It's a cold January afternoon in 1993 and the old Sample Shop on Hertel Avenue is battered and waiting for the final blow. What was once a neighborhood staple AND a part of large chain of clothing stores around Western New York, the main store had become a symbol of defeat with the emergence of the "mega malls".
This stretch of land, at the intersection of Admiral Road and Hertel, between Wallace and Parkside, was where Louis and Anne Bunis made their home - at 1631 Hertel. Opening up a small shop in the front of their home, Anne Bunis sold dresses and other woman fashions. According to the 1930 Buffalo City Directory this block of Hertel, which included the original dwelling at 1631, expanded to include other retail business. This was the reason the main Sample Shop store was so unique - as the business expanded, the Bunis home also expanded with Louis building on many additions to the original dwelling. By 1930 the "Sample Dress Shop" grew to include "The Emily Shop" (woman's furnishings) and Reinman Millinery. The name "Sample Shop" came from Anne's original inventory of what she sold - dress "samples" and samples of dress fabric.
More additions to the building gave the Sample Shop the room they needed to increase their inventory. Soon men's and children's clothing arrived along with shoes, gifts, jewelry, stationary, and even records! By the early 1980s, there was a Sample Shop in almost every mall in Western New York with the store's distribution center located on Elmwood Avenue.
Things began to change when Louis and Anne retired from the business and left operations to their sons David and Maer. When Maer passed away leaving David in charge, the younger Bunis wanted out. By the end of the 80s, the Sample Shop had closed most if not all of it's chains and moved everything into the main store on Hertel. By 1991, nothing was left except for Brian Michael's Jewelers, which remained in business while the rest of the building was being demolished. Everything was gone by the end of the year.
All that remains of the Sample Shop is a plaque outside of the hideous apartment complex that was built on the old property. The plaque points out the location of the original house at 1631 Hertel and gives testement to one of the most successful family owned and operated businesses in Buffalo.
For those of us who worked there, it is saddly missed.