Rochester, NY

Memories of JM Fields Department Stores

Herbie J Pilato


I grew up in the inner city of Rochester in the 1960s and '70s, and any trip to places like Charlotte Beach, McDonald's, or discount department stores like JM Fields was a big deal.

A Closer Look

The JM Fields retail chain began in New England and opened in Rochester in 1958. Its first local spot served a double purpose: it was the initial retailer in Penfield's then-new Panorama Plaza and was considered the largest in the chain.

The one I recall the most, with the fondest and most nostalgic memories, was the Gates-Chili location at the corner of Lylle Avenue and Howard Road.

My family would stop there before or after a visit to McDonald's, and be sure to make a day trip out of the entire journey.

According to a report in 2017 by the, "Field’s sold everything from clothing, housewares and toys to appliances, hardware, and furniture – in short, everything that today’s shoppers would expect to find in today’s major retail outlets. That approach was not as commonplace when Field’s started, with news accounts calling Field’s a 'pioneer' in self-service department-store merchandising."


The simple treasures of visiting a discount department store like JM Fields at whichever location remain extravagantextravagant a cherished memory of my Rochester youth. Once in the store, I'd seek out items like a new baseball mitt, a softball, or even at times, a superball (remember those?!).

None of those items were extravagant, but they sure brought a lot of joy, more so, in retrospect than any high-tech mechanical gadget that is on the market today

Thank you, JM Fields, and other simple treasure stores like you.

[Unless otherwise indicated with linked references, this article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events directly experienced by the author.]

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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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