Answer Man: Tracking down old Rochester store is a dirty Miracle

November 29, 2018

Dear Answer Man, In about 1956 or 1958, there was an appliance store called Premus (spelling?) in the Miracle Mile Shopping Mall. My Dad said he worked there and would take television sets to Saint Marys Hospital for patients to rent. I can’t find anything about the store or even a good picture of Miracle Mile at that time. Could you help me out? — Kris DeGroodt

Well, Kris, since you opted to add such as personal touch in the form of a smiley emoji to your note, I literally rolled up my sleeves and got my hands dirty digging for this appliance store.

For my youthful readers, dusty old books and ink-stained file folders of newspaper clippings were the places that people found information before the internet existed. And those yellowed, fragile pages from days gone by still hold answers that have not made their way onto the so-called Information Superhighway.

First, the correct name for the store is Primus Appliance Center. It was predictably named after its owner Robert Primus, of Red Wing.

The first reference I can find for the store was in a bad-smelling, leather-bound Rochester business directory from 1958.

It was not in the 1956 directory, and I seem to have misplaced my 1957 Rochester directory. So using my highly developed deductive powers, I’d say Primus Appliance opened in 1957 or 1958.

In the 1960 directory, it warranted a larger listing that proudly designated Primus Appliance as an “RCA, Victor and Admiral Dealer.”

That supports the renting televisions memory, though I pity the poor fellows who schlepped the massive, polished wood cabinets that housed Victor TVs of that time into Saint Marys Hospital rooms. Maybe the nuns helped them?

My directory supply is a little thin after 1960, so the next one I checked was from 1965. Primus was not listed in that one.

That might lead you to believe that the store closed between 1960 to 1965. Except for the fact, that Robert Primus was listed as an Airtemp air conditioner dealer in several issues of “Life” magazine in 1966.

My ruling is that it probably closed its doors in 1965 or 1966, because I can’t find any reference beyond that time.

Plus in 1965, Richard Bischke opened Diamond Appliance in Miracle Mile. Usually shopping centers, like Rochester’s Miracle Mile, don’t house a lot of direct competitors.

If my deduction is accurate (and we all know it is), the departure of Primus means it missed the devastating fire that destroyed 26 Miracle Mile stores in 1971. Primus also left before modern indoor malls arrived in the Med City in the form of the Apache Mall in 1969.

I could not lay a filthy hand on a photo of Primus Appliance, though I did find some very large negatives of photos of the mall from the 1950s.

I’m going to wash my hands now.

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