Amsterdam family’s market spanned 70 years

The Castler family operated a meat market on East Main Street in Amsterdam from the 1930s through th

The Castler family operated a meat market on East Main Street in Amsterdam from the 1930s through the 1950s.

The name “Castler” is Dutch, and others with a similar name often spell it without a “t.” One story in the Amsterdam Castler family is that an ancestor put the “t” in his name to confuse the authorities when he enlisted underage in the Civil War. To qualify for veteran’s benefits, the family kept the extra letter.

Family members recalled an ancestor named William Castler founded the market, but the best-remembered proprietor was Charles Castler. It’s not known how William and Charles were related.

For many years, the proprietors were Charles J. Castler and Francis Burns. In 1932, the Castler and Burns market was at 113 E. Main St., between Walnut and Washington, on the same block as the popular chain grocery, the Mohican Market. In 1932, Charles Castler lived at 16 Bunn St. with his wife, Ethel, and Francis Burns lived at 363 Division St.

The 1932 City Directory listed over 100 groceries and meat markets in Amsterdam. Some were chains such as A&P and Central Market. Local markets included Shelly’s at 283 E. Main St., Alexander Zielinski at 13 Hibbard St., Beer’s Grocery at 86 Prospect St. and Albino Barnell at 50 Florida Ave. One grocery on the list in 1932 that remains in business is Salamack’s at 263 Division St.

In the 1950s, Charles Castler went into partnership with Langdon Cross. The name of the store was shortened to Castler’s Market.

Charles Castler’s cousin Floyd, who once lived over the store but later resided at 38 High St., was employed at the market throughout his life. Other family members worked full- and part-time at the family store.

Floyd’s son Frederick had a job at the Bigelow Sanford carpet mill but also had Saturday duties at the market. Frederick’s son Ray worked at Castler’s after school and on weekends in 1949 and 1950.

“I would mix the hamburger in big wooden tubs and the sausage using both hands,” Ray Castler said. “Charlie Castler would reject a side of beef if he didn’t like it. Castler’s was known for selling good meat. We also carried fruits and vegetables and groceries.”

Henry S. Miller Jr., an Amsterdam native who moved to Massachusetts, worked at Castler’s starting in 1948, delivering groceries on the weekends in old-fashioned bushel baskets.

“Typically, I would knock on the customer’s door and be invited into the kitchen, empty the contents of the basket on the table, and collect the fee,” Miller wrote. “Charlie was generous. Every week, I would deliver several baskets to poor families and was instructed not to collect the fee.”

Miller said Castler had a “magic potion” to add to hamburger so it would stay red all week. Their motto was “not the cheapest, but the best.”

The late John Palombi and his partner, Mike Sagarese (who had operated a store on Chestnut Street), bought the market from the Castler family in 1960, according to Palombi’s daughter, Sharon Smrtic of Amsterdam. In 1974, the store was forced to move because of downtown urban renewal and relocated to 56 Reid St., in the same building as Brownie’s, the popular hot dog restaurant.

A fire that year destroyed the building housing both businesses. Castler’s Market then moved to 56 Bridge St., on the South Side. Smrtic said Castler’s closed for good in 1999.

To this day, Ray Castler remarked, when people hear his name, the question frequently asked is: “Did you have anything to do with Castler’s Market?”

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 [email protected]

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