The Legacy of Oliver E. Vars

Business Ventures & Family  

Submitted by William A. Greene

I want to thank the Vars family for sharing their family photos and history.
Especially Wendell and Curtis.  Compiled by William A. Greene 2005


     Andover was a growing town when Oliver E. Vars came here to stay.

     He was born in Westerly, Rhode Island on February 3, 1853 and grew up there. He started his own business and ran it until in 1876 he decided to attend Alfred University to complete his education. While there he met and courted his wife, Miss Ella Lanphear, of Andover. They were married in August 21, 1878.

     They moved to Andover in January of 1879 and made it their home for the rest of their lives.


On February 14, 1894 the Andover News ran the following article on O.E. Vars:  


   "Mr. Vars, is the proprietor of one the best known business establishments, namely, the well-conducted and well-ordered drug establishment herein described. Mr. Vars has been identified with the drug trade of the town for a great many years, and while we have no desire to exaggerate on the merits of his business, we can congratulate him on his success as a businessman and the very acceptable manner in which he is meeting the wants of the public.  Mr. Vars is an experienced chemist and druggist.


His store evidences careful and capable management. A full line of all kinds of pure drugs, druggists’ sundries, the leading patent medicines, etc. are constantly on hand. The public can find every advantage in dealing here. A notable feature of this store is the bargain counter, containing 5, 10 and 25 cent goods of all description, light hardware, tin ware, etc., which always saves money to its patrons. Mr. Vars is also a taxidermist of more than local reputation. He gives special attention to this branch, and his work may be found in nearly every section of the country." 

His store was on West Greenwood St. and is still standing. It now houses the Andover      Laundromat.

In January of 1895 Mr. and Mrs. Vars purchased the old Catholic Church on Dyke St. They had it torn down and built a beautiful home there to raise their family: Clifford J., Floyd C. and Mable.  The house was passed on to Floyd, where he raised his family, and is now owned by Daniel and Kathy Deming (2005).

In 1897 Mr. Vars got into the gas and oil business. I know he owned a few leases and had money tied up in other ones.

     Mr. Vars had numerous rental properties around the area and on May 5, 1907 an old landmark owned by him burned to the ground.  The Ellis Block was on the corner of Main and East Greenwood streets and was built in 1867. It was a total loss.

The building was three stories high and housed the following businesses. The Odd Fellows Fraternity and Ball Room occupied the top floor. Dr. Loughhead had his office and living quarters on the second floor. Brundage & Rogers, druggists; Raymond & Miller, millinery and ladies furnishings and Floyd C. Vars, jewelry, occupied the ground floor. Also located in the Brundage & Rogers Drug Store was the W.N.Y. & Pa. Telephone Company.

    Within the next year a new brick building was constructed by Mr. Vars to take the Ellis Block position. This remained standing until about year 2000 when it was torn down to make a park.


The next article written about Mr. Vars was written four months before his death. In November of 1921 the Andover News wrote this:


"Mr. Oliver E. Vars is the dean in the drug business of Allegany County, obviously being in business longer than any other person.

     After completing his college course in Alfred University, specializing in chemistry, instead of returning to his native state, Rhode Island, he came to Andover , found him a bride and opened a drug store on Greenwood Street, forty-three years ago, and has been on the job at the same stand ever since.
     Mr. Vars has always been a liberal contributor to all of the various industries coming to Andover, co-operating with the various Business Men’s Associations and Chamber of Commerce. He is at this time one of the directors of the Andover Chamber of Commerce.
     Besides his drug business Mr. Vars has had many other avenues for his energies, dealing quite heavily at times in Andover real estate. He believes in investing his money where he made it. He is the heaviest local taxpayer in the town, and is the owner of the three store concrete block on the corner of Main and East Greenwood Streets, in which are located the Bloss Grocery, Brown Furniture Store and Andover’s Post Office.
     Mr. Vars has kept us all cool for the past twenty years, being the owner of the Andover Pond and the icehouse, which supply clean, crisp ice in the summer months."


"It all came to an end on March 10, 1922 when Andover’s oldest business man, Oliver E. Vars, died suddenly at his residence in this village, Friday morning of acute heart trouble, aged 69 years. He had been in active business in this village as a druggist and pharmacist for forty-three years on the 10th of January."

    "Mr. Vars had been ill only since Wednesday the week previous, and his condition was not considered dangerous. He seemed better as he retired Thursday night. About 4 o’clock Friday morning he arose and while dressing fell on the floor and was dead before the aroused household arrived at his side."

 He was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Andover, New York.

     Mr. Vars’ sons became businessmen also. Clifford became a druggist in Andover, just around the corner from his dad’s business and moved to Texas due to health reasons; Floyd stayed in Andover and was a jeweler, he also had a Harley Davidson motorcycle business.

Floyd’s sons stayed in Andover and also became businessmen. Kenneth became a jeweler and Wendell became a druggist. Later they went together and opened a toy store in Andover.

Today Kenneth’s son, Curtis, has his own business at his home on Barrett Road in Andover and also raises alpacas.






Webmaster Note:  I will be eternally grateful to the Vars Family.  Wendell (& Kathryn) and Ken allowed me to work in their stores during my college days and I learned from them.  In my retirement I look back at those good old days working as a "soda jerk"/clerk in the Vars Drug Store, Jewelry Store and Toy Store with happy thoughts.  I, too, thank the family for sharing a little bit of important Andover History.  Ron Taylor.