William Sisters End Store Career ~Sunday Spectator-March 4, 1973

Transcribed by Sheila L. Kalkbrenner



Photo Caption:

Sisters Retire. Mrs. Ruth Williams (left) and Miss Florence Williams, reminisce over their nearly 58 years of running the H.H. Williams store in Andover. The sisters retired earlier this year, and now the store has been turned over to a grandson of Mrs. Williams.


Sunday Spectator-March 4, 1973

Williams Sisters End Store Career by Geri Welch

ANDOVER—“March 17 was one of the hardest days of my life,” Florence Williams recalls.

March 17, 1915, that is, the day she and her sister, Ruth, began a career which spanned almost 58 years at the H.H. Williams store on Main St. in Andover.

The Williams store, started by Horace Williams around 1890, is probably the oldest existing business in Andover, and has grown to be almost an institution in the village.

The two sisters helped their father run the store until his deathe in 1942, then ran it themselves until early this year.

“I may go down there and apply for a job, though, I miss it so much,” Florence Williams, 77, laughed, “I miss the people.” Miss Williams (“you can say I was an unclaimed treasure”), worked at the store steadily for the 57 years, while her sister, Mrs Ruth Williams (“a Williams who married a Williams”), who lived away from Andover for several years, has worked there intermittently.

Both remember their first day on the job in 1915, and both said the hardest part was learning to deal with the public.

“Things were a lot different then,” Miss Williams said. “We were down at the store by 6:45 a.m. and worked until 9p.m. You had to then, because the train came in early and the farmers were up and about.”

That work schedule was maintained until a few years ago, but it gradually wore down to the more conventional 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. hours it operates under now.

The business has been turned over to a fourth generation Williams, Dana, who is a grandson of Mrs. Williams.

“He’ll do all right,” Miss Williams said firmly. “He’s got enough Williams about him.”

Both sisters led an active life in Andover, despite their early and long careers at the store. Their father, mayor of Andover for three terms, also was an avid pony raiser, and both women loved to ride.

“We would ride over to Wellsville for music lessons from Madame June Reed, and our ponies could make to Wellsville in an hour,” Mrs. Williams said.

Miss Williams has been the organist for the Baptist Church in Andover for many years, and both are accomplished musicians on several string instruments.

Miss Williams, who lives in the house her father built when she was 10 years old, recalled that her father was avid bicyclist and their store was one of the first in the county to sell bicycles.

“Dad would think nothing of biking to Buffalo and coming back the same day,” she said. A portrait of their father, done by an aunt, hangs in the entryway of the Williams home, along with several paintings done by Mrs. Williams.

The store itself includes two sections, one for groceries, the other for dry goods.

The sisters said that through the years, the store carried a diversified stock, at one time including fine china and tin ware.

The grocery side was famous for its bread, brought to Andover from Buffalo on the early morning train. Barrels of salt pork and fish were also included in the stock.

“We always said that the grocery store was our bread and butter and the dry goods part was our pie and cake,” Miss Williams said.

Change came to the store over the years, but Miss Williams said chance was so gradual they never really minded.

Both sisters are still active, although an illness that kept Miss Williams in the hospital during November and December instigated their retirement.

“I guess we always had a lot to stick-to-it-iveness,” Miss Williams said. “we’re trying not to give Dana (the grandson) too much advice, or we’ll be back there running it again, and it’s time to let him do it now.”

March 17 will probably be a quiet day for the two, but no less special for its memories.

The Williams store and Andover are tied together in history, and the Williams sisters are an integral part of both.