Tonawanda News

May 18, 2013

TUCKER: Small stores win for customer service

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A couple of weeks ago, some of the history of the Gratwick area of North Tonawanda was outlined by a gentleman who called himself “Dennis from Gratwick.” The column brought in a number of other memories and then, a letter from Ruth Maerten who said although she’s retired in Florida, still has recollections of Gratwick since she believes she’s much older than Dennis.

Here’s her letter: “At the corner of Stenzil aned Payne was Koenig’s for many years before it became Mellenthines. At the corner of Washington and Oliver, Joe Kohler had a fruit and vegetable stand and on the same side of the street on the other corner, Doc Smoyer.

“At Allen and Oliver was an A&P Store. Across the street was a barber shop and Kraft Dry Cleaners, then Musall’s Meat Market and Harvey Grobe grocery store.

“Long before Krinke’s was Joe LaBarbara and before him, Steve’s, with the best homemade ice cream. At Felton and Oliver, Ben Schultz had a grocery store and next to him was a shoe repair.

“Gratwick Hose Co. and Gratwick Lumber were on Felton Street. Next to the Blue Danube was Strassburg Hardware. Mr. Allard had a newspaper stand at the corner of Jackson.

“Thompson Bowling Alley and Smith Drug Store were on Oliver between Felton and Fredericka and above Smith’s was McKnight, the dentist. One corner of Fredericka was Schroeder’s Service Station with Meister’s Service Station across the street. At one time there were 49 bars on Oliver Street, places to stop for a beer or a good fish fry.”

Thanks for the memories, Ruth.


Because the rechargeable battery in my cordless grass trimmer is too difficult to change, I decided to buy a lightweight electric trimmer. Stops at a large local hardware store and a “big box” store found no customer service people to ask, much less help in my quest. So on the way home, on the off-chance that a trimmer could be found, I stopped at Valu Home Center. A gentleman was working on a project near the door and quickly asked if he could help.

“I’d like a lightweight electric grass trimmer.”

“Got one right here,” he replied.

It was indeed just what I was looking for and when he brought up the boxed item, offered to put it together for me, which he did. He suggested buying an extra spool of “string” and, he said, “if you have trouble replacing it, bring it in and we’ll do it for you.”

Turns out he’s Jack Perry, store manager, who obviously believes in putting the customer first. Stores like these are few and far between and makes me realize how much I dislike large impersonal stores. 


Rod Rowland sent in his comments about the water level of the canal, a discussion opened up by Doug Tayor a couple weeks ago.

“Interesting point on the water level of the canal,” Rod emailed. “Now our family has owned that reddish brown shack on Swenney at the foot of Bryant since roughly 1952. When Dad purchased it, the water level was right up to the bank and the docks for the boats were only maybe six-feet long. Then the power project went in and dropped the water level four to six-feet and docks had to be extended a good 10 feet. On one or two occasions water came right up under the shack. My brother owns it now and had to have it dredged to accommodate his cruiser.”


Speaking of our waterways, a note from Doug added the following historical note about the OBC, the Outboard Boating Club of the Tonawandas, circa 1961 or so.

Doug emailed: “My Dad was worried that our nice site on the Island would be a target for developers if the Niagara River ever got cleaned up. Thus, he sold a small piece of land to the OBC who moved across from the mainland to the Island. In later years, the club members got into bigger and bigger boats, most of which were powered by inboard motors based on auto engines .... so they needed a name change and became the Tonawanda Island Launch Club, or TILC, still located at the foot of the Durkee Bridge next to our site. We actually worked a deal a few years back when they needed more dockage and Taylor Devices needed a new breakwall. We let them patch up the breakwall on part of our property and run some docks. We own the property, they own the docks and maintain them. Our employees can use the dock during the week when they don’t really need them. When the Army Corps of Engineers had to approve the dock design it made for a weird discussion — they couldn’t believe that we would let someone build a dock on our property. We told them not to worry. It’s NT, not Buffalo ... and they signed off on the design.”

Contact community editor Barbara Tucker at 693-1000, ext. 4110 or email