A few months ago, we moved out of an off-site storage facility that had been used to hold oversize collection artifacts. Conditions were not ideal and it ultimately was the right decision to vacate and move what items we could into our Collections Storage Building. Larger items that could not fit in this space were relegated to our Receiving Area just outside the storage area. Currently, a sleigh, a wagon, an apple sorting bin, some pews and a large cast iron stove reside here, covered and protected from foot traffic by large barriers. Joining these items is a large, rectangular sign that had always leaned harmlessly against a far wall while it had been at the off-site facility. Metal with wood backing, we hung it on the wall above the oversize artifacts, almost as a place of honor after having been shunted to the side for so long in the other facility. It proudly shouts “Roneker Building” to those who walk by and happen to glance over at the wall.
Roneker’s Men’s and Boy’s Apparel opened in 1948 on Main Street in one of Williamsville’s most historic buildings. Three generations of men named Fred Roneker sold men’s fashions here. After the store closed, the building that had been home to the store in the heart of Williamsville for decades was sold by the family in 1997.
This three story red brick building, also called the “Brick Building” or “Hopkins Building” prior to being known as the “Roneker Building”, was built in 1854 shortly after the purchase of the lot by Timothy A. Hopkins, the son of Timothy S. Hopkins who was one of the first settlers in the Amherst area and the town’s first Town Supervisor. It has always been a retail and business center, many of the tenants staying for decades due to it’s ideal location in the heart of the Village. For many years it was the tallest commercial building in Amherst and the third floor hosted entertainment like plays, dances and concerts.
Originally a carriage shop, it has subsequently housed a school room; E.H. Smith’s general store; Bill Measer’s grocery store; Howard G. Britting’s general store specializing in jewelry, school supplies, cigars and candy; Clara Walter’s Village Shoppe, later Bancroft’s Village Shop; and more recently, haberdashers, Roneker’s Mens and Boys Wear and R.J. Wells, Co. Early in this century the telephone switchboard for Amherst’s 40 telephones and the Village Post Office were also located in the building. Presently Marty’s Formal Wear is the owner of the building.
We’re not sure where the sign that we have in our collection might have hung. Was it inside somewhere or on the exterior? Perhaps on the side of the building? All we know is that it was found outside the building in a dumpster prior to being brought to us for safekeeping. What a great piece of this area’s history, with roots back to Amherst’s early days of settlement and economic pursuits.
Remember to stay tuned every month for the newest installment of Collections Curiosities!