Casimir Marczynski owned a penny-candy store in Dunkirk, New York; the Kuznicki family operated a copper still in their basement; and Joyce Bielecki had a knack for decorating wedding cakes. Here’s an overview of the family businesses:
“Cakes by Joyce” started in 1965: as the story goes, Joyce Bielecki designed and decorated her own cake for her wedding to John Przytula on July 3, 1965. She started working for the old commissary in Dunkirk in the 1970s, and she eventually managed the cake-decorating division. Joyce founded “Cakes by Joyce,” her own cake-decorating business, in 1988, and she initially operated the business out of the family’s home: “Joyce took her passion and began to live the American dream of owning her own business. Her own hours. Her own creations. And it wouldn’t take long at all for her to develop her very own following of loyal customers.”
Joyce’s daughter, Peggy (Przytula) Rose, earned her business degree from Jamestown Business College in 1991; after graduation, she joined the family business, and the pair changed the name to “Cakes by Joyce & Peggy.” “I was going to work here until I could find ‘a real job’…and I’m still here!” With Peggy’s business degree, Joyce and Peggy expanded their business to include tuxedos, wedding invitations, birthday cakes, baked goods and special-occasion cakes. In 1992, the story came full circle, and Joyce helped Peggy make her own wedding cake.
“Cakes by Joyce & Peggy” continued until Joyce passed away in 2008 at the age of 66. Peggy, determined to honor her mother’s memory, took over the family business, changed the name to “The Cakery” and opened a permanent storefront location in Fredonia, New York: “The Cakery is loved by many, and the move in 2011 made everyone out for a walk that much happier. You can now pop in for a cupcake, chocolate-covered strawberry, cookie…or whatever ‘sweet treat’ you want as you walk through the Village of Fredonia.”
“The Cakery is a classic story: it’s proof that dreams come true; it’s proof that family means more than the world; and it’s proof you can grow if you stick to what you know.” The Cakery makes the best cupcakes, too. (Check out their website, like them on Facebook and pin their wedding cakes on Pinterest.)
Marczynski’s Candy Store
My great-great-grandfather, Casimir Marczynski, owned and operated a small penny-candy store next to the family’s home in Dunkirk. Casimir did a bit of everything: he was a business owner, entrepreneur, machinist, coal miner and railroad worker in Maryland and New York, and he saved his income to send to his relatives in Poland and to pay passage for his brothers- and sisters-in-law to travel to the United States. I only have one photo of Marczynski’s Candy Store: the photo shows a small storefront with kids drinking pop and laughing on the front porch steps and families playing ball in the front yard below. My grandmother tells stories of her and her cousin, Joyce (Bielecki) Przytula, running home from school each day and stopping by their grandfather’s store to sneak a few pieces of candy when he wasn’t looking.
The Kuznicki family didn’t just operate a copper still out of their basement and sell the alcohol around town: they also owned and operated Kuznicki’s Restaurant and Hotel on South Roberts Street. Known to the locals as Kuznicki’s Bar, Michael and Victoria (Drag) Kuznicki served traditional Polish dishes, fish fry on Friday’s during Lent and the classic Buffalo beef-on-weck sandwich to customers. Everyone would meet up at Kuznicki’s Bar after a long day at work to drink a few beers, to watch the game and to place bets on the horse races downtown. Kuznicki’s hosted annual New Years’ Eve parties and hired local musicians to play shows on the weekends; Michael and Victoria also held political campaign rallies at the bar, and their employees formed a baseball team and played other restaurants’ teams around town.
Michael and Victoria died in 1950 and 1955, respectively, and the bar was passed down to their eldest son, Michael. Michael and his wife kept the bar in operation into the 1970s: as a little girl, my mom remembers going to the family bar with her dad, changing the songs on the jukebox in the corner of the room and hiding the ash trays behind the booths while her dad and her great uncles talked about work and politics over a few pints. By the 1980s, though, Michael had sold the bar to another aspiring entrepreneur; today, the former Kuznicki’s Bar is a dilapidated and abandoned building on the corner of South Roberts Road. But the memories of good times at Kuznicki’s still live on: a year ago, while taking a plane home from Buffalo to Charlotte, I sat next to a woman who clearly recalled the Kuznicki family, the family bar and drinking beers there with her friends on Friday nights.
Chautauqua Amusement Co.
Stanley Kuznicki was the youngest son of Michael and Victoria (Drag) Kuznicki of Kuznicki’s Bar in Dunkirk. After Stanley returned from serving in the United States Army during World War II, he married Blanche Burlett and founded Chautauqua Amusement Company, Inc., in Dunkirk with a few friends. Chautauqua Amusements, according to my grandfather, rented jukeboxes, cigarette machines, slot machines, pool tables, shuffleboards, record players and bowling machines to local bars and restaurants for short-term parties or long-term installation. Stanley also worked at Kuznicki’s, and he gave some of his jukeboxes, cigarette machines and pool tables to his parents and his older brother for the bar for free. You could often find him at the bar after work with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, and he was always up for telling a family story or two.