The Crooked Lake Review

Spring 2006

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Mendon — The Early Years

The Albe C. Allen Drugstore


John G. Sheret

An interesting bit of the commercial history of Honeoye Falls was discovered recently during the renovation of the former Valentino Drug Store, located at the point where Monroe Street joins North Main Street in the village. The building was recently purchased by local busisnessman Tom Tenny who converted the second floor storage area into two very attractive apartments. The first floor, previously occupied by the drug store, now houses the C. C. and Company Salon & Spa, a new business in Honeoye Falls.

When an interior wall on the Monroe Street side of the historic structure was removed, two large double-hung windows, still in perfect condition, were uncovered. The two upper window panes read "Drink Coca Cola" and the lower two read "DRUGS." Both of the advertising messages were superimposed on a beautiful floral background that completely covered the glass. The openings for the windows are bricked in to match the exterior of the building and, as already mentioned, were covered with an interior wall.

Advertising windows installed in the E. K. Harnish drug store as part of the renovation work following the February 1934 fire. (Photos by the author.)

Mr. Tenny requested that I examine the windows in order to determine their age and when they might have been installed. Upon inspecting them, I found that they were characteristic of the type of art deco work typical of the late 1920's and early 1930's. However, to support my opinion, I decided to research the history of this interesting old building and to interview individuals who have been associated with it in past years.

I learned that on the subzero night of February 24th, 1934, a fire of undetermined origin broke out in a storage room at the rear of the E. K. Harnish drug store which at that time occupied the right side of the building. The left (Monroe Street) side for many years had been the location of the Jesse Buckland grocery store and at the time of the fire was being used by the local Red Cross as a distribution center for clothing.

E. K. Harnish drug store prior to the February 1934 fire.
Greyhound bus sign can be seen on left corner of building.
(Courtesy of Honeoye Falls/Mendon Historical Society.)

The fire was discovered at 1 a.m. by Frank Harris and Howard Shirley, workers in the James S. Brown bakery adjacent to the Harnish building. An alarm was sounded and when the firemen reached the scene, the storage room was a mass of flames. The fire was held in check where it originated and in the room above. An opening in the ceiling, used to haul drums of painting materials to the second story by means of a manual hoist, has allowed the fire to spread to that floor. In the 19th century and well into the 20th century, paint, turpentine, and related materials were major commodities sold in the drug stores of rural communities.

Smoke and water damage spread throughout the store and a heavy loss was sustained by Mr. Harnish and his tenants. In addition to the former Buckland grocery store, the rear part of the Monroe Street side of the building was used by Frank Oppedisano for his shoe sales and repair business.

Jesse Buckland grocery store located on west side of drug store building.
Mrs. Ann Buckland shown in rear of undated photo.
(Courtesy of Honoeye Falls/Mendon Historical Society.)

On May 17th, 1934, E. K. Harnish held a reopening sale, offering special prices, to announce that he was back in business. Following the fire, the store had been extensively remodeled and enlarged. The partition, dividing the Harnish side of the store and the former Buckland grocery store was removed, greatly increasing the space available for the drug store. The entrance to the drug store, that had opened directly onto Main Street, was replaced with a show window and the corner entrance previously used by the grocery store became the new entrance.

Also, at this time that Mr. Harnish had booths installed to serve his soda fountain customers and he eliminated the stools that had been used for this purpose. Sylvia Steffen Michel, who worked in the soda fountain for many years, remembers that customers would buy their ice cream and sodas at the counter and carry them to booths for consumption. The booths were along the wall where the windows were located and would have been a natural part of his soda fountain business.

I believe that it is reasonable to assume that the advertising windows, discovered by Tom Tenny, were installed on the Monroe Street side of the enlarged store in 1934 as part of the remodeling work after the fire and definitely would not have been there when that wall was part of the Buckland grocery store.

The drug store building is on the site of one of the earliest mercantile structures in the Village of Honeoye Falls. A stone structure, built of limestone from a quarry on nearby Honeoye Creek, was erected circa 1830. Albe C. Allen arrived from Lebanon, New Hampshire, in 1835 when the village was known as Norton's Mills, and with Elias Smith, operated a general store at this location. He remained in business under the firm names of Allen & Smith, Allen & Dixon, and Allen & Rand until 1841 when he became the sole owner. (Author's Note: The village now known as Honeoye Falls, was settled in 1790 by Zebulon Norton who purchased 1600 acres of land bordering Honeoye Creek. At the falls on the creek he constructed a grist mill and a saw mill. The settlement was first known as Norton's Mills, then as West Mendon, and became Honeoye Falls when it was incorporated as a village in 1838.)

