History of the Professional and Businessmen’s Association

(Reprint of the research performed by Carl Bucki during the early 1980’s)

The history of the Professional and Businessmen’s Association reflects the growth and development of Buffalo’s Polish American community. The changes experienced by the P&BA and its predecessor organizations have mirrored the patterns of change within Polonia. Indeed, Polonia’s professional and business organization has often been the critical catalyst for community progress.

Throughout its long history, the P&BA has been reorganized on numerous occasions, and has carried five different names. Its origin dates from at least 1903, when an organization known as the Association of Polish Businessmen in Buffalo (Stowarzyszenie Polskich Przemyslowcow w Buffalo) assisted in the formation of the Dom Polski Association.

Shortly thereafter, its name was apparently changed to the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen. Responsible for the founding of this earliest Polish businessmen’s organization was Alexander Cwiklinski, one of Buffalo’s leading general contractors and lumber dealers. Located at 35-51 Lathrop Street, his mill is now the site of Mroz Lumber Company. A 1908 publication entitled Album and History of the Polish Settlement in Buffalo reports that Mr Cwiklinski was “one of the few Polish businessmen who wanted to industrialize the Buffalo Polonia and make it independent of the Americans (i.e., non Poles)…to that end he organized the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen and three times did he have to rescue it from oblivion.”

The membership of the Association included many of Polonia’s most notable personalities. The first president was Anthony Schreiber, owner of a major brewery located on Fillmore Avenue. Albert Nowak, who served as the group’s second president for many years, had acquired great wealth through the wholesale merchandising of hay, grain, and poultry. His son, Maximilliam Nowak, followed his father’s example both in business and as a subsequent president of the Association.

From its founding and through much of the 1920’s, the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen assumed a leadership position in the struggle to advance the well being of Buffalo’s Polish American community. Of course, a primary element of their concern was for the promotion of trade and industry. Thus, for example, the Association was primarily responsible for the establishment of a branch post office in the Broadway-Fillmore area. Until the 1920’s, the West Shore Railroad trestle caused frequent disruption of traffic where it crossed Broadway at street level near Memorial Drive. It was the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen which led the eventual effort to raise that track.

Patriotic causes were also an important focus of the Association’s attention. During World War I, it supported the formation of a Polish army in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. After the war, the Association’s Committee to Aid Polish Children forwarded more than $35,000 to Europe. Meanwhile, at home, the merchants and businessmen maintained an active scholarship program. The Association frequently became an advocate for important civic causes. It worked to establish on Peckham Street the school now known as Emerson Vocational, and thereafter lobbied successfully for a $500,000 allocation for that school’s present facility. During the early 1920’s, the Association supported a proposal to locate a public high school for 1000 students in a Polish area on Buffalo’s East Side.

The early members of the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen shared the belief that the industry and trade were necessary to the strength and vitality of their ethnic community. Indeed, one of the original motives for organizing the Association was to permit entry into what, for the community, was then the novel area of banking. Thus, through this predecessor to the P&BA, a Savings and Loan Association was created. Until 1906, the Polish community in Buffalo conducted all business activity either through individual proprietorships or under partnership arrangements. Although the corporate framework offers distinct advantages to certain business operations, Polonia’s merchants were unwilling to experiment with this unfamiliar structure. Finally, on December 13, 1906, Joseph Nowicki, Lawrence Winiewicz, and Andrew Nowacki called a general meeting of the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen. Held at the Dom Polski Building, this meeting had as its purpose the formation of the first Polish stock company in New York State. Called Polska Spolka Akcyjna (Polish Stock Company), it was founded with an original capitalization of $50,000 for the purpose of the manufacture and sale of men’s clothing. Eventually, the corporation operated branches on Broadway and in the Black Rock area of Buffalo, and in Hamtramck, Michigan. The Broadway store remained in business until 2000. The formation of Spolka had two important results.

First, the business community became acquainted with an important legal structure. Second, under the auspices of the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen, Polonia acquired control over another dimension of its own economy. Reflecting this goal was the very motto of this experimental corporation, namely, “Swoj do swego,” that is “Let us support our own kind.” Indeed, the P&BA has adopted this purpose as a vital dimension of its current program.

The Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen focused its primary attention on the large Polish community of Buffalo’s East Side. Meanwhile, Polonia also witnessed the growth of similar organizations in other geographical areas and within professions. In the Black Rock region of Buffalo, Jacob Strzep organized a Polish Merchants Association, which in 1906, was described as being “quite prosperous.” Boleslaw Grzywinski, the builder of St John Gualbert’s Church, co-founded a businessmen’s association for Cheektowaga in 1916. Prior to the Second World War, both the attorneys and the health professionals formed active societies that have survived and prospered to the present time. Unlike the Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen, these other groups were not direct predecessors to today’s P&BA. Nonetheless, they did create a climate of cooperation that would prove critical to the eventual successful reorganization of Polonia’s professional and business communities.

The Association of Polish Merchants and Businessmen attracted a significant share of the most important members of Polonia’s commercial and professional establishment. Their breadth of influence brought to the organization a strength which not only produced the accomplishments described above, but which in turn captured even greater membership support. So powerful was the organization that by 1924, it was giving serious consideration to the possibility of erecting its own headquarters. Unfortunately, the Depression intervened. The economic nightmare that brought disaster to the business community also destroyed the vitality of organizations based on that community.

Sometime during or after the later half of the 1920’s, the businessmen of Polonia reorganized themselves under the name of the Polish Chamber of Commerce. This society was the immediate forerunner to the P&BA. As prosperity returned during the 1940’s, the scene was ripe for the creation of a more dynamic organizational structure.

The P&BA was formally founded in October 1943, at a meeting that Joseph Jakiel called to order in the Polish Falcons Hall on Sycamore near Broadway. Those attending this meeting included John Aszkler, John Burczynski, Adolf Cepura, Roman Czarcinski, Stanislaus Czaster, Joseph Dziminski, Edward L Kazmierczak, Alexander Kiliszewski, Bartholomew Klementowski, Leon Kolipinski, Edward Kurpisz, John Labinski, Leonard Lipowicz, Joseph Mikolajczak, John Rusek, Daniel B Schunke, Stanislaus Sielski, Stanley Turkiewicz, Frank Wardynski, Joseph Winiewicz, Peter Wojda, Joseph Zoladz, and Walter Zoladz. Selected as the new name for the organization was the Polish Businessmen’s Association. On March 27, 1944, at a meeting in the Polish Union Hall, the Association assumed its current name and elected Leon Kolipinski as its first president.

During his administration, on October 17, 1944, the membership approved a constitution calling for the election of 15 directors. These were chosen at a general meeting on March 20, 1945. Six days later, in the Polish Falcons Hall, the directors of the Professional and Businessmen’s Association held their first board meeting.

In the decade following World War II, The P&BA experienced phenomenal growth both in its membership and in the scope of its activity. Maintaining an office at the Adam Plewacki Post, the Association enjoyed a treasury surplus as high as $10,000 during the mid 1950’s. General meetings always featured a guest speaker or other presentation. At these monthly gatherings, attendance by fewer than 200 was deemed to constitute a disappointing turn-out.

During the 1940’s and 1950’s the P&BA introduced a number of programs and events that have continued on a regular basis to the present time. These included the Summer Stag, the Golf Tournament, the President’s Ball, and the selection of an annual “Man of the Year”. Overall, the P&BA’s scope of activity has focused on four areas. Socially, the Association has sponsored a range of events which from time to time have included family picnics, Crystal Beach days, and fashion shows. The second area is civic involvement. The P&BA formerly sponsored candidates nights. On various occasions, it has adopted resolutions in support of particular public causes. Underlying these social and civic activities is the potential for achieving a third goal, namely economic gain.

Through the P&BA, an uncountable number of business contacts and relationships have developed. By publicizing opportunities for business with fellow members, the P&BA has always advanced the theme of Buffalo’s first Polish corporation, that is, to support our own people. Finally, the P&BA has maintained a goal of community service. During the 1950’s, its annual scholarship program provided tuition assistance to a student at each of five high schools. More recently, the P&BA has shifted this financial support to the college level. On numerous occasions, our organization has rendered monetary assistance to meritorious ethnic causes. During the last decade, it has been either the sole or joint sponsor of an ethnic festival, a Polish orchestral concert, and a commemoration of the investiture of Pope John Paul II.

Amidst growth and activity, the Professional and Businessmen’s Association acquired a measure of influence that no other Polish American organization has ever achieved. Reflecting the P&BA’s political clout is the success that so many of our members have encountered in that arena. For Example, four of the last six mayors of Buffalo were P&BA members. Unquestionably, the P&BA’s level of influence was greatest during the 1950’s and into the early 1960’s. In those years, a full slate of ten candidates frequently sought the office of P&BA Director. Indeed, because our by-laws set this maximum number of candidates, the board’s challenge was often to dissuade individuals from running. Once nominated, candidates spent much effort and money to get elected. Onegentlemen in the early 1950’s is even reputed to have treated the entire membership to a full dinner as part of his campaign drive.

