By DAVID GREEN
It was once a bustling grocery store. Its shelves brimmed with most anything a person needed.
Later it served as a mechanic’s garage with an overhead door cut into its side. Then it became an antique shop, attracting the traffic heading north and south through Canandaigua.
The roof is caving in. Windows are broken out. The porch is collapsing and structure is suffering from years of neglect.
The old Canandaigua store has entered the conversation at Seneca Township meetings many times over the past, and the current board members have decided to take action.
Time is running out for owner Landon Dickerson to respond with cleanup plans for the building. If he doesn’t come forth, the building will be torn down.
The old store has been abandoned for about 10 years, said Seneca Township supervisor Kiel Plummer. Efforts to contact the owner have failed, so the board is seeking legal action through circuit court.
Court action to have the building razed can be initiated when a structure violates the nuisance ordinance and is abandoned for more than six months. Plummer said he’s received an estimate of $8,000 for demolition. Razing costs would be placed on Dickerson’s tax bill.
“It’s slowly rotting away,” said township attorney Dan Bruggeman. “I can remember when it was a going grocery store.”
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Perry operated the grocery for many years, Bruggeman said, taking charge of duties for owner Charley Harlan.
“They both lived to near 100 years and it seems like they ran the store about that long,” he said.
He doesn’t recall the Perrys making many changes in the store over the years. As they got older, the inventory shrunk. His family bought most of its groceries at the market to the south, but they would still stop in at the Perrys to give them some financial support.
“In the early 1950s, it still looked like a turn-of-the-century establishment. It was a period piece, including the proprietors.”
Bruggeman remembers the ladder on a train that would wheel along the walls to reach groceries on high shelves. An old Regulator clock ticktocked as the hours went by.
“It was really a living museum,” he recalls.
John Spooner remembers going down to the store to listen to the old men talk.
“There was a stove in the back and they used to gather around in the winter and play checkers,” he said.
He was always impressed with Mr. Perry’s arithmetic skills.
“He didn’t need an adding machine to total up the bill. It was all in his head.”
Years of cruising timber and totaling up board-feet built up some experience that paid off for a store clerk.
Sometime after the grocery closed, Ed Allison bought the building and used it as a garage for fixing vehicles. Allison lived on the second floor of the building.
The structure remain vacant for several years before Henry Sinks opened an antique shop in 1972. He heard stories about the building being used as part of the Underground Railroad to aid fugitive slaves. There were bars over some of the windows.
Sinks closed his business in 1986 or 1987, and once again, the building was abandoned.
In 1993, Marge Kyser bought the building with the intent of opening an antique shop. She lived in the house to the north—which was part of the sale—which was part of the sale.
Kyser never used the old store, but she admired it. There used to be dances in the second floor, she was told, and the upstairs bathroom still had fixtures from the 1940s. There’s plenty of good old fashioned brick, she said, that should be worth some money to someone.
She recalls the day a car accidentally drove into the front of the store and she remembers seeing lots of snakes in the basement.
“It would have been awfully expensive to do anything with,” she said, and once again it sat abandoned until she sold it to Landon Dickerson.
Not all township board members look forward to demolition of the old landmark, but there’s agreement that something has to be done. In addition, Plummer said, it’s a traffic hazard the way it’s built so close to the intersection.
There’s one way to save the structure, Bruggeman notes. The owner must state plans for rehabilitation of the structure and present a reasonable time schedule. Otherwise, it will soon become a pile of fallen bricks to be hauled off to the landfill.– June 12, 2002