Watertown Neighborhood Grocery Stores – Bajally’s Was First Purpuro’s
Before Bajally’s was a staple on the north side as a Watertown neighborhood grocery store, it was known as Purpura’s, owned and operated by James Pururpo who also was a partner in the Watertown Fruit Company. (Note: Bajally’s would be spelled as such or sometimes Bajjaly’s in the local media in later years.)
Located on triangular plot at the corners of E Main, Burlington, and E Lynde Streets and kitty-corner to East Street, Bajally’s was, in later years, not but a block or two from Aboud and Bahou’s Market.
In December of 1921, back when this area of town was known as Watertown Heights (see more below), heavy winds would tear the roof of a neighboring apartments owned by Purpuro while also damaging the grocery store. At the time, the Mr. Purpuro ran the store in town part time per the Watertown Daily Times—
James Purpuro, who for the last two years has conducted the hotel at Gunns Corners, is closing the hotel and moving to the apartments over his store at No. 237 East Main Street. Mr. Purpuro will conduct the store during the winter and in the spring will again open the hotel and move back to Gunns Corners. During the summer months the East Main Street store is conducted by members of his family.
By 1926, the store would be owned by the Bajally family and operated as such for a number of decades through at least the early to mid 1980’s. The Bajally store would participate for several decades in local golf tournaments and bowling leagues.
Like most corner stores (and it was “THE” literal corner store!), Bajally’s would be the place to go if you were a kid to get cigarettes for your mother and then either browse the comic books or browse the huge selection of penny candy. As of recent years, the building still appears to be occupied but has long ago stopped functioning as a store.
Watertown Heights would begin around the mid 1890’s when realtor Charles Cohen purchased a tract of land north of the Black River that was a total of 62 acres with the purpose of developing it in a community. It originally was conceived of 370 building lots and, after much publication and effort, over 60 lots had been sold in the first year to homebuilders.
Within a few years, the New York Air Brake would relocate from Beebee Island on Mill Street to the corner of Starbuck Ave and Pearl Street, right opposite Watertown Heights which would become an attractive location for its workers.
According to the Watertown Daily Times, in 1929–
…the land company acquired the division known as Watertown Heights. These lots were also sold and the last six were sold in 1918 to the United States government. The government built 100 homes on the lots to accommodate families who came here to work in the munition factories at the New York Air Brake company. The government sold the houses after the World war.
While the land company owned these tracts they laid out and named the streets after famous men of the country. The Streets were named Tilden, Hancock, Lincoln and many others. The streets still bear these names.
And that, as they say, is the story of Watertown Heights. As more people built homes and moved into the area, the more Watertown neighborhood grocery stores, like Purpuro’s and Bajally’s, were needed.
Watertown Neighborhood Grocery Stores
According to the Watertown Daily Times, there were as many as 87 neighborhood grocery stores operating in the city back in 1907 (a list from 1908 can be found here.) While there will always be a place for chains – some of them serving up a number of fond memories themselves such as the much-beloved Mohican, there’s something about the neighborhood stores and their place within our communities, and particularly our childhood memories, that made them endearing.
Over the years, more and more large grocery stores infiltrated the area offering more competitive pricing, and larger varieties of goods. A&P, Weston, Super Duper, P&C and many others have come and gone through the years and while the neighborhood grocery stores are (very) few and far between, if you look around, you still might see a little mom and pop store… somewhere.
In an ever-evolving world, it’s the chain stores themselves who now face stiff competition from the likes of large conglomerates such as Sam’s Club and Walmart, or the likes of Amazon.com. While some of them may be able to boast even MORE offerings and DEEPER discounts, they’ll never aspire to be, and thusly never match, the quaintness of the old neighborhood grocery stores.
As one astute commenter, Lee Crandall, wrote on the You Haven’t Lived in Watertown, NY if— Facebook page,
In most American cities our zoning laws have put this type of store out of business. So now we miss out on the interaction with neighbors, drive miles to a big box store, get less exercise, and waste fossil fuels to get the stuff that used to be at the corner store.
A list of neighborhood grocery stores in Watertown over the years include the following below:
Academy St Market
Boora’s Soda Shop
Breen Avenue Market
Calendar’s Market on Factory
California Fruit Market
Clay Street Market
Cooper Street Market
Derrigo’s Fruit Stand
Gayle Street Market
General Store, Coffeen Street
Habeeb Bros. Red & White
Hickey’s Grocery Store
Holcomb Street Market
Johnnie’s Fruit Stand
LeRay Street Market
Meadow Street Market
Rocky’s Fruit Stand
Rutland St. Market
Sowans on State and High St.
Tony’s Fruit Stand
Interested in viewing more Watertown neighborhood grocery stores like Purpuro’s or Bajaly’s? Click here.