Village once served by a great variety of stores and markets
By Betty Tabor
Town of Mayfield Historian
This article appeared in The Sunday Leader-Herald on March 19, 2000, page 8A. It is transcribed here with permission from the author. Many thanks to Betty Tabor for her continued support.
Not so many years ago Mayfield was a bustling little village boasting of at least eight glove shops, and many stores; however, things have changed to fit the times and Mayfield stores are now on the "Endangered List".
Mayfield's first store opened about 1800 and was owned by William McConnell, located at Wilkins Corners which is about two miles southwest of Mayfield. This settlement was located in the area of the present intersection of Phelps Street and Riceville Road, opposite the house occupied by John W. Wilkins and now owned and lived in by Lee Eschler. McConnell supplied the area with a large selection of goods in the early 1800's, including whiskey, which came from the whiskey barrel in the center of the store. His business terminated about 1830. Before he opened his store, Mayfield inhabitants had to trade in Johnstown, going by foot or horseback through Indian and Tory trails.
Mr. Otis operated the next store which was in the center of Mayfield Village. Within 50 years there were nine successfully operated stores. Store owners carried everything from food, grain, clothes, farm equipment, medicine, hardware and various sundries to lumber and whiskey.
About 1840, James Blowers lived in a house in Riceville, which many years later was owned by Ivan Wemple. We should not forget that Riceville was a thriving community before the village of Mayfield became more populated. In 1913, the store was purchased by Horation Wemple whose son Ivan Wemple took over in 1916. In 1929, Delbert Wemple was taken in as a partner and the business was known as "Wemple and Wemple". Later, Delbert became the sole owner and proprietor. About 1938, part of the store was destroyed by fire and was taken down after being in operation for more than a hundred years. Later, Delbert kept a store on Second Avenue between the street and the ballground and business terminated at that location about 1940.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s, the "Square" corner of School Street and North Main Street contained F. W. Brown and Sons' Drugstore, G. C. Hartin's Dry Goods store and Hartin's grocery store. At this time there was no North School Street, as the street ended at the intersection of West Main Street and North Main Street. When North School Street was extended, connecting onto the new Route 30, two houses were moved, Dugan's and Scott's, which were located in the square.
Edmond Delaney ran a store from 1925 to 1936 in the Square. He sold a large variety of dry goods such as cloth, kerosene, clothes, shoes, household articles and a large selection of groceries. One side of the store was stocked with dry goods and the other side with groceries. Others who ran the store at this location were Russell Warner, Frank Craig, Herman Lindsley, Harlan Fonda and Fred Warner. On April 10, 1950, the store was purchased by Gordan Mosher who operated it until November 1963 when it was purchased by Edward Oliver who ran a successful business until the store was destroyed by fire along with the post office in December 1971. Oliver then moved across the street in the drugstore building where he continued his business for a few more years.
In the early years of the flourishing glove industry in Mayfield, the Wilkins Glove Co. and the Mayfield Glove Co. paid their help in groceries instead of wages. Both shops had a grocery store where the groceries were dispersed on payday.
In 1985[sic; 1885?] Heman Close opened a meat market; however it is not certain where the initial location was. In 1900 he moved his business to the corner of School Street and Second Avenue where he conducted his business until 1915. Close owned two carts and peddled meat three times a week to Gloversville and twice a week to Fish House, often by lantern light.
In 1923 Harry Andrist ran a market on West Main Street which was purchased by Cecil Ellithorpe in 1928. In 1939 Cecil moved to a house on the corner of School Street and North Main Street, which he made into living quarters and an up-to-date store. This fine market which specialized in premium meat was successfully operated by Cecil and his wife, Elsie, until the 1970's.
In 1887 George Mercer opened a store on the east side of North Main Street. The Two-story structure contained the first floor, used as a store and the second floor was the living the quarters. In 1933 Mercer sold his business to a Mr. Cole who was killed by an automobile before he got a chance to open his business. The goods were sold and in 1934 Homer Mortimer and William Robinson commenced operating the store. They jointly ran the store until 1944 when Mortimer relinquished his part in the store and the store was solely operated by the Robinson family until the 1980's.
