As one who loves both Skaneateles and tea, I was intrigued by this 1880 advertisement for The Skaneateles Tea Store. The shop, which opened at 36 Genesee Street (just east of the alley) in the 1870s, was known by that name and also as The Skaneateles Tea and Coffee Store, and as Purcell’s Grocery Store.
The proprietor was John M. Purcell, who came to Skaneateles from Ireland. He married Hannah Purcell, also of Ireland, in 1880, and ran the store with her. In 1882, another advertisement read, “FIRST ARRIVAL of new Japanese Teas, season of 1882, at the Skaneateles Tea and Coffee Store. Also to arrive by steamer due July 2nd, some of the very choicest Formosa Oolong. Teas this season are very fine in flavor, and moderate in price for choice goods.” (In addition to his newspaper advertising, Purcell handed out trade cards, four of which are shown here.)
An advertisement in the Skaneateles Free Press of 1877 noted that Purcell also offered pork, lard, fish; butter tubs and firkins; wood, willow and stone ware; Colman’s new mustard; Old Government Java and Rio Coffees, green, roasted or ground to order; imported and Syracuse salt; New Orleans, St. Croix and Puerto Rico molasses, “and everything else in my line that a homemaker wants.”
The store also served summer residents up and down the lake; “Our Summer Resorts: The Beauties of the Skaneateles Lake” in the Syracuse Weekly Express, August 10, 1887, noted, “The steamer people not only stop every day with the mail, but take the orders of the campers for provisions and bring them from Purcell’s.”
As might be expected of a man who sold tea for a living, John Purcell was the treasurer of the St. Mary’s Catholic Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society. (His wife, Hannah Purcell, was the sister of St. Mary’s priest, the Rev. Francis J. Purcell.)
In 1886, John M. Purcell died unexpectedly at the age of 42. Hannah Purcell continued to run the store for a time and lived for 50 more years, dying in 1936 at the age of 92, in her Jordan Street home. They were survived by their daughter Euphemia, known as Effie, who married Lucien C. Horne.