Downtown memories of Gregory’s and more
We’d most recently talked about Gregory’s Menswear in downtown York in a column just a few weeks ago. Following that, I received a couple of wonderful letters that I’d like to share today, along with some bonus downtown retail memories!
Following that last column, reader Don Simmons of Springettsbury Township wrote that he was fortunate to grow up and live on North Broad Street in York, graduating with the William Penn Class of 1964.
He wrote that the Gregory’s column “took me back to February of 1969. I had just been discharged from the Air Force and returned to York with my wife and our 2-year-old son to find a job and enroll in night classes at York College. I applied at several local banks and was hired by The York Bank & Trust Co. at the corner of Market and Beaver streets into their two-year ‘Management Training Program.’ If I recall, management trainees were paid $125 a week at that time.”
He continued, “Great news, but there was a dilemma. My wardrobe then consisted of one black suit, appropriate for weddings and funerals, and a dark blue sport coat for every other occasion. Bankers however, upon a quick overview of the men I observed working at Market & Beaver streets, wore suits, with a white shirt and a subdued stripe or quietly patterned tie, period.”
And that’s where Gregory’s comes in. Don wrote, “Someone at the bank suggested I shop at Gregory’s, so off I went to North George Street buy a suit. I remember the store well. The employees were handsomely dressed and all looked like they had just stepped out of a menswear ad. A kindly salesman took me under his wing and, in doing so, secured a faithful customer for life.”
He continued, “I explained my situation and he knew just what to do. He suggested that, given my circumstances, I would need two suits so they could be alternated, and they should be chosen so they could be worn year-round. I don’t remember what they cost, but I am certain I had never spent that much on clothes before in my entire life.”
“Business suits, in 1969, came with a vest and two pairs of pants,” Don explained. “The first suit was a solid grey medium-weight wool blend, single breast. The second, similarly cut, was a slightly darker grey with a chalk-white pinstripe. If ever there was a banker’s suit, this was the one, also with one vest and two trousers. I now had acquired the proper uniforms for my chosen profession.”
And, even better, he added, “Since I clearly lacked ready funds to make the purchases I was informed I could buy them on ‘lay-away!’ Every Friday I faithfully delivered a check for five or ten dollars to Gregory’s until my debt had been discharged. One by one the suits were mine.”
He continued, “I was always impressed that Gregory’s had measured and altered my suits as soon as I had chosen them, putting them away to await my pick-up. It may seem a small thing, but I took that as a ‘vote-of-confidence’ by Gregory’s in me, personally. They knew they had sold two suits to a young man who would pay them, without fail. They had acquired a customer for life. I also had the pleasant anticipation of looking forward to eventually wearing wear my new suits. Until that day I could only remember how good the suits looked in the three-way mirrors in Gregory’s showroom. How so very different from the instant-gratification provided by a credit card, today.”
And, Don concluded, “In time I added Griffith Smith to my favorites list for men’s clothing. The personalized service and quality offerings kept me on their customer list for many years. Along with Bear’s and The Bon-Ton, the Terminal Luggage Shop, Eugene Jacobs and others, Downtown York was a great place to shop.”
Don, I am so glad you shared those memories with us! I wish you had sent a picture of yourself in one of those smart suits – but I can almost picture it from your description!
I also heard from reader Monica Schwartz, who was responding to an earlier question about when Gregory’s closed. She wrote, “The store closed right before May 1989, when I married their son. Thomas Gregory Sr. was the son of Marshall Gregory Sr., who ran the store. Uncle Marshall (Jr.) actually was the president of AAA… When Marshall Sr. died, he left his money to the York Hospital and his name is on the wall in the old main entrance.”
Monica, thanks for clarifying that date. So glad we could share this part of your family’s history!
I do have a handful of other downtown shopping memories to share with you today as well.
First, longtime reader Roy Flinchbaugh was reminiscing about the time where there were five men’s clothing stores in the first block of North George Street – the aforementioned Gregory’s and Griffith-Smith, as well as Flinchbaugh Brothers, Lehmeyer’s and what he describes as “a fifth one whose name, for the life of me, I can’t recall.” If anyone remembers that fifth menswear store, please do let us know!
Roy also continued, “We also had the Ramona restaurant, the Penn Hotel, the Golden Glow cafeteria, a tack shop (general leather goods, especially horse-related)… Bear’s shoe store (part of the department store of the same name), and, of course, the Strand & Capitol theatres. And on the corners of North George Street at the square were the First National Bank and Whelan’s drug store.”
Roy, thank you for all those great memories! I am so glad you shared them, especially since we just celebrated the new name for the former Strand-Capitol this month!
Finally for today I have a note from Bob Wolf of Shiloh, who writes that he remembers a bit about Kaufman’s Art Store, also in York, which I had formerly seen spelled as Kauffman’s. “My grandmother, C. Lee Bahn, used to work there,” he said.
“She was an artist, and besides her painting, she also retouched photographs for Kaufman’s. She was 83 when she passed away, and she died back in 1968. This is all I remember of Kaufman’s. I know it was located downtown… somewhere… but I don’t remember where.”
Earlier commenters noted the shop was on North Beaver Street, then West King Street, then West Market Street, so maybe one of those is a location you remember, Bob!
Thanks to all for sharing these great downtown memories.Have questions or memories to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.