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Shopping in Ellicottville: Past and Present

Mary's-photo

From Bare Essentials to World Class Offerings

By Mary Fox

Shopping in Ellicottville is an exciting adventure for visitors and residents alike. You can spend days shopping ski shops, boutiques, gift shops and more all within a compact area, including many excellent restaurants for that essential coffee or lunch break.

Shopping in Ellicottville is worth a trip, and it’s not only the goods available, it’s the friendly, courteous salespeople and others you meet on the street. Shop owners here have worked hard to keep the spirit of this historic town alive in buildings that hold secrets of the past and reach out to us from every direction.

When Ellicottville was being settled, shopping for bare essentials was done at trading posts. The first trading post in Ellicottville was the Ellis House on the southwest side of Washington Street next to the Episcopal Church.

As soon as settlers came, there was a need for merchants and tradesmen to set up businesses providing basic goods and services for the settlers’ needs. Businesses in these early days (1820s –1830s) mainly catered to essentials such as salt, sugar, spices and material for making clothing. Hand tools necessary for farming were made by the blacksmith, leather for shoes came from the tannery and gristmills ground the wheat into flour.

By 1876, readymade clothing stores, fabric and dressmaking stores, two tailors, seamstresses and hat makers were all found here.

At that time, there were also seven blacksmiths, three shoemakers, 10 grocery stores, four dry goods/grocery stores, a meat market and a bakery, two drug stores, a hardware store, a feed store, a harness shop, a shoe store, a printing office, a foundry, a carriage shop, a sign and carriage painter, a watch repair shop and a millinery shop. In addition, you could buy good like tobacco, furniture, upholstery, toys, clothing, fancy goods, musical instruments, hair oil, perfume and ready-made coffins.

Ellicottville was a farming and industrial town through most of its history, providing for the needs of farmers around the county. In the 1920s, Ellicottville businesses met residents’ needs and it was seldom necessary to take the train to Salamanca or Buffalo to find goods that were unavailable here.

Skiing did not influence commerce until the early 1960s, when slow and steady growth brought Ellicottville to where it is today, no longer an isolated little country town but a vibrant resort town that’s now “on the map” not only for skiing but for great shopping. In the last few years, Ellicottville has boomed with new business openings and expansions.

Until “the age of the supermarket” in the ‘60s, stores were smaller and the number of people in the town and surrounding area was much greater. In the last few years, Ellicottville has boomed with new business openings and expansions.

In addition to a supermarket, we now have a meat market, a cheese store, a chocolate store, a natural foods store, two liquor and wine stores, a winery and a brewery to take care of our culinary needs, as well as more than a dozen restaurants and bars in the village. Today’s unique businesses include a quilt shop, a consignment store, an art gallery, bicycle shop, many gift and clothing stores, and even a sock store.

A trip back in time reveals interesting past tenants in buildings housing very different businesses today. The Red Door Ski Shop was Edwin Northrup’s Dry Goods Store and later the Style Shop, which was founded in 1880 operated in the same spot for 93 years. Dina’s restaurant was Lon Dreier’s Meat market and later Zeke Slating’s Red and White grocery store.

Kazoo II was Walter Lawler’s food, rugs and carpeting store. He delivered groceries from house to house and would accept produce from farmers as pay for their purchase.

Tips Up was A.K. Strenbo’s Plumbing and Heating shop, and Madigan’s was the Litchfield Hardware Store. Balloons was a poolroom on one side with the Ellicottville Post newspaper on the other.

Today, shops and restaurants with high ceilings and exposed brick walls invite you in to imagine what shopping was like here over the past 200 years. Experience the past echoing around you, and smell the long ago that still lingers in the air. Hear the ladies sharing gossip while inspecting cloth for a new dress. Feel the past by touching the walls that hold the secrets of hundreds and thousands of shoppers who came before you.

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