An early incarnation of William Mullen's Groceries. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 24, 2004 Adirondack Daily Enterprise, February 4, 1914 The Colonial Theatre building, before it became the Saranac Supply Broadway, 1930, looking south from the foot of Olive Street. Saranac Supply is the tall building on the left. The U.S. Post Office, is at right. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 23, 2007 Almost the same view as above, 1930s The Saranac Lake Supply was once the Colonial Theater, that presented both film and stage shows. The Mullen family bought the building about 1929.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, February 21, 1974

Mullens end a century in groceries

By William McLaughlin

SARANAC LAKE — A grocery dynasty spanning 90 years will end this summer when the Saranac Lake Supply Super Market is razed to make room for Farmer's National Bank of Malone at 53 Broadway. The name Mullen has been synonymous with produce in this community since the 1880s when the William Mullen grocery store at 19 Bloomingdale Avenue did business by gaslight. The family-operated emporium with its horse and buggy delivery quickly became the best known grocery store in the raw, bustling village.

William Mullen, Sr., came here from Peru, N.Y., and presently there have been four generations of Mullens who have actively participated in the business which located in the present building in the early 1930s after the family purchased the Colonial Theatre and renovated it.

Before that date the Mullen Grocery sign had hung on such widely separated establishments as the Basket Market on Broadway, at River and Church Streets where the bathhouse stands, on Main Street where Little Joe's cafe is ensconced and on Woodruff Street. There were also Lake Placid stores in Mullen history, one at Newman and the second in the upper village.

1st motorized delivery

Mullen's boasted the first motorized grocery delivery within the corporation and in peak years received at least one carload of grocery staples and fresh produce every day on the railroad, it was considered big business supplying the massive demands for fresh fruits and vegetables needed in a curing center during the 1920s and 1930s

At the railroad service gradually declined, Mullen's maintained its own supply line operating the largest produce truck out of the Syracuse market. The Mullens also hauled out of Albany when regional price fluctuation dictated.

Famous summer hotels and the camps of millionaires expected and got blue ribbon service and fine quality meats, vegetables and dairy products all supplied by the hustling Broadway grocers.

A former employee who had worked at many of the Mullen markets over the years recalled that the move to the Colonial Theatre building from Main Street was made in one night and the new store was operating by 8 the following morning selling right out of the crates and packing boxes that were scattered over the floor.

He said there are still evidences of the old theatre in the Supply including the mosaic at the entrance and the raised portion at the rear meat department where the stage was once located.

William Mullen, Jr., who ran the Woodruff Street store in 1915, redesigned the Colonial Theatre building to house eight upstairs apartments and several rooms. The store's business ledgers reflected a solid economy, and it became a direct supplier for Seeman Bros, Pillsbury Mills, General Mills, Campbell Soup Co., Del Monte, Armour and Swift.

Their storage building at the rear kept the Trudeau Laboratory supplied with animal fodder for years in the biological experimental program. Other Mullen brothers were branching out also. Percy ran a Bloomingdale Avenue grocery store until the Elks took over the property. Charles went to Canada and grew wheat. Gene who lived at Franklin Falls worked in several of the stores.

Supply business expands

As the Supply business expanded, the list of employees Grew. Some well known Saranac Lakers who toiled for the Mullens included Rod and Bea Hinwood, Walt Finnegan, Al Augustini, Charlie Laska, Mary Madden, Pete Gay, Harold Durgan, Millard Marshall, Bill Trombley, Rocco Lario, Joe Glogan, Lee Haig and others long gone whose names would mean little today.

When Bill Mullen, Jr., died, the sons Richard and Bernard took over the management when their military service terminated in the 1940s. Richard is a graduate of Colgate University, and Bernard, better known as Moon, attended the University of Vermont.

A sister, Mildred Mahan, teaches school in Arlington, Va., and another brother Bertrand is in the credit business with Washington, D.C. offices. Neither were associated with the grocery business.  Both of Richard Mullen's daughters Kathie Schneck and Patricia Keel contributed to the long unbroken line of Mullen family workers and had actively taken part in the business during the summer rush months.

Except for one major fire in the summer of 1971, the store has fared well physically and its brick exterior and high profile had long ago set it apart as both a Broadway and village landmark.

Many of the older residents are not happy with the rather sudden transformation of the mid-village business district. Beginning with the St. Regis Hotel fire in 1964 the razing of the Fortune furniture store building, the removal of the Sam Wolferman structure following fire and the upcoming demolition of the Mullen block and the adjacent Minute Lunch building the appearance of Broadway has been and will continue to be greatly altered.

Add to this the pretense of the new high-rise apartments and Saranac Lake indeed becomes a community in transition. A new NCCC campus and permanent nucleus of modem buildings will again add architectural dimension to the long stabilized appearance of the real estate overlooking Lake Flower.

Saranac Lake is exhibiting healthy expansion and forward looking changes on several fronts, and the Mullen family may feel justly proud to have served the community through those important years when it was seeking an identity somewhere between a health resort, a recreational mecca and a tourist-oriented shopping center.

Mullens store at 6 Woodruff Street (Watertown Daily Times, 1948) Watertown Daily Times, 1948

BEHIND THE COUNTER — you can always find a Mullen. Mullen grocery dynasty dates back to 1885 on Main Street across from Town Hall. First motorized delivery service emanated from store on Bloomingdale Avenue about 1912. This picture is of Mullen store at 6 Woodruff Street, Circa 1930. You can take your own Mullen picture at the Saranac Lake Supply today. (Courtesy of Harry James)

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