Monday, January 16th, 2017

Mark Crane has a motto for his Pizza business, “We Treat You Like Family”. This last week, his “family” was reduced by one. On Friday afternoon, May 3rd, fire erupted in the Village of Palmyra, and Marks Pizzera’s original Palmyra store at 240 East Main Street, burned with it. An entire block was lost, and the pizzeria became another victim of the ravaging flames.

“My daughter, Jenna invited us to come up to Potsdam for the weekend to see here. She is a freshman there. My wife and I drove up early in the afternoon. We had just arrived and were sitting on Jenna’s bed in the dorm laughing and talking, when I got a call from my Palmyra store manager, Sean Norman.

“Palmyra is on fire,” he said. “Don’t worry, the firemen are here and they are working on it,” reassured Sean. Mark was a little upset, but did not think he had a lot to worry about, except that his employees were ok.

“About 20 minutes later, Sean called again and sadly told me that the building was engulfed in the fire. I asked if everyone was ok, and he reassured me they were all out.”

Then, Mark sat back and reflected that he was four hours away and there was nothing he could do. “I pictured all my awards and stories on the wall, and photos with famous and not so famous people who had stopped in. It was my base, my home. I was devastated. There were just no words,” Crane said.

Mark asked about the back apartment that had been a first home for him and his wife in their early years. “It’s all gone,” Sean reported.
When Mark arrived back in Palmyra, later that night, he stood in the street and just stared at the fire trucks spreading water on the buildings. “The firemen were amazing, they busted their asses. They did the best they could. I made sure they all had pizza, but that’s not enough.”

When asked if he would find a new spot to rebuild in Palmyra. “I will not leave a hole on Main Street,” he stated. This is my home, this village and this t own are important to me. I have been here 30 years.”

“ They will probably tear down the building, but, just as soon as I am able, I will rebuild right here,” he said firmly, with a slight catch in his throat.

Crane noted that many people have contacted him with condolences and offers of help, and the Village has been very good in communicating with him.

Mark’s Pizzeria now has 40 stores from outside Rochester to as far as Syracuse, with 7 in Wayne County, but like children, there is just something incredibly special about your first.

Changes in Downtown Palmyra
As I drove along East Main St. Palmyra today, the smell of week-old smoke hung in the air. “My apartment upstairs still smells like smoke since the fire,” said Courtney Surline at Brickhouse Antique Center. The fire to which she referred destroyed or damaged four buildings directly across the street from her family’s East Main St. business on May 3, 2013.

I’d been thinking about the stories those old buildings could tell about their past, and the ones that will never be heard. It is likely at least three of the structures will be razed with the fate of the fourth still up in the air. Questions that crossed my mind were what well-known Palmyra resident might have gotten a haircut and a shave there? Who might have had suits made or bought shoes therein? What proper Palmyra lady might have bought her secret supply of laudanum or who might have had an impacted tooth pulled inside those buildings? Sadly I think those questions will probably never be answered.

According to Thomas L. Cook’s Palmyra and Vicinity, the brick buildings as we knew them were built ca 1840, after one of the previous wooden buildings collapsed under its load of wheat and corn. Cook also wrote that the properties passed through many hands having served as a tannery, a select school, a reading room preemptory to the Kings Daughters Free Library, dental offices and tailor shop. Also, a shoe store, the drug store of J. P. H. Deming until 1854, Dr. Kingman’s office and the drug stores of Rushmore and Briggs, Brown’s Grocery and other businesses.

At this writing, Bonnie Hays of Historic Palmyra was gathering together an early history of these properties for another publication, and I began to think about those businesses and names of later years that might be remembered by present-day residents. In checking over public records, property descriptions, the paper trail of ownership agreements and restrictions, mortgages, residence and business usage is murky, convoluted and downright confusing in spots to the layperson.

As reported in Betty Troskosky’s Palmyra A Bicentennial Celebration, some may remember Western Auto, Weber Barber Shop, Lillyquist Jewelers, Rexall Drug Store, My Sister & I dress shop, Palmyra Electric Supply, Engel’s Electric Supply Store, Darrell’s, Gawel Portrait Studio, Vande Associates, Canal Town Video, H & R Block. The Lunch In and Drew’s Paint Spot were on the first floor of the Palmyra Hotel and Jim’s Sports Unlimited stood just west of the burned location. Established in 1983, Mark’s Pizzeria and Ice Cream Parlor was also destroyed in the “Fire of 2013.” Although it has since moved to another location, Nima’s Pizzeria once also called the fire site home.

Any use of the property is undeterminable at this time and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future. Needless to say, much has been seen, heard and done there about which no one will ever know for sure. By Beth Hoad