In the business directory of the Honeoye Falls Standard, a newspaper of that period, the following advertisement appeared in the June 6th, 1839, issue: "Allen & Rand, dealers in dry goods, groceries, hardware, etc., at the Stone Block, corner of Main & Monroe Streets."

In 1849, Mr. Allen closed out the stock he had been carrying and entered the drug business which he continued until the end of his business career. His brother, Dr. Harry Allen, who had arrived in Norton's Mills in 1821 joined him in the business and combined the practice of medicine with the sale of drugs. Mr. Allen's son, Albe C. Allen, Jr., known as Cady, born in Norton's Mills in 1837, later became a partner and active in the business until his death in 1882.

1851 view of the Four Corners in Honeoye Falls. Stone building housing Allen drug store stands at far left corner. (Author's Collection.)

A disastrous fire consumed much of the early stone building in 1866. Using the rear portion of the stone walls that remained following the fire, the present brick building was constructed the following year by Martin R. Pierce who in 1831 had built the Presbyterian Church and many substantial houses still standing in Honeoye Falls.

1872 map of the Four Corners in Honeoye Falls. Red circle 1 locates Albe C. Allen drug store. Red circle 2 marks site of grist mill built by Zebulon Norton. Red circle 3 identifies site of sawmill built by Zebulon Norton. (Prepared by author.)

In 1884, Albe Allen, Sr., sold the drug business to Frank L. Remington of Naples, New York, while retaining title to the building. Mr. Allen passed away four years later at the age of ninety four and was buried in the pioneer area of the Honeoye Falls Cemetery.

Photograph of Albe C. Allen who operated drug store in Honeoye Falls for thirty-five years. (Courtesy of
Honeoye Falls/Mendon Historical Society.)

On February 14th, 1884, this announcement appeared in the Honeoye Falls Times.

F. L. Remington wishes to inform the public that he has purchased the stock of goods of A. C. Allen and will conduct the business at the old stand. The former reputation of the store everyone is familiar with.

Mr. Remington will endeavor to maintain the same by keeping in stock pure goods at moderate prices, dealing honestly with those that kindly favor him with a share of their patronage, which he respectfully solicits. He has had some eight years experience at the retail and prescription counters. Anything in the line of prescriptions, recipes, etc., will receive careful attention.

Advertisement by F. L. Remington following purchase of the A. C. Allen drug store
business in 1884. (Source: February 21, 1884 Honoeye Falls Times.)

In 1897, Edwin K. Harnish acquired the business from Mr. Remington and in 1914 purchased the building from the Allen estate.

Drug store building as it appeared in early 1900's shortly after purchase by E.. K. Harnish.
(Courtesy of Honeoye Falls/Mendon Historical Society.)

A 1902 publication entitled Commercial, Business, and Professional Preview of Honeoye Falls printed these words about Mr. Harnish:

He is one of our enterprising young men and a prosperous druggist. His is one of the busy stores in town and his door is always on the swing. He enjoys the esteem of the entire community. His prescriptions are not excelled for purity of drugs and accuracy of compounding. Everything in the line of drugs, toilet articles, patent medicine, etc., is kept and anything new in the market that is of merit, is sure to be found in his place.

In short, he has a first class drug store. He has been a registered pharmacist for many years, is courteous and prompt and personally is a quiet, unassuming gentleman. He is also manager for the Bell Telephone Company here, which invention modernizes our town to a high degree.

Undated photo of E. K. Harnish standing by soda fountain in his drug store.
(Courtesy of Honeoye Falls/Mendon Historical Society.)

Another early 1900's publication entitled Views in Suburban Villages of Rochester, NY reads as follows:

In 1909 Mr. Harnish was appointed District Manager for the New York Telephone Company and his brother Mr. J. L. Harnish, became a partner in the drug business and the firm name became Harnish Brothers. A stock of drugs, chemicals, toilet articles, patent medicine, wall papers, and paint is carried and a first class prescription department is a special feature. Both members of this firm are highly respected and representative citizens.

