airplane on main street.
The bakery. Smelling the donuts!!
Wednesday afternoons all was closed and Thursday evening all was open
Bushes store with the hobby stuff and fresh made fountain drinks
Being able to purchase a bra underwear or shoes in the county!
All of it. The whole nuclear village character.
Fred D Rice Music House
Searles news stand, The sports center
Hamilton’s Shoe Store