The idea for Vintage Roadside came to us during one of our favorite pastimes: driving around central New York looking for the remains of the golden age of automotive travel…and some tasty drive-in French fries.
Although we were lucky enough to find both that day along historic Route 20—at the Petrified Creatures Museum outside Richfield Springs and the Dairyland Drive-In near Sharon Springs—we couldn’t stop thinking about all the other wonderful mom and pop businesses that used to cater to travelers along that route.
Over the past decade we’ve spent a lot of time exploring old highways and small towns practicing our own version of archaeology—stopping at boarded up businesses to take pictures of old signage, collecting stories from local historical societies, and tracking down mom and pop memorabilia from the 1930s – early 1960s. We’ve also happily paid admission to any roadside attraction we could find with an interesting story to tell...although we have to confess a particular weakness for paper mache dinosaurs and miniature buildings.
On that day in New York we decided that we’d like to try to bring something unique to the mix in keeping the stories of mom and pop businesses alive.
What better way to accomplish this than to bring back to light the authentic advertising graphics and logos of the bygone businesses? In addition to honoring the spirit of the place with the original visions of their owners, it would be fun to give people the opportunity to indulge in one of life’s great pleasures: the gift shop souvenir!
Selecting the best from our extensive collection of memorabilia, each item in our gift shop is designed with the authentic graphics or logo of a business that operated during the 1930s – early 1960s.
Vintage Roadside’s gift shop focuses on roadside attractions, diners and drive-ins, motor courts and motels, skating rinks, and bowling alleys—all places that used to jump with people looking for a bit of fun and adventure, many now pushed out or pushed over by modern roads and a changing society. (We’ve stretched the definition of “roadside” a little to include bowling alleys and skating rinks because we love them too much to leave behind.)
Working with historical societies and the resources that are available to us, we’ve done our best to include a brief history of each business, helping to set it in the context of the American landscape. These histories are a work in progress and will be updated as additional information is uncovered. If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear from you.
Whether you grew up with these businesses or just love the history and the incredible graphics as we do, we hope you enjoy your visit to Vintage Roadside!