CARS HOMES JOBS

Larrabee’s a well-loved local business

Saturday, November 30, 2013
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Larrabee’s hardware store, located on Market Street in downtown Amsterdam for more than 80 years, was a beloved institution.

Born in the town of Amsterdam in 1851, John E. Larrabee began his hardware career working for merchant E. T. Leavenworth. In 1876, Larrabee went into partnership with L.L. Dean. Larrabee later partnered with W.G. Barnes in a store that lasted eight years, under the name of Larrabee & Barnes. In 1889, Larrabee married Louise Leavenworth. They had two daughters.

When the Sanford Homestead Building was constructed by carpet magnate Stephen Sanford on Market Street in 1891, Larrabee opened his own store in the new building. The John E. Larrabee Company sold retail and wholesale hardware and provided supplies for area industries. Located at 5 Market St., the firm expanded and took over 3 Market St., previously home to the Odd Figure Bazaar.

John E. Larrabee’s 1911 obituary said his store had become the most successful hardware business in the city. Larrabee was succeeded as general manager by his brother-in-law Warner Leavenworth, who died in 1940. Leavenworth’s son Thomas, who had joined the firm in 1931, became president in 1940. By then, the store occupied 3 to 9 Market Street on the east side of a busy downtown thoroughfare.

Larrabee’s was sold in 1960, and Tom Leavenworth pursued other business ventures, including his work as treasurer of Amsterdam’s Inman Manufacturing, which made machinery for the box-making industry.

The new owners of Larrabee’s, Ailing Beardsley and Mary Louise Rossiter, began an expansion of the firm in 1961, putting more emphasis on selling hardware to new industries that were starting in the area as the large carpet mills exited. Beardsley and Rossiter retained Samuel H. Anderson as store manager and said they were expanding appliance sales along with Larrabee’s previous retail emphasis on hardware, housewares, gifts and toys.

Beardsley and Rossiter apparently were related. Beardsley, a World War II infantry veteran who had operated an industrial supply firm in New Jersey, was married to Carol Rossiter. She was originally from Albany, presumably related to Mary Louise Rossiter, who lived in Slingerlands, headed an Albany real estate firm and was treasurer of Livermore Chevrolet.

Beardsley and his family moved to Amsterdam. In 1965, Larrabee’s celebrated 75 years in business. In 1972, Beardsley’s son, also named Ailing, was retail manager of Larrabee’s and up for a young business award from the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Larrabee’s apparently closed in the 1970s, but it is not clear exactly when. Historian Jerry Snyder found that the 1973-1974 city directory has the “professional plaza” replacing the Sanford building on Market Street. Furs by Gus was at 3 Market St., Hays and Wormuth Insurance was at 7 and there was no listing for 5 Market St.

Just as Schenectadians loved the former Wallace Armer Hardware on Erie Boulevard, Amsterdamians loved Larrabee’s. An ad from 1886 had Larrabee & Barnes selling stoves, nails, blacksmiths’ supplies, saddlery, wheels, horse blankets, halters, whips, guns, gunpowder, hay wire and carpenter tools.

Larrabee’s offered Ike Walton fishing boots for $6.95 in March 1937 as more than a thousand hunters and fishermen attended the annual Sportsmen’s Show in Amsterdam.

In the 1950s, Larrabee’s sold toys, especially at Christmas, including Lionel and American Flyer model trains. Each brand installed a model train layout in the store. A 1958 ad offered an American Flyer guided missile train for $33.88 that could fire toy rockets.

According to history scout Emil Suda, former Larrabee’s owner Tom Leavenworth and his assistant Nick Canale would travel to the New York City Toy Fair each March to decide what products to stock at the popular Amsterdam store.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or bobcudmore@yahoo.com">.

 
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