Loblaws on Brooklyn Square

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Loblaws Brooklyn Square 1947
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist

Imagine showing up for work as the assistant manager of the Prendergast Avenue Loblaws one morning in 1948 only to have one of the company’s supervisors put you in his car, drive you to the Loblaws at 1 North Main Street, and announce, right then and there, that you were to be the new manager of the Brooklyn Square Loblaws! This is exactly what happened to Guy Glace who held that position for two years, from 1948 to 1950—an experience that began his long history as a manager of several Jamestown Loblaws supermarkets.

Many people from the nearby residential neighborhoods of Brooklyn Square remember that Loblaws was one of the first supermarkets to be established on the south side of the city. It was bound on the north by the well-known florist shop, Nelson and Butts, and on the south by one of the most memorable stores on the Square, Lundquist Hardware.

The parent company of the Loblaws chain was in Canada, but the Jamestown stores had warehouses and offices in Buffalo, New York. The Brooklyn Square store occupied approximately 3,000 square feet and provided employment for about twenty people. Friday was the busiest shopping day because most pay days for factory workers, who often lived on the south side of the city, occurred at the end of their work week. But people from all over the city shopped at the Brooklyn Square Loblaws. For one thing, it was a main bus stop so it was convenient for people to get to and from the supermarket, plus delivery service was also available to customers anywhere in the city.

The Brooklyn Square store did a good business and served about 2,000 customers a week. Meat for the store came from Swift’s on Institute Street, and produce, such as carrots, beets, and radishes when they were in season, came from Brigiotta’s farm. Meat and produce were also shipped in from the Buffalo warehouses. In addition to national brands, Loblaws had its own brand of canned goods: Royal Manor, Orchard Park, and Edgebrook. The store exclusively carried Stokley’s of Indiana canned fruits and vegetables, a premium brand. In the dairy department, one could find Cherry Valley butter, Loblaws own brand. And if customers were after freshly ground coffee, there was a machine placed across the aisle from the coffee shelf where customers could grind whole beans, packaged in bags, under the brand name Magic Cup. National brands of canned coffee, such as Maxwell House, Hills Bros., and Sanka, one of the first decaffeinated coffees on the market, were readily available. Loblaws also carried Swell Blend, a popular leading brand of coffee that was roasted locally by Wilcox-Crissey, a company located in Shearman Place, just off the Square. Loblaws was a full-service supermarket, and when frozen foods were introduced to the American public, the store carried a limited supply of Snow Crop frozen foods: vegetables, orange juice and later on TV dinners and turkeys.

Guy Glace
Guy Glace

Of course, no history of Loblaws on the Square would be complete without a few stories and recollections. One of the employees at the Brooklyn Square store, Mary Guiffreda Swanson, had this to recount: “I did once work at the Loblaws store in Brooklyn Square. My first position was in the meat department. I also worked in the PC [Premium Certificate] department. It was similar to the Green Stamps that other stores were handing out for purchasing products at their stores. A customer would receive so many PC stamps with their purchase. After they accumulated so many, they would use their PCs to receive different gifts in the PC department, everything from sporting goods and bicycles to appliances and tools. Our break room was in the abandoned upstairs. We would sit with our chairs looking out the oversized windows to all the happenings in downtown. Those days we called the Brooklyn Square area downtown, and once past the railroad tracks on North Main Street, we referred to that as uptown. So many stores in those days both uptown and downtown. Those were the good days of yesteryear.”

Being the manager of Loblaws, Guy kept his finger on the pulse of the store regarding his and his employees’ responsibilities. But he was also in a position to observe some of his employees’ antics. Such was the case with Bill Adams, who was Guy’s assistant manager at the Brooklyn Square Loblaws. It was around Easter, and Guy was in the office of the store that fronted S. Main talking with Frank Smith, one of the senior supervisors of the company and Rose Volpe, who was the head cashier. Bill, who had a real sense of humor, took it into his head to start pelleting Rose with jelly beans, by sailing several of the sugary candies over the office wall. He could see Rose but not his boss or the Loblaws supervisor, Frank Smith. Each jelly bean that he hoped would hit Rose, whom he loved to kid, landed within inches of Guy and Supervisor Smith! When Bill realized who was in the office with Rose, he took off for the back room and stayed out of sight for awhile!

Guy Glace had a long association and career with Loblaws. He actually started working as a stock clerk at the Loblaws at 309 Prendergast Avenue when he was a senior at Jamestown High School in 1941. In 1942, Guy became the produce department manager at the Prendergast Avenue store and then in 1943 he gave three years to the Army Air Corps, serving his country until 1946. That year he went back to the Prendergast Avenue Loblaws as an assistant manager, and in 1947 he was a fill-in manager for store managers who were on vacation or had to be absent from their positions in some of the Loblaws stores located in New York and Pennsylvania.

From the Brooklyn Square Loblaws, Guy went on to manage the Loblaws at 415 West Third Street with Anthony Teresi as his assistant manager in 1951. After the Third Street store opened, the old Brooklyn Square Loblaws closed its doors and that location was taken over by Noah’s Ark, which literally moved across N. Main Street to its new location and remained there until urban renewal leveled all of the Square. In the interim years from 1953 to 1956, Guy managed the Prendergast Avenue store and also the new Loblaws at 738 Foote Avenue in the plaza.

In 1957, Guy opened the brand new Loblaws at 1375 East Second Street as manager, and a year later in 1958, one of his former employees, Tom Erlandson, joined him. That store made the papers because it was robbed by two men on June 12, 1958. With the aid of a German movie camera, a powerful 600mm camera lens, and high speed film, Miller, “the brains” of the safecracking gang, and Shane filmed the combination of the safe, as Guy was opening it, from a truck with a small slit in the body that allowed the high power camera to be fitted to the opening. The burglars entered the store at night through the roof and made off with $6,500. It was quite a story since Loblaws was not the only store these two men hit by gaining safe combinations the same way. In fact, Miller and Shane and another man netted $380,000 in safe-crackings in the United States and Canada. Both Miller and Shane were arrested in Ontario, tried, and found guilty by a jury that did not buy Miller’s story that the special truck and equipment were used for bird-watching! The story not only made the Jamestown newspapers but also TRUE, a magazine published by Fawcett Publications and billed as “the Man’s Magazine” that ran stories highlighting true adventures, sports figures, and dramatic conflicts.

Guy continued to manage Loblaws stores until 1979, when the Loblaws chain changed to Bells, and he became the co-manager at the East Second Street Bells Super Market with Earl Rosenquist. By that time, the area that was once Brooklyn Square had changed dramatically because of urban renewal. Nothing of the old Square remained, and new businesses occupied old ground. Memories of the old Loblaws in Brooklyn Square were just that—memories. However, in 1980, Dave Emerling, who was the manager of Bells Super Market in the old Brooklyn Square area, hired Guy as co-manager of that newly constructed store. That move put Guy back on familiar ground for the next five years. In 1985, at age sixty-two, Guy retired from his position at Bells, and that ended his long association with the Peter J. Schmitt Corporation that was the owner of Loblaws and later Bells Super Markets. Guy Glace was the manager of Loblaws stores over the course of forty years. What a career!