The business of 24/7: We Never Close

There are 8,760 hours in a year.

Businesses that are open all of those 8,760 hours are often regarded as necessary, garishly-lit outposts of services-on-demand. But our lives would be poorer if convenience stores, laudromats, grocery store chains Wegmans and Tops Friendly Markets, and several gas stations throughout Western New York were not always available for our disasters, needs, and whims. Here’s a survey of four iconic WNY businesses that remain always open and ever ready.

Cameron’s 24-Hour Store/We Never Close

Located on Elmwood at Bird, We Never Close is an iconic Buffalo business, a neon-edged beacon. A survey of the inventory reveals an impressive array of chips and snacks, emergency grocery items, ready-made sandwiches and wraps, and pizza slices in a revolving display.

 I spoke with longtime night manager Mike Moretti, who has manned the counter there since 1998. When I begin asking, "Is the store really open all hou—," Mike replies before I can finish: "The store has been open twenty-four hours a day since June 1, 1972." He does quickly correct himself that sometimes the overnight guy will lock the door while using the restroom, posting a sign on the door that he will be back in a few minutes.

 City residents call the store We Never Close, but its real name is Cameron’s 24-Hour Store, named for the owner’s son. Asked if the son works at the store, Moretti says "Not yet, he’s only twelve." "No, he’s like eight or nine," chimes in a female coworker who has seemingly appeared from nowhere and is now stationed at the cash register.

 Asked if the 24/7 schedule/lifestyle affects his sleep, Moretti boasts that "I’ve got my body clock down; time management is essential. A lot of kids who work here go to school, come to work, and then try to party after work—they get caught up in that, and it catches up with them."

 Aspects that make the store unique, he adds, are that it has "personality—the counter is right up front and we are here to give personal attention to customers. There’s not a lot of wasted space, and it’s bright. There are not a lot of places to hide." Unusually, the store has a concrete floor and has a heated outdoor sidewalk that melts accumulated snow quite efficiently.

Has Moretti seen many odd things during his shifts? He chuckles and then states, "There are too many to go into details." And then, as if on cue, a customer enters the store, asking what I’m writing. When told that it’s a piece on the store, as a business that is open 24/7, he insists that he be featured as a regular, but won’t give his name. He mentions—repeatedly—that he’s from the south, and that he’s working on a nearby building, and that without mention of him "the piece won’t sell."

1054 Elmwood Ave., 716-886-2424    

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