The First Prize Center

First Prize Center.jpg

Tobin's First Prize Center -- the sign is all that's left.

By Jessica Pasko

If you've along Everett Road in Albany, you've seen that huge old sign for the First Prize Center (it's near I-90). And you've probably wondered, "What the heck is the First Prize Center?"

Did they make trophies? Blue ribbons? Those big checks for the Publishers Clearinghouse give-away?

Here's something you probably wouldn't have guessed: hot dogs.

Yes, hot dogs.

Apparently Tobin's First Prize hot dogs -- aka NY hots -- are kind of prized among nostalgic foodies. And until the early 80s they were actually made in Albany and Rochester. The former Tobin Packing Company, a 34-acre property on Exchange Street just off Exit 5 of I-90, once employed some 600 people and produced tons of hot dogs and sausages. A field behind the packing company housed animals until they were ready to be slaughtered and made into meat products.

Tobin's First Prize first came to be in 1924 and was called Albany Packing Company at that time. One of the owners was also president of the Rochester Packing Plant, and later the entire venture became known as Tobin packing. The owners ended up holding five separate companies and were at one time the 7th largest meat packing company in the U.S.

Sadly, since 1981, the big sign and towering stone monolith has been all that's left of Tobin's. That's when the company and the brand were sold to John Morell, which still markets Tobin's brand dogs.

The land itself, known as the First Prize center and complex, has been been more or less on the market for several years. A plan last year by a retail group to attract a big-box store to the location later fell through due, ostensibly, to lack of community support.

There was also talk of a collaboration with the Albany Nanotech, but that also seems to have come to a standstill. As of now, the site is partially torn up for some indeterminate construction project -- but there's still a handful of businesses at the location, including a lighting design company and an art dealer.


best part is the huge cigarette chimney behind this sign. They still have a deli (or did) with fresh meat. There area also some businesses which have taken the vacant spots in that building which would be cool to include in this article. West Albany is one of the best places to grow up in this area, too bad businesses seem to be closing all around it.

Another interesting fact about the First Prize Center and its BLOODHOUSE (gross) can be found with this flickr picture -

i can remember the thick smoke coming out of the big chimney as a kid growing up in albany, ahh pollution of the 1970's.

I have a few relatives that actually worked here as meat packers. My mom was offered a job here, but she couldn't do it because there was apparently some sort of conveyor belt that they would put the animals on before slaughter, seeing this, she declined pretty quickly, haha

This looks like another mission for Sebastien and his camera :)

Never noticed the huge Melee tag on that sign before. Some of us might recall when he put giant 10-foot letters on the side of the Central Warehouse. This guy likes 'em big.

Sarah, the pictures following those of the First Prize Center made my heart melt..

First Prize Paintball used to operate out of here, I played there once a long time ago. I don't even know if First Prize Paintball still exists anymore.

connect the dots..

@sarah and alison, are you two riders/headless horseman/kinderhookers? take a photo of my painting....sad

An older gentleman who I used to work with actually worked here in the 1950's and 60's. His stories of the place and what actually went into making the meat are to this day the reason I don't eat hot dogs. He had around 6 or 7 fingers left from working there so we called him shovel, since the rest of his fingers kind of meshed together and he scooped everything up like, well, a shovel. True story.

JVG - Yes! Which is yours? All are equally precious. Unless yours is Satan rising from the depths of Hell, in which case, I'd use the words 'terrifyingly awesome' instead.

@Sarah, you actually didnt get mine, I think I was a bit whacked out when I typed that first response
Mine has been half painted over, its was my version of Raphael's Toledo that could only been done by a drunken 17 year old constantly running from Bill Schneider, I loved seeing your pics though, they bring back loads of memories, someone should remove those parts of the walls for display if they ever remodel.

ps I think my brother did the ZZTop one, woot woot!!

