You know you're from Syracuse/Central New York when (among other things)...
You have a sense of loyalty to Byrne Dairy, the hometown brand. You down a Byrne chocolate milk with a Hoffman hot dog at Heid's, on occasion. You consider the appearance of Byrne's pale green mint milk in March to be a sure sign of spring. You know the words to the catchy Byrne Dairy milk advertising jingle ("Byrne Dairy Milk is mighty fine / chock plum full of vitamine"...). You know that Byrne got its start bottling milk during the Great Depression (1933) and still sells milk in glass bottles.
If you've lived in Syracuse a long time, you've no doubt frequented one the quaint dairy stores that dot the city and suburbs -- and appreciate knowing they're close by to save you a trip to big grocery store when you need basics like milk and eggs. I frequented one of those stores in DeWitt; it closed in 2013 after 50 years in the same spot. A small store in Eastwood closed last year after more than 40 years at the corner of James Street and Midler Avenue. Perhaps the sweetest and smallest Byrne Dairy store of all is on West Genesee Street, at Lowell Avenue.
Another Byrne Dairy store anchors Butternut Circle, on the North Side of Syracuse. I walk there every Sunday morning (unless it's pouring rain or too icy to walk safely) to pick up the Sunday newspaper. The store is immaculate, and the staff, especially Karen at the front counter, is friendly, and greets me and my dog. The store is a couple blocks from Grant Middle School, and a sign on the front door lets kids know that just two students can enter the store at a time. I was surprised to walk to the back of the store at Christmastime and discover a small tree with colored lights and decorations. The store serves a changing neighborhood, home to a growing immigrant population, where many customers arrive on foot for a cup of coffee, an ice cream treat or a lottery ticket.
It's no secret that Byrne is closing these older, "outdated'' stores to meet the demand for large convenience stores, with gas pumps, groceries and amenities like pizza made on site. The big and snazzy new Byrne convenience stores on Route 11 in Mattydale and on Thompson Road, in DeWitt, come to mind. The proposed transition/makeover of an old-fashioned Byrne Dairy store on Onondaga Hill has caused a quite a kerfuffle, pitting residents who approve of the change against those who want things to stay the same. If a big Byrne convenience store with gas pumps comes to pass at the former Denny's site on West Genesee Street in Syracuse, the tiny Byrne store across the street would close.
As anyone who has been to the Byrne Dairy store on Butternut Street knows: There's no room for expansion and gas pumps. Things change and time marches on, but I think I speak for many on the North Side when I say: Please don't mess with my Byrne Dairy store!