Yesterday this never-before-seen photo was posted over on the “Albany…The Way it Was” Facebook page. Most noticeable is the old location of R.B. Wing, ships’ chandlers and dealers in every kind of oil imaginable, apparently. R.B. Wing survived into modern times as a construction supplier in one of the landmark buildings of Broadway, but the building we associate with them today was across the street from this set of buildings, which were taken by the city in 1914 in order to develop the Plaza and the continuing southward march of the D&H Headquarters and, eventually, the Albany Evening Journal building.
Of interest is the building to the right, the home of William Dey Ermand Company, which we’d never even heard of before seeing this picture. Happily, a volume of “American Paint and Oil Dealer” from 1916 is able to fill us in with a wonderfully detailed view of what retail paint looked like a century ago.
“The day of the untidy paint store has passed, and the Ermand [sic – the family name is actually Dey Ermand] company has placed the merchandising of paints, varnish, oils and glass on an exceedingly high plane . . . ‘We regard our window display as a very good salesman,’ said A.C. Hollister, vice-president and general manager. ‘We give this feature a great deal of attention. Our windows are changed every Monday morning, and we think this aids very materially in selling our goods, as they conform to our newspaper advertising, which we keep going at all seasons of the year.’
“The Ermand business was founded in 1864 by William Dey Ermand. In 1847 he built an oil and varnish factory, from which a great deal of the product was exported. In 1859 he established a general jobbing and retail paint, oil and glass business at 381-383 Broadway, Albany. In 1908 the business was incorporated as the William Dey Ermand Company. In 1914 the property at 381-383 Broadway was purchased by the City of Albany for river front improvement purposes, and the company then purchased and moved to the present location, 473-475 Broadway.
“The present property consists of two buildings, connected by steel bridges, extending from Broadway to Dean Street. There are twelve floors, which give ample room to carry a complete stock of paints, varnish, oils and glass. The retail store is located in the Broadway building. The receiving department and wholesale shipping department are in the rear building on Dean Street.
“All of the shelves, bins and dry color boxes are of steel. This affords much more room and the appearance and upkeep cannot be excelled. In the old store the oils were kept in tanks and barrels in a rear oil room, but in the present store Bowser pumps have been installed in the rear of the center of the retail store. This affords customers an opportunity of seeing how the product is handled, in a clean and satisfactory way. The counters are divided into sections to hold eight barrels, with separate lift over each one. In this way the unsightly barrel is kept from view.
“Customers appreciate looking at a clean oil outfit. Small sales have been increased since these tanks were installed, it having been found that customers like to see their container filled before their eyes. The tanks are filled in the cellar and the battery is so arranged as to take up very little space. With a barrel hoist and a track to roll the barrel on, one man can empty a barrel in about five minutes.
“Brushes are carried in a four-compartment doubled-deck oak cabinet. One brush of each kind is fastened to the door behind plate glass and the stock is carried behind the doors. This is a most up-to-date piece of work and makes the selling of brushes much easier.”