By Jolene Hawkins
Looking back to one of the great stores that we had in Springville, many will remember the Simon Brothers Clothing store. Who shopped there for back to school clothes and shoes? Or for a wedding? A special event? Well, let’s learn how it all started with a dream of two young boys, barely into their teens, who emigrated from Russia in 1900.
Maurice and Carl Simon, with the help of money given to them by family members in Buffalo, bought packs and set out on foot to peddling pins, notions, socks, shoestrings and handkerchiefs, covering the area from Boston to New Oregon. For six months, they walked and sold during the day and spent nights at farms and homes, learning and enjoying the customs and the people they met in their new country. During this time, they saved up enough money to buy a horse, along with a wagon, and for the next four years continued to peddle their expanding line of wares throughout the bumpy trails of southern Erie County and Northern Cattaraugus County.
In 1904, they were able to set up a permanent store in Springville on Main Street, providing the Village with children’s, women’s and men’s clothing and accessories all under one roof, in three separate stores fronts. Carl Simon retired in 1951, while his brother Maurice retired in 1968, and his sons, Howard and Robert carried on the tradition of the store.
Howard went directly into the business in 1935 after graduation from Griffith Institute. He had served his apprenticeship, helping at the store, from the age of 12, by washing windows, stocking shelves and sweeping the floors. He moved on to buying clothes and managing the women’s and children’s Department. He married Jessie Herr and they had three children. Howard was a member of the Lion’s Club, The Free and Accepted Masonic Lodge, Chamber of Commerce, State Council of Retail Merchants and the Springville Country Club, school board, and was on the Board of Directors and the Manufacturers and Traders Trust Bank.
His younger brother Robert joined the business in 1955, having graduated from Griffith Institute in 1950. Robert purchased the items for the men’s department and loved to preserve his pack-peddling pappy. He, like his older brother, had a list of activities and groups that he belonged to like: President of the Springville Rotary, Charter member of the Springville junior Chamber of Commerce, member of the Field and Stream, Springville Moose, American Legion, Menswear Retailers of America and a director of the Springville Chamber of Commerce.
In the 1970s, the departments had stretched to include Cinderella and Buster Brown, along with Carter’s labels for the kids, Bleeker Street, Stage 7, Artemis, Vicky Vaugh Knits and Alfred Dunner labels for the ladies, and Arrow shirts, Don Richard suits, along with McGregor Sportswear for the men.
In 1989, Simon Brothers celebrated their 85th year in business. With a business that operated for so many years passing from father to sons, it is not surprising to learned that many of the employees remained working for them with 30, 40 and even like Marion Burns and Miss Elizabeth Collings were employed for 50 years! The employees became family as well. The Simon Brother’s Store catered to the families of Springville, having generation after generation come into the store for their clothing and shoes, gifts and advice, seeing what was new for the year and in style.
When Simon Brothers Clothing store closed its door in 1996, it left a large vacant storefront on Main Street, along with a hardship to find quality men’s apparel, women and children’s clothing. David Batterson, who has a full commitment and dedication to any projects that he takes on, purchased the building, and now refers to the building by its original name of the Union Block . With his love of history and preservation, the building was restored and used for up to 16 different local business.
We have so much history in this town, and it can be researched and learned about by coming to the Lucy Bensley Center. We love to have folks stop by and shared their stories, memories and items with us. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling us at (716) 592-0094.