SWEET SUCCESS – Pictured, from left: Co-Owner Mike Zielienski, bartender Steve Zielinski and Co-Owner Lawrence Zielinski, holding a cake to celebrate 75 years of business in the same family-owned bar.
SPRINGVILLE — Seventy-five years ago, Springville had the Red and White and a sewing store, so people could make their own clothes, Raymond Genter and Norbert Kessler organized a community auction, the former Citizens National Bank was being built and just next door, the McAllister brothers were selling their bar to Lawrence Zielinski.
Zielinksi bought the business for $1,000, acquired an adding machine, some tables and a few barstools and opened Lawrence’s Tavern. He and his wife Ann began running the little tavern that gained a following of people, stopping by after work for a drink or two.
The customers became familiar with Zielinski, and then with his wife who ran the business for three years while her husband was fighting in World War II.
When Zielinski returned from the war in 1946, they bought the building in which the tavern was located, for $8,000 and continued running their business. The couple lived above their tavern with their son Larry until 1950 when they had their daughter, Elaine, and moved into a house on Franklin Street.
“We lived over the Tavern until I was 10,” said the younger Zielinski. “My playground was the back alley and the baseball diamonds.”
The Zielinskis ran the tavern until they passed away, first Ann, then Lawrence in 1995. The Tavern only closed its door for a six-month period, during which the elder Zielinski was battling cancer. After his death, many people expressed interest in buying Lawrence’s Tavern but it ultimately fell into the hands of the younger Zielinski and his son Michael.
“I talked to my son and said, ‘Let’s take a shot’,” Zielinski said. “We opened in August of 1995, well, reopened I guess.”
Zielinski, who has an accounting degree from Canisius College, split his time between working at Lawrence’s Tavern and a law firm in Buffalo.
“I had my job and my career and I was happy with it,” he said. “There were times I’d work 40 hours at the law firm then 40 hours at the Tavern.”
When Zielinski retired in 2002, he joined his son full- time at Lawrence’s Tavern and continued the reputation his parents had set in Springville. And on April 10, the second and third generation of Zielinskis celebrated 75 years of being in business.
“I didn’t really want to change anything from how Mother and Father ran it,” he said. “We like to consider it a corner bar with no gimmicks. Things nowadays, I guess you have to be big or something; we’ve got a couple of TVs we watch sports on. But we haven’t had any problems in the last 75 years.”
In those 75 years, Zielinski has seen mostly familiar faces, referring to his customer population as regulars, including former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin, who was a good friend of the elder Zielinski and a bi-annual visitor of Lawrence’s Tavern.
“They met when I was being sworn in as deputy comptroller of the county of Erie. Jimmy Griffin always remembered a face and a name,” Zielinski recalled. “He would bring his wife Marge in the spring and the fall, they would go for their rides and they’d always stop in and have a few bottles of Genesee.”
What likely drew Griffin to Lawrence’s, as well as everyone else that frequents the tavern, is the laid-back atmosphere it offers.
“My father always said it was ‘the friendliest place in town and it was a working man’s establishment’,” said Zielinski. “I don’t think we’ve changed from that. Well, some professional people come in and things like that, but it’s an inexpensive place to have a beer.”
The time-honored tradition of a “Mucket Bucket”, instituted by a customer when Lawrenc’es was still owned by its namesake, is just one of the things that hasn’t changed. Customers can throw spare change or extra money into the bucket to be donated to a local charity or organization in the Springville area. The tradition began long ago, averaging between $1,000 and $2,200 donated each year. In the 19 years Lawrence’s Tavern has been owned by the younger Zielinski and his son, more than $30,000 has been donated from the mucket bucket.
“The goal was to try to keep that legacy, the business’ legacy going,” Zielinski said.
In an ever-changing village, where businesses and people come and go, Lawrence’s Tavern holds on to a piece of the Springville that once was.
“I guess we just got lucky,” Zielinski said.
But for the family with the longest-held liquor license in Erie County, more than luck was involved.
Lawrence’s Tavern is located at 10 North Buffalo St. and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. and on Sundays, during football season, from noon until 6 p.m. They can be reached by calling 592-4566.