Once upon a time in the city of Bradford, as well in towns across the country, there was a business concept called the neighborhood grocery shop — which were also referred to as Mom and Pop stores.
A piece of that bygone era was revealed a few weeks ago when workmen renovating a two-story building at 99-101 Congress St. on the corner of Congress Place uncovered a hand-painted sign on the side of the 121-year-old structure. The neatly painted sign reads, “Simond’s” with “Milk and Cream” and “Fruits and Produce” inscribed underneath.
The business sign, which likely dates back to 1933 during the ownership of Don Simonds and Joe Anderson, was uncovered by workmen contracted by the Office of Community and Economic Development, said Sara Andrews, executive director. While the agency knew the building had housed neighborhood grocery stores and businesses in years past, and apartments in recent years, they didn’t know of the unique sign hidden beneath.
“We didn’t know it was there,” Andrews said. It is a Neighborhood Revitalization Project that is renovating the wooden structure into two apartments. She said the old sign on the building, however, will have to be covered again when the building is resided.
“This is one of the Neighborhood Partnership Programs with the Downtown Bradford Revitalization Corporation,” Andrews explained. “Part of the mission is to address blighted conditions in the neighborhood and this was a property that had been a long-term issue in terms of code violations and such.”
Andrews said the agency is attempting to improve the entire block in that area following the construction of new houses on Elm Street and the renovation and opening of the Bradford Brew Station on Chestnut Street.
Andrews said the Neighborhood Partnership, privately funded through businesses that include Zippo Manufacturing Co. and Northwest Bank, purchased the building last year from the property owner. No state or federal funds are being used for the project.
“We knew we were going to build some new houses on Congress Place, and some other improvement facade work in that area, so we wanted to address this property which had been kind of a blight in the area,” Andrews continued. “Now we’re in the process of renovating the exterior of the building.”
The work has included the demolition of a back portion of the building and the installation of new windows, as well anticipated foundation repair and new siding. The local contractor is Tom Vickery.
“Due to the cost of the exterior work, we probably won’t start construction on the interior until next year when funding becomes available,” Andrews speculated.
In commenting on the history of the building, Sally Costik, curator of Bradford Landmark Society, said the store is believed to have been built in 1898 and was originally operated by Eugene Boyle as the Boyle & Sons store.
“Eugene died in 1919, age 64, and his son, Cary E. Boyle, took over the business,” Costik said.
Landmark records state that in 1931 Paul Kautz was listed as the owner of the grocery store at 99 Congress.
Two years later, a Bradford Era newspaper notice published in June of 1933 announced that Don Simonds and Joe Anderson would open two markets in partnership. One store would be located at 399 E. Main St., now at the corner of North Kendall Avenue and East Main Street, and the other, to be run by Simonds, at 99 Congress St.
“By 1937, the Grover Smiths (were running) the store,” Costik continued, noting a newspaper clipping for their 50th anniversary contained a cutline that stated they had operated the Sunshine Market (at 99 Congress) since 1937.
For those who grew up in Second Ward and remember a Simonds Market on nearby Jefferson Street, there is a family connection, said Molly Lindahl, genealogist for Landmark. She said records indicate that Don Simonds’ son, Rugh Simonds, had owned and operated Simonds Market at 35 Jefferson St. for more than three decades. That building has since been demolished.
Lindahl said in later years, Frances C. Pace Cannon operated Fran’s Cake Decorating and Cakes by Fran at 99 Congress St., in the 1980s. An apartment in the building was rented out to tenants in the most recent years.