E. M. Statler - Table of Contents ............ Ellicott Square Building - Table of Contents

Statler Restaurant - Ellicott Square Building
Swan near Main Street, Buffalo, NY
HISTORY Beneath Illustrations

Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

Detail of south elevation where the Statler Restaurant was located in the Ellicott Square Building

Cast iron and glass ... Terra cotta banded pilasters

Beaux Arts style design on cast iron

Baseball stadium is the site of Statler's hotel which was built 1905-1908.

Source: Ellicott Development Company newspaper archives







The 1896 Ellicott Square Building had Ellsworth Statler's first restaurant. Statler first came to Buffalo in 1896 on his way home to Wheeling, West Virginia, following a fishing trip in Canada. He was overwhelmed by the Ellicott Square Building and after several days of negotiations he convinced John N. Scatherd, the building's owner, to lease him space for a restaurant. Within months, however, Statler's plush restaurant failed. Scatherd had warned him that Buffalo simply wasn't a restaurant town. Businessmen, Statler was told, more often than not went home for lunch, and if people did go out in the evening they went to places in their neighborhoods.

But Statler was determined. He redesigned his restaurant for efficiency and quick turnover. First, he fired his French chef imported from New York and hired a local man in his place. Then he introduced a serving table which he had invented. It rolled on wheels and contained separate compartments for cutlery, linens, glasses, condiments, and bread and butter.

The biggest change was in prices. Statler offered full-course lunches at twenty-five cents-paid in advance. (Statler was obsessed with "skippers." At his two thousand-room hotel near the Pan American Exposition he collected from his guests when they checked in. He also insisted that they purchase a meal ticket in advance.)

Next, he launched an advertising campaign designed to change the eating habits of Buffalonians. Every day advertisements appeared in the newspaper: "The increase in your business has been brought about by modern up-to-date methods. You can further increase your business upon the same lines. Losing the heart out of your business day by going home to noon lunches is calculated to increase the business of your competitor who lunches downtown. Let Statler's help you."

He added the notion of premium merchandising. Every day he had his chef put five-dollar gold pieces in five different servings of ice cream. Statler was revolutionizing the restaurant business and Buffalo's downtown business district in the process.

Restauranteur, Blaming Union, Plans to Close
Unable to meet scale, Statler asserts; says employees satisfied to work for less.

Buffalo Courier-Express, August 28, 1940

William J. Statler, operator of Statler's Restaurant in Ellicott Square, announced yesterday afternoon that he is going out of business because he is unable to pay his employees union wages and continue operation at a profit.

"I have been in business 44 years and once went through bankruptcy," Statler explained. "I have had 81 employees working in the restaurant, who were satisfied to work for less than the union scale.

"I told them that they were getting less than the union wage and that I was not proud of the fact that business conditions would not permit me to pay them more. Apparently they appreciated how business conditions were and said they were satisfied to work for small pay until business got better.

"A union attempted to organize the employees and, in my presence, officers of the union told the labor board they would take a vote among the employees about forming a union. Such a vote was never taken. But six former employees who were with the restaurant for a few weeks or a few months called a strike.

"Union officials told me that if I could not pay union wages, I did not deserve to stay in business. I cannot pay union wages, so I am quitting the business.

"It seems to me there is an American principle involved. That principle is whether persons have a right to work at low wages, if they are satisfied with them, or be thrown out of work entirely if they do not get union-scale wages."

Six pickets yesterday paraded with signs in front of the Swan Street entrance of the restaurant, as Statler announced his decision to go out of business.

Special thanks to Carl Paladino, CEO of the Ellicott Development Company, for access to the company's newspaper archives

Exterior building photos © 2007 Chuck LaChiusa
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