Always psyched to meet another of Kinderhook's finest! I'm sorry I don't remember your picture, but I definately remember your brother's! Memories (& the bomb thing with the buses, what WAS that??)... I'm going to go listen to some Soundgarden, sip on Zima and read Jane now.

@Alison - Good one. I personally just finished watching Independence Day, just to stick on theme.

Has anyone have a picture of the logo which is a PIG with a top hat and spats,or some kind of paraphernalia with this picture of the pig on it????

Thanking you in advance, Daniel

my dad actually worked there from 1960 till it closed in the
early 80's. i remember picking him up with my mother. that
terrible smell from the place actually became pleasant. evertime my father got in the car it smelled like tobins. we got all our meat from there, and on saturdays we would go to
myers meat market to get cold cuts for lunch and sat down as a family. i will always have great memories of the old tobin packing. not only did my dad work there, but so did most of
his cousins who lived in west albany. it was graet groing up
in that era. i dont think my boys will ever have memories like
i have growing up as a kid in the 60's and 70's. i know eventually the
old bldg. will come down, but when it does there goes a little
piece of "little italy".


like the comment...thebravest posted on 9/24 :) Myers Meat Market was owned by my great grandfather and then my grandfather, I have heard so many stories of the old store, nice to hear from customers.

I grew up in the shadow of the tobin. I'm lucky to have missed the black smoke that prevented you from hanging your clothes to dry on thursdays, and have moved far from there, but the tobin will always be a part of my childhood memory.

Why can't I buy first prize hot dogs at either Price Chopper or Big Y in the south west corner of MA?

Tobin Packing sponsored a Babe Ruth League baseball team that I played on for three years (1959-1961) in the Arbor Hill area on the field behind Philip Livingston High School. We won the city championship in 1960 and I'm certain we all celebrated with "First Prize" hot dogs!


I miss the First Prize sausage. Where can I find it? My mother and grandmother always used it for sausage stuffing. The recipe was on the package and all you need were the five ingredients. There were enough flavoring in the meat that you did not need to add more. Is there any brands that has sausage similar to First Prize?

My Dad was a truck driver for Tobin for many years until he retired just before they closed. One of my childhood friends father worked inside the plant and we all have good memories of that place. I can remember going inside certain parts of the plant with my Dad and it seemed like everyone was one happy family. At the end of each week my Dad would bring home a big brown box with meats, cold cuts, sausage........all good stuff. I miss that brand!

when I grew up in albany my family would only buy first prize hot dogs and deli meats because they were known to be pure. bought them at modern market at new scotland ave and manning blvd. the sleaseman brothers. and we bought our meat at hamley's downtown. long ago in a far away land

What an eyesore! This place should have been torn down years ago. The owner of this dump should be sued for not keeping this place up. I'm pretty sure Robocop got killed here.

My family owned a meat market/grocery store in northern N.J.
We bought from Tobin's. they had the best hot dogs on the east coast.we sold them, as we called it loose from a 6 # box. They were made of pork and beef, no turkey or chicken or filers. They eventually introduced all beef and also 1# pkgs. but our biggest seller we're the loose pork/beef.
Also their bologna that was packaged in natural casings was outstanding ,nobody could compete with it, also their sausage was incomparable, fantastic. Their liver sausage (liver wurst) again packed in naturale casings will never, never be equalled again in centuries ahead.
When I read that John Morrell bought them out,, I know that their products will never be the same. John Morrell products are garbage.
I've lived in the west for 30 years and there isn't a pork product, even homemade, that equals TOBINS FIRST PRIZE products. You young people don't know what you missed, products on the market today are crap!!

I grew up with Tobin's First Prize bologna from the early 1930;s until the product was no longer available a few years(?) ago. It has been replaced with another brand which to my taste is not similar in any way, shape or form. As far as I know there is no similar product for sale in Western Massachusetts (Chicopee) or the surrounding towns. If there one available please notify this email address.

i want the recipe that was on the first prize sausage package.
the recipe for sausage stuffing.
anybody have a copy

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