Monday, June 1, 2009

Main Place

The original challenge, as discussed on the blog of Mary Kunz Goldman, was to take pictures inside Main Place Mall in downtown Buffalo. However that was soon replaced by an even bigger one - finding something, anything, to take a picture of, besides blank walls.

Before 8am it's pretty easy to walk through with an active camera since the security guards apparently haven't started yet. I purposely chose not to include those hustling through the building on the way to work elsewhere, but other than lunch time there isn't many more people there any other time either.

With so few stores there isn't much reason to make the Mall a destination. The site gives Main Place a mention, although it's scarcely alone, even in WNY.

Main Place was built in 1968 and used to be busy, hard as that may be to believe. Of course Main Street still boasted AM&A's (which had a connecting walkway to the mall), Hengerers, Hens & Kellys, Woolworths (with a basement store too), Ulrichs Ulbrich's Stationary (with art supplies downstairs), and Bergers back then, with many more stores and restaurants in between.

I worked at Sattlers in the late 70's, which anchored one end of the mall while Erie County Savings Bank (the "Big E") was at the other. I was located right in the middle front of the Greenhouse food court. There used to be a Liberty Bank service window right next to the second floor entrance.

Sometimes as I'm passing through the mall I try to remember the names of businesses that used to be there and where they were situated. There were two main restaurants, both with outlets on each floor. The Milkie Way had the bar and full restaurant downstairs and a snack bar upstairs. JPease Pub was the opposite, although their version of casual dining downstairs still featured waitresses, I believe.

Shoe stores, including Bakers (which also had a store further up Main), Fathers and Sons, and Thom McCans, dominated the floor plan. Many trendy clothing stores were there also, like Gutmans, Casual Corner, The Limited. Rite Aid was there too, with an additional store a block up on Main that is still open, although they closed the lower portion down.

This version of "management" for Main Place Mall has seemed determined to empty it so that it can be used for telemarketing companies or other behind the scenes businesses. It has gone as far as to raise rents through the skylighted roof to drive tenants out that didn't fulfill their "vision", as empty as that is. Rumor had it that the main owners in NYC use it as a writeoff and have little incentive to attempt a return to vitality.

The "All About Buffalo" icon upstairs looks rather lonely, like "I stepped out of the nickel for this??"

The cars being removed from Main Street for the MetroRail did a lot to kill retail in downtown Buffalo, but the suburban malls were the original ones to rip the heart out. So even if cars return some day, there's still that. Then again, most of the grand old stores are gone, remaining only in memories.

Not all is dreary downtown. Many other blocks have something going on at various times. And when the weather is nice and the farmers market in progress and maybe a lunchtime concert in front of M&T, the sidewalks on Main get jammed. Where there's people there's hope.


Pauldub said...

Was the stationary store Ulrichs or Ulbrichs?

Becky said...

Ulbrich's! Thanks - I had to look it up in Mike Rizzo's "998" to double check. I know Ulrichs is a bar, but I was rushing and hoped it was the same name.

Pauldub said...

Ulbrichs (the old store) I believe also used to carry text books. When my father was teaching he went to get a teacher's copy of an English book. I was flabbergasted that there was a book that already had the answers in it!

stephanie of stopbouncing said...

I recently read an article that the capacity of the “mall” is was at a bustling 37% (I can’t recall the publication), however, with That Store Which Sells The Buffalo Stuff and That Place With The Cards and Gifts leaving…

Back in the early 90’s, I remember taking the 5 downtown to shop at Stuarts, G&G, Chess King, Camelot Music and Waldenbooks before hitting Market Arcade for a matinee…

The “mall” is busy during lunch, however during the winter I cut through there to get to work and it’s like a ghost town… that lone morning security guard pretty much just hangs out in front of JP’s, if you want to get more photos… just sayin’.