The Smudge Remembers: ‘Two Guys’ Department Store
By Fred Furnace
Published August 16th, 2015
MENANDS — It’s been more than two decades since the Two Guys department store in Menands closed its doors, but its impact on the region’s retail industry —and burgeoning gay scene — lives on.
Two Guys, part of a 60-store chain during its peak, was part retail giant and part social pioneer.
“Two Guys carried everything you needed,” said renowned SUNY Cobleskill Historian Bertrand MacAdoo, “From appliances and automotive products, to clothing and fresh groceries, its format was unique; but what made it truly different was its name and what that name represented from a social point of view.”
MacAdoo, of course, is referring to the fact that Two Guys was the first openly gay retailer to operate in the Capital Region.
“The name above the door said it all: Two Guys,” MacAdoo said. “Some folks may not know the history of the name, but it was homage to the love between those two men. They weren’t trying to hide it; they put it out there for the entire world to witness. They were two guys, they were retailers, and they were in love.”
Two Guys was a force in the local retail scene throughout the 1960s and 1970s, though the chain did experience protests from religious groups from time to time. McAdoo recalls one failed campaign by local churches, which pressed the company to change its stores’ name to “One Guy and One Gal, as Nature Intended.”
“They started a petition and collected signatures, but it never went anywhere,” MacAdoo recalled. “Two Guys was who they were and they weren’t going to budge.”
The Two Guys sign did eventually come down in the 1980s, however, but not until financial troubles dragged the chain into bankruptcy.
“It was a big loss to the area,” MacAdoo said. “It was like we lost a family member — a friendly, gay family member who carried all the latest appliances at bargain basement prices.”
The shopping center struggled to survive in the years following the retailer’s collapse. A Kosher deli called Two Shmucks operated on the site for a while, but that establishment closed its doors in the mid-1990s.
The center’s struggles continued until 2011, when New York passed the Marriage Equality Act, legalizing gay marriage in the state. Since then, the former Two Guys location has become New York’s number one destination for gay marriages.
“Two Guys — the store — may be long gone,” said MacAdoo, “But happily, Two Guys —the movement — is here to stay.”