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Cudmore: McClumpha’s at Market and Main

Cudmore: McClumpha’s at Market and Main

Focus on History

John McClumpha Sr. operated a flour, feed and grain store at 31 East Main St. and 52 Grove St. in Amsterdam in the 1800s.

His son, John H. McClumpha, Jr., took over a local grocery store in 1857 after first serving as a clerk there. 

In 1883, William Kirwin’s Directory, published by the Amsterdam Daily Democrat newspaper, reported that John McClumpha Junior’s grocery store occupied 2 to 4 East Main, on the corner of East Main and Market streets. 

McClumpha’s grocery would be a family business for 100 years.  Old-timers said that Amsterdam carpet maker Stephen Sanford would often stop after the store closed at night to play cards with McClumpha.

Both men were active in the community.  Sanford was president and McClumpha secretary of the water commissioners in the 1880s who helped Amsterdam secure a stable water supply. 

Hugh Donlon, a Recorder reporter and columnist in the 20h century, devoted almost a full page in his 1980 “Annals of a Mill Town” history of Amsterdam to McClumpha’s store.

There was a cat on the premises which kept rodents in check and sometimes slept in the front window.  Every fall large pumpkins were displayed from a Perth farm operated by Squire McQueen.

Donlon wrote that McClumpha’s catered to the wealthy carriage trade.

“There was a certain social distinction to trading at McClumpha’s.” Donlon wrote.  “The clerks were genial and helpful, one particularly impressive when he carried on conversations in several languages.”

That clerk was Dr. Charles F. McClumpha, a Princeton graduate who became the English Department chairman at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

When he retired, Professor McClumpha came home to manage the family store.  Donlon said the professor added prestige to the grocery and the Amsterdam community. 

Professor McClumpha was one of the speakers during the annual meeting of Amsterdam’s Board of Trade in 1908.  According to the minutes of that meeting, he said, “You will find no place in picturesque Europe or any other foreign country that satisfies the aesthetic sense in man as does this beautiful Mohawk Valley of ours.” 

At that point McClumpha’s speech was interrupted by loud applause.

Another McClumpha, Alfred, had the sad duty of closing the grocery’s doors for the last time on Aug. 9, 1957.  He had worked 48 years in the family business but toward the end had been sidelined because of illness.

Donlon wrote that antique furnishings at McClumpha’s, such as coffee grinders, scales and even sulfur matches, ended up at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  McClumpha’s had the last hand crank telephone in the city, still in use in 1957. 

“The store itself disappeared before arrival of shopping carts and checkout era,” Donlon wrote. “These would have offered a space problem.  There just wasn’t room for carts, sometimes not enough for the customers.”

In a newspaper eulogy written when McClumpha’s closed, Donlon remembered the store’s delivery men: Bert Wells and “Whistling Pete” Martuscello. 

“Whistling Pete” was the father of Frank Martuscello, elected as Amsterdam’s first Italian-American mayor the year McClumpha’s closed in 1957.

During the 1960s and later the Market and Main building  tenants included Mike’s Submarine, Trask's Cigars and Tony Brooks Music Nook.  Sometimes Tony’s band would rehearse in the window.

The space was occupied for a time by Uniforms and More in the current century.  The web design firm Engines of Creation, became tenants at 2 to 4 East Main in 2011.  Today, according to Dan Weaver, whose Book Hound store is nearby, the former McClumpha’s grocery is occupied by the Revenge Tattoo Parlour.

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