Thomas And Helen Hickey To Retire After 45 Years In Furniture Business
(THE JOURNAL-REGISTER, JUNE 12TH 1991)
After 45 years in the furniture business, Thomas and Helen Hickey have decided to spend more time on their boat and the golf course and to do some traveling.
Owners of Village Square, along the railroad track between West Avenue and Gwinn Street, the Hickeys have been in the business since 1946 and at one time operated two stores here. Known in the trade as "one of the few Irish furniture dealers in New York state," the Hickeys spent some time this week reminiscing on their years in the Medina business community.
While attending the University of Buffalo, Mr. Hickey worked for Bernard Dutcher at Dutcher Electric on Main Street, when the opportunity came along to go into partnership at LeVan Furniture, also located on Main Street.
It was not long afterward, in 1953, that he purchased the H. LeBaron Hart Furniture Co. here. Located in what is now Kennedy's Clothing, Hickey explained that H. LeBaron Hart had owned the furniture store and a funeral buisiness together, which was common in those days.
Ironically, the Hickeys later purchased the home of H. LeBaron Hart on Ann Street where they now reside.
In 1963, the Hickeys purchased the building they are now located in, from the New York Central Railroad. It was used as a warehouse in the beginning, and in 1967, the Village Square Colonial Shop opened there, specializing in Early American furniture.
At that time, Hickey's Furniture and Gift Shop was still on Main Street, with the Gift Shop in the basement also very well-noted in the area. "We had a big gift department in the basement and carried a lot of nice items," Mr. Hickey says.
In 1974 the Main Street building was sold to the Kennedys, and the entire furniture and gift inventory was consolidated into Village Square.
"Practically all the fellows who were on Main Street when I started are gone now," Mr. Hickey continues, "except for Ward Bramer and Louis Metz."
He adds, Main Street was a lot more active in the 1950s and '60s. "It wouldn't be unusual to have six or eight Lapp trucks delivering to stores at one time and there were a lot more people on the street in those days."
"Buying habits are completely different now," Mrs. Hickey adds. "It used to be a real trip to go to Buffalo, and now it's nothing."
Both Hickey's Furniture and Village Square have been noted for many years for their quality furniture. "We always sold good quality furniture," he says. "I always kept to our motto, that 'the customer is always right' and offered good quality furniture at a fair price."
The building housing Village Square has been purchased by Martin and Judith Phelps of Batavia. He is a retired Batavia firefighter and they will be announcing their plans for the building soon.
Mrs. Hickey said that when they purchased the building from the New York Central, it had been formally used as a freight terminal. Built around 1890, it was the largest terminal between Buffalo and Rochester, and one of the largest in the state.
A lot of work was done on the interior after their purchase but, the Hickeys add, "it's a beautiful classic structure." He says, an insurance company uses the profile of the building denoting strength and character.
The furniture duo also discussed the early days of traveling to buying shows in New York City and Jamestown. "Beautiful furniture was made in Jamestown," they said, adding that the major markets for furniture right now are in High Point, N.C. "A lot of major furniture companies have gone out of business too," they said.
It was also noted that Village Square, which has only been open on a part-time basis over the past several years, is one of a very few smaller, one-store furinture dealers left in Western New York.
The Hickeys plan to spend more time at their summer home at Point Breeze enjoying their boat, and wintering in Florida. He adds, "If I get bored, I can always go on the road selling furniture."
A stock liquidation sale for Village Square will be announced by the Hickeys at a later date.