This month, Lawrence’s Tavern at 10 North Buffalo St. in Springville is celebrating its 80th anniversary.
Lawrence’s is not only the longest-running business in the village of Springville, but it also holds the oldest liquor license in Erie County.
Lawrence’s continues operating today as a neighborhood bar — a business which Larry Zielinski’s parents began in 1939.
Zielinski and his son, Mike, have operated the tavern since 1996, and Larry attributes Lawrence’s’ business longevity to the plan his father and mother had: provide a place for local residents to come in for a drink, a bite to eat and some friendly conversation.
In 1939, Lawrence Zielinski bought the business for $800 from the McAllister brothers, who operated the Concord House across the street. Zielinski was motivated by the hard times of the Great Depression, and he rented the building on North Buffalo Street from Blanch Stady for $40 per month.
After returning from a tour of duty in France during World War II, Zielinski purchased the building for $8,000 in 1946. He and his wife, Ann, managed the business while they raised their family upstairs.
Zielinski’s beer sales were very successful, selling ten 30-gallon kegs each week. Eventually, he received a license to sell whiskey. Through these early years, the tavern had an extensive menu of soups, roast beef and roast pork sandwiches. Lawrence’s featured a blue pike fish fry, later changed to yellow pike and eventually to haddock as the Lake Erie fishery declined. Every Friday, they served 100 to 125 dinners.
Just as his father did, Larry Zielinski has maintained the building and kept the neighborhood tavern going. He has remodeled the facade of the building and kept up the restaurant and residence. The business has the nostalgia of a Springville neighborhood tavern that one would expect.
The “No Cry Babies Allowed” sign in the front window has become a legend in Springville. Larry Zielinski said there was a patron many years ago who liked to complain every time he came into the bar. Some of the other patrons got together and bought the sign and placed it in the window.
Unfortunately, but humorously, Larry said that the sign didn’t work, but it has been there ever since. And he says every once in a while, people stop by and take pictures of it.
The Mucket Bucket is another unique feature of Lawrence’s. Patrons started throwing loose change into a bucket, and at the end of the year, the money was donated to the youth groups in the village.
The tradition has grown.
On Wednesday evenings, Bob Muhlbauer provides the music entertainment for free and thanks patrons for donations to the Mucket Bucket. Over the last several years, the annual donations to youth groups have been averaging $2,200. In addition, at holiday time, Lawrence’s patrons donate money to buy turkeys for the local needy families.
Larry Zielinski reminisces about the changes in the tavern business over the years.
“Years ago our customers walked to our restaurant. They walked over to have lunch here. They walked to have dinner or a drink in the evening,” he said. “Back then, people didn’t drive everywhere. They came to the local tavern instead of driving to distant places to have dinner or a drink.”
And Larry is quick to point out that he has kept the neighborhood tavern alive.
“There are not many taverns like this around anymore,” he added.
And so, on April 17 at 6:30 p.m., Lawrence’s will celebrate 80 years in business. The MooCheesy Food Truck will be out front. Bob Muhlbauer will be playing music.
Larry Zielinski said he cannot serve beer for 3 cents a glass as his father did 80 years ago, but he and Mike will be there at the bar serving up the beer, wine and whiskey in the Lawrence’s tradition.
Everyone is invited to celebrate Lawrence’s Tavern, a Zielinski family tradition, the oldest business in Springville and one which continues to give back to the village community.