Rochester, NY

Memories of Tent City

Herbie J Pilato


From 1959 to 1983, any visit to Tent City was a special day trip. Located at the corner of Lyell and Dewey avenues in Rochester for over four decades, Tent City was a unique retail oasis for inner-city dwellers. In fact, residents from Monroe County across the board would pay a visit to the outdoors-geared department store.

A Closer Look

Tent City founder Ben Atkins was a Rochester native who started in retail with Neisner's stores in the Midwest.

According to a report by the Democrat and Chronicle in 2014, "Tent City was like two stores in one. Downstairs was a motley collection of low-price clothing, shoes, and toys, where you might buy Army fatigues, overalls, or bags of marbles. The second floor had dozens of fully assembled tents on display and was known to have one of the biggest varieties of camping and outdoor gear in upstate New York."


There will never be another retail store like Tent City. With a charm all its own, Tent City was of its time, and will always be remembered with a measure of charm.

[Unless otherwise indicated, this article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events directly experienced by the author, as partially discussed in the book, The 12 Best Secrets of Christmas: A Treasure House of December Memories Revealed.]

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including the newly-published CONNERY, SEAN CONNERY biography, the revised BIONIC BOOK, RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, and more. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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