Recalling Amsterdam grocery stores

Categories: -The Daily Gazette

Years ago local cities had scores of markets and grocery stores.  Here’s a little information about some of the ones in Amsterdam.

O’Neil’s Grocery was on East Main Street in the late 19th century, opposite what was then an Opera House where traveling shows performed.

Opera House patrons sometimes loaded up on discarded vegetables at O’Neil’s before show time, according to historian Hugh Donlon, and showed disapproval by hurling rotten tomatoes at the stage.


From 1857 to 1957, 2 to 4 East Main St. at the corner with Market Street was home to McClumpha’s.  Historian Donlon said John H. McClumpha took over the grocery store in 1857 after serving as a clerk.  In 1883 John McClumpha Jr. managed the store.

Donlon said there was a certain social distinction to trading at McClumpha‘s. The clerks were genial and helpful; one was particularly impressive when he carried on conversations in several languages.

That man was Charles F. McClumpha, who had left Amsterdam to head the English Department at the University of Minnesota.  When he retired from academia, McClumpha came home to manage the family business.

After World War II, Peter Duchessi founded Duchessi‘s Importing Company at 128 East Main St.

His store was among the first in the area to stock imported olive oil, pasta, cheeses, vegetables and fruits from Italy and elsewhere.

Duchessi’s moved when much of downtown was torn down to make way for the shopping mall built in the 1970s.  Duchessi bought Dean‘s Market on Lincoln Avenue on Market Hill and moved his importing company there until he closed that store in 1981.

Joe Martuscello started Joe’s Market at 127 Market at the top of Market Street hill in 1941.  Joe’s Market was famous for homemade Italian sausage and sandwich steaks, cut thin.  Joe Dignazio worked there after school as a stock boy, joining the staff full time after graduating high school in 1960.  He became manager in 1984 and lived over the store over 40 years.  Joe’s Market is still operating today.

William David Firth owned Firth‘s Finer Foods at 379 Locust Ave. in Rockton until the 1970s.

His daughter, Ann Firth Torgusen, wrote, “One of his biggest customers was the executive dining room at Mohawk Carpet Mills. He also provided meats to (Mohawk president) Herb and Jean Shuttleworth who lived in the beautiful house on Brookside Avenue.  I remember getting permission to be able to walk through the property to Market Street. What a wonderful piece of property.”

The Castler family operated a meat market on East Main Street in Amsterdam from the 1930s through the 1950s.  The best-remembered proprietor was Charles Castler.

John Palombi and Mike Sagarese bought the market from the Castlers in 1960.  In 1974, the store was forced to move because of urban renewal and relocated to 56 Reid St., the same building as Brownie’s, a popular hot dog restaurant.  Fire that year destroyed the building housing both businesses.

Castler’s Market then moved to 56 Bridge St. on the South Side.  It closed for good in 1999.

Quandt’s Market on Guy Park Avenue was a popular spot for students at the nearby Theodore Roosevelt Junior High to get french fries or bakery treats.

Quandt’s became a food distributor and moved to the East End, selling the business to a larger firm some years ago.

The 1932 City Directory listed over 100 groceries in Amsterdam.  Some were chains such as A & P at various locations and the Mohican on East Main.  Other local markets included Shelly’s at 283 East Main, Alexander Zielinski at 13 Hibbard and Albino Barnell at 50 Florida Avenue.

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