By Derek M. Otto
There was one building in Springville that served almost 50 years of prosperity in downtown Springville and had several lives. The Katzman building was built in 1907 after fire had ravaged the former Katzman store.
The Katzman Store was Springville’s first true department store, offering everything from home goods, such as china and delicates, to toys. Being three stories tall, the new building towered over Main Street in Springville.
Katzman’s went out of business in the 1920s and the building would find itself being used as Springville’s first movie house. The Pantheon Theater replaced the showing of movies at the cheese factory (next to the Love Inc. Building).
In 1930, Peter Bifarella bought the Pantheon Theater. In 1933, Bifarella changed the name of the theater to the Joylan. At the time, the theater just showed movies; there was not a public restroom or a concession stand in the movie house. It did, however, have a balcony and air conditioning. It was one of the first air conditioned buildings in Springville.
Which brings me to a story that an old friend, Gilbert Schoepflin, told me. It was when he lived in an apartment above the old gas office on Main Street in Springville in 1936. He had just shucked several dozen ears of corn and took them behind the building to burn them. As the fire was at its peak and the smoke billowing away (corn husks produce a lot of smoke), the air conditioning fans kicked on in the Joylan. The theater was emptied out in no time flat. This time there was no fire and my poor friend really felt bad that he had ruined everyone’s movie, though he was able to laugh about it later on.
After World War II, the Bifarellas realized that a new theater would be needed to keep the public happy. In October 1949, the Bifarellas opened their new Joylan Theater further west on Main Street. The new building had restrooms and a concession stand. You can still see a movie in the Joylan today.
As for the Katzman building? In December 1949, Mr. Bifarella sold the old movie house to Mr. Kuhn, which was his son-in-law’s brother. Mr. Kuhn would quickly go to work converting the old theater and department store into a drug store.
The new Rexall franchised drug store had all the fixings, a soda counter, the best in magazines and Kodak products available. Sadly, the new drug store in an old building would not last for long.
On a rainy night in October 1955, fire would strike the building, and no—Mr. Schoepflin was not burning corn husks! The Buffalo News had on the front page “$150,000.00 hits Springville’s Main Street.” There was some talk of a discarded cigarette or the neighbors not removing cardboard away from the building as the cause of the fire.
Mr. Kuhn lost his whole stock and the new merchandise he had ordered for the upcoming Christmas season. Other businesses were destroyed as well. Engels Jewelry store and the Fashion Shop suffered major losses. Not to be knocked down, Mr. Kuhn acted quickly and opened the new Kuhn’s Rexall Store on Main Street in the same spot. The new building was more spacious and made out of brick.
The team working on the Heritage Building is hoping to give you an idea of what Main Street looked like in the mid-20th century. Let’s see what they created at the grand opening this Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at noon.