(Authors Note: The switchboard for the telephone exchange was on the second floor of the drug store building. The room in which it was located was removed during the recent remodeling of the floor for apartments. I was told many years ago that, when someone called the operator to report an emergency, she would open a window and call down to the village constable who was parked in the street below.)

Bell Telephone Company operator at switchboard
located on second floor of drug store, circa 1900.
(Courtesy of Honeoye Falls/Mendon Historical Society.)

The partnership arrangement between E. K. Harnish and his brother, Jay L. Harnish, prevailed until 1921 when, following the death of Jay Harnish, the name became "Harnish Drug Store" once again.

Photo of one of the drug store advertising signs that E. K. Harnish placed at different mile intervals on roads leading to Honeoye Falls. This sign and a 5-miles-to sign are in the possession of his granddaughter, Sue Harnish.
(Photo by author.)

The Harnish drug store remained a Main Street fixture until June 1937 when, after operating the business for forty years, Mr. Harnish sold it to Cordon "Bub" Frank. Mr. Frank, a native of Honeoye Falls and a graduate of the local high school, also owned a drug store on Plymouth Avenue in Rochester which he had acquired in 1932. He operated both stores until 1941 when he disposed of the store in the city and devoted all of his time to the one in Honeoye Falls.

On January 22nd, 1954, the residents of Honeoye Falls were shocked to learn that the popular druggist had suffered a heart attack and had passed away in Genesee Hospital. It was noted in the January 28th, 1954, issue of the Honeoye Falls Times that the Frank family had the sympathy of the entire community because of their sudden and unexpected loss, and that "Bub" Frank will be missed by his many, many friends.

For many years, beginning with E. K. Harnish and continuing with the Frank ownership of the business, the drug store served as a "Terminal" for the Greyhound Bus Company. Older residents of the village recall waiting at the store for the bus to take them to Rochester. In 1937 a round trip ticket cost eighty cents.

Following the death of Mr. Frank, the drug store was operated under the Frank name until June 1954 when the business, but not the real estate, was acquired by Norman E. Emblidge.

Mr. Emblidge had operated a drug store on Chili Avenue in Rochester since 1948 and another in the Village of Churchville since 1950. His son, Roger, who had been associated with his father's business for several years, was named to manage the new store in Honeoye Falls. He began an extensive remodeling and alteration program that was advertised to include a 23-foot fountain service bar. After operating the drug store for thirty-four years, the Emblidge ownership of the business was transferred to Angelo Valentino in 1988.

For the third time in its history, fire revisited the building in the early morning hours of December 4th, 1998. The fire was similar to the 1934 fire in that it was of unknown origin and resulted in damage to the rear of the building as well as causing heavy smoke and water damage. The proximity of the fire to the Honeoye Falls firehouse activated a smoke alarm at that facility bringing a prompt response from firemen. This quick action saved the main structure and the adjacent building from serious damage.

On April 29th, 1999, Mr. Valentino advertised that his pharmacy had reopened and that he was back in the business of serving his old customers. The advertisement also mentioned that a gift shop would open soon and that Hallmark cards would be sold in the shop.

When the Rite Aid Drug Company announced in January 2001 that a super drug store would be built in Honeoye Falls, Angelo Valentino told me that his days in the business were numbered. It turned out that his prophecy was correct. On August 16th, 2001, the Honeoye Falls Sentinel stated the Valentino full-service pharmacy and gift shop closed for good on August 13th and that Mr. Valentino had decided to sell the contents of his business to the new Rite Aid Pharmacy.

After 152 years the closing of the Valentino Pharmacy marked the end of one of the oldest continuously operating drug stores in New York State and perhaps in the entire country. For many local people this proved to be an emotional event as they had patronized the drug store since they were children enjoying a milk shake or banana split at the soda fountain.

Drug Store Owners, 1849 - 2001:

1849 - 1884 - Albe C. Allen
1884 - 1897 - Frank L. Remington
1897 - 1937 - Edwin K. Harnish
1937 - 1954 - Cordon "Bub" Frank
1954 - 1988 Norman and Roger Emblidge
1988 - 2001 - Angelo Valentino

Sources of Information:

Honeoye Falls Times
Honeoye Falls Standard
Honeoye Falls Sentinel
1902 Commercial, Business & Professional Review of Honeoye Falls
Views of Suburban Villages of Rochester, NY
© 2006, John G. Sheret
Index to Articles by John G. Sheret
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