As the P&BA looks to its future, it must respond to the patterns of growth within the community. Polonia has become increasingly decentralized, particularly with regard to its businessmen and professionals. In 1944, virtually all of the P&BA’s original organizers resided within traditional Polish American neighborhoods. By 1960, only half of the membership remained in these same areas, and today more than two-thirds reside outside of the regional ethnic settlements. Inevitably, these demographic trends produced changes in the needs and expectations of the P&BA membership. In the past, a Polish businessmen’s organization constituted but another of many forums in which members could meet with ethnic compatriots. Today, when our membership resides throughout Western New York, the P&BA frequently provides the primary avenue for ethnic associations. Thus, more than ever before, P&BA social and other events perform a vitally essential role in uniting the elite of Polonia. When retaining a cultural dimension, these activities foster a revival of ethnic spirit and pride. In short, the Professional and Businessmen’s Association has helped to create one of the necessary bases for a vibrant Polish presence in Buffalo.

During the past 57 years, the programs of the Professional and Businessmen’s Association have served the changing mood and needs of its membership. For example, after the Second World War, Polonia’s business and professional communities discovered the necessity to reach beyond the limited markets of their ethnic neighborhoods. Thus, the P&BA offered its membership an opportunity to share the experiences associated with their economic progress. Today, however, the P&BA finds itself in an age in which ethnic Americans desire to reaffirm their respective cultural identities. Accordingly, the organization has sought to unify those professionals and businessmen who recognize the shared values of their Polish heritage. Our challenge for the future is to sustain the patriotic goal of fostering this unity for the good of our members and community.



Carl Bucki researched and authored the History of the Professional and Businessmen ’s Association during the early 1980’s. Mr Bucki, a member of the P&BA since 1978, is a Past President and Financial Secretary. He was Chairman of the P&BA Archives Committee during his tenure on the Board of Directors. Mr Bucki currently serves as United States Bankruptcy Court Judge for the Western District of New York State. Thank you Judge Bucki! Not only does your research give us the history of the P&BA, it gives us a better appreciation for the early days of Polonia in Buffalo.


Past Presidents

  • John Aszkler (1948)
  • Joseph Dziminski (1949)
  • Leon Kolipinski (1950)
  • Peter Zawadzki (1951)
  • Sigmund Gucfa (1952)
  • Matthew Jasen (1953)
  • Raymond Niemer (1954)
  • Stanley Kuchta (1955)
  • Eugene Ruszaj (1956)
  • James Swist (1957)
  • Paul Walczak (1958)
  • Ted Bojanowski (1959)
  • Norbert Golembieski (1960)
  • Leon Kierz (1961)
  • Eugene Buczkowski (1962)
  • Richard Okoniewski (1964)
  • Henry Jabczynski (1965)
  • Richard Nowak (1966)
  • Frederick Platek (1967)
  • Joey Jarosz (1968)
  • Thomas Gawrys (1969)
  • Bernard Ruda (1970)
  • Daniel Smolarek (1971)
  • John R Poczciwinski (1972)
  • Herny Orlowski (1973)
  • Frank Malinkiewicz (1974)
  • Joseph Kaminski (1975)
  • Alfred Marzee (1976)
  • Gerard Ptak (1977)
  • Frederick Pordum (1978)
  • Henry Chimes (1979)
  • Leonard Furmanek (1980)
  • Carl Bucki (1981)
  • John Sikorski (1982)
  • Edward Wojciechowski (1983)
  • William Troy (1984)
  • John Winiewicz (1985)
  • Stanley Gajewski (1986)
  • David Lewandowski (1987)
  • Jerome Biedny (1988)
  • Michael Biedny (1989-1990)
  • David Zielinski (1991-1992)
  • Peter Wojtaszek (1993-1994)
  • Dennis Oniszczak (1995-1996)
  • David Jaworski (1997-1998)
  • John Michalski (1999)
  • David Jaworski (2000)
  • Gary Steszewski (2001-2002)
  • Ricahrd Milewicz (2003-2004)
  • Richard Stepien (2005-2006)
  • Robert Nowak (2007-2008)
  • Ralph Maraszek (2009-2010)
  • Gregory Mazurowski (2011)