In the summer of 1988 the building, which was completely remodeled, was opened for a new business, Audio Specialist, Inc. This new business consisted of loading audio cassette tapes with blank tape and labeling and packaging them. The second story remained as living quarters and although the building sustained many renovations, its outside appearance remained pretty much as the original. This business continued for 10 years, currently owned by Linda and Robert Edwards and presently is on the real estate market.
The Embling Store which was owned and operated by Thomas Embling, a gentleman from England, opened about 1900. This building which is the present home of the Mayfield Servicemen's Club, is located on South School Street. He ran a successful business until 1928 when he returned to England. In 1987 when the building was being remodeled by the servicemen, a package of tobacco was found in the wall, dated 1898. This little article has been placed in the Mayfield Historical Society's Rice Museum. A few years ago, the sign from the Embling Store was located in a local home. The sign has been used as a shelf; however, the sign has not as yet found its way to the museum. Although no information has been found, history tells us that the first Embling Store was burned in 1886.
Over the years, other markets included John Gifford's meat market on North Main Street and R. H. Brown's traveling meat market, drawn by horse, which furnished to Mayfield inhabitants in the early 1900s.
William Jerome ran a drugstore, which opened about 1876 and is presumed to be the first in Mayfield. This drugstore contained many articles besides drugs. Those were the days when one good liniment was used to cure everything from earaches, bellyaches, cuts and bruises and coughs and colds. If this medicine didn't do the job, then mother would resort to "skunk oil".
In the early 1900's, B. O. Brown sold drugs, medicines, paints, oils, watches, clocks and jewelry. His place of business was on North Main Street.
And who could forget our friend Russ Hisert who opened a drugstore, built in 1872 on North Main Street where the former F. J. and G. Railway office was located. Russ opened the store in 1955 and continued until 1963. He was very fond of kids and catered to the Glove Shop employees as well as the school children. The kids enjoyed his trick of throwing a scoop of ice cream to the ceiling and catching it into a cone when it came down. His trademarks can still be seen on the ceiling.
Space does not allow a complete history of all of the Mayfield stores -- there were so many. At one time there was a Grand Union, Schaffer's, Elphee's, David Getman, Johns Warner's on the Mountain Road, Reynolds on the Mountain Road which opened in 1880, and a millinery shop, just to name a few. Many of us can remember when we paid 18 cents a pound for fresh ground hamburger, 10 cents a pound for stew beef , 10 cents a pound for raisins and pure lard for 18 cents a pound.
Few store remain in Mayfield. When the post office was moved, to Route 30, there was not much incentive for anyone to venture into the grocery business. The village post office centrally located brought people closer. When folks came for their mail they found time to chat with friends and usually needed a loaf of bread or a quart of milk before returning home.
One store that has survived through World War II, the closing of glove shops and the modern supermarkets is Knoll's Market located on the old Gloversville-Mayfield Road. The store was opened in the 1940's by Mr. and Mrs. Ron Burgess. Their daughter, Gloria and husband, Ronald Knoll, took over the operation of the market in 1952. Mrs. Knoll has passed away and Ronald has continued a very successful grocery store, specializing in meat. The Knolls' successful 60-year business is a result of their long hours, dependability and personalities.
Supermarkets and malls have taken over the little corner store, but the memories of penny-candy, 5-cent ice cream cones, and the 18 cents per pound rib roast will remain with many of us.
Several unique photos of Mayfield stores can be found in the soon-to-be-available book on the Sacandaga Valley. [transcriber's note: Betty Tabor authored the section on the book that pertains to Mayfield. It is a wonderful pictorial book. This book has since come to retail, though not many copies left as of Sept. 2000. Contact Betty Tabor for more information; it is available through the Mayfield Historical Society.]
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