Old-Fashioned Businesses near Johnstown, NY

By John McBryde on December 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Martin Cherry

< At the National Jukebox Exchange and Arcade Treasures in Mayfield, “vintage” means the ongoing search, collection and restoration of items deemed unusual and extremely rare.

At Fariello’s Confectionery in Amsterdam and Wemple & Edick’s in Johnstown, the term has to do with the days of old-fashioned country stores, candy shops and ice cream parlors.

And at the Amsterdam Castle Bed & Breakfast in Amsterdam, vintage is literally a way of life.

“Historic tourism is my passion,” says Susan Phemister, who owns the 119-year-old Amsterdam Castle with her husband, Manfred Phemister. “History is real big in upstate New York, so I feel privileged to be able to make money out of history and the whole experience.”

Old Times

As evidenced by many businesses that appeal to those with nostalgic tendencies, the Fulton and Montgomery counties region teems with old times and old treasures.

“I don’t know if there’s a rhyme or reason for it,” says John Papa, owner of both National Jukebox Exchange and Arcade Treasures, which share a shop in downtown Mayfield. “But upstate New York has always been an active area with a lot of country stores, bars and family-owned businesses.”

Papa, whose family was in the glove business, was first attracted to jukeboxes in 1981 when he saw an unusual Wurlitzer in a shop in New York City. He immediately began researching, and within a year he had purchased around 200 of the music machines from nearby places in the region.

“This was really a great area to find antique jukeboxes tucked away in basements of homes, back rooms of bars and restaurants, so I just had a ball,” Papa says. “And then one thing led to another.”

He now buys, sells and restores all sorts of vintage jukeboxes, primarily through his website or by appointment at his shop. Papa also reproduces old and extremely rare machines from penny arcades through his Arcade Treasures business.

Home Is Their Castle

The old and unusual, not to mention the need for more space, also inspired Susan and Manfred Phemister to purchase the 36,000-square-foot Amsterdam Castle in 2005. The couple outgrew their brownstone apartment in Brooklyn as they added three children to the family.

The castle was built in 1894 as a National Guard armory, and it was decommissioned in 1995. Most of it serves as the Phemisters’ residence, but two of the wings – each around 1,500 square feet – are used as “suites” for the bed-and-breakfast.

“We are seeing more regional tourists, mainly people from the Albany area,” Susan Phemister says. “They live within half an hour, so it’s a luxury for them to spend a night here.”

For those with vintage taste buds, Fariello’s Confectionery offers an assortment of ice cream, phosphates, “penny candy” and homemade confectioneries – just as it has since it opened in 1925.

Similar treats can be found at Wemple and Edick’s, an old country store that dates to 1826. It’s the home of the famous chocolate jumbles and half-moon cookies, and also scoops more than 35 flavors of homemade ice cream.

Find more fun attractions in the Johnstown, NY area

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