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September 5, 2016 - 7:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news, fire.

A porch fire is reported at 41 Maple St. in the city. City fire is responding.

UPDATE 7:34 p.m.: Fire is out; checking for extensions.

September 5, 2016 - 2:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, DeWitt Recreation Area.


It likely will be days before we know how a man whose body was found partially submerged in the lake at DeWitt Recreation Area in Batavia died.

A fisherman first noticed the body some time after 6 a.m., which is when the Cedar Street park opened, and he notified a member of the park maintenance staff.

Batavia PD was notified at 8:54 a.m.

Officer Marc Lawrence, who briefed media earlier this afternoon at DeWitt, said he couldn't speculate on why there was a delay between the body being spotted and police being contacted.

Lawrence said there is no information available indicating the age or race of the deceased.

The body was found at the far end of the lake from the main entrance, in the northeast corner, on the other side of the land bridge that has been exposed by the drought.

As of early this afternoon, a scuba-diving team was still searching the lake for any potential evidence that might be connected to the incident.

At this time, the investigation is being handled as a criminal investigation, pending new information that might indicate otherwise.

There have been two recent missing person reports in the area, but there's no information at this time connecting those reports to this incident, Lawrence said.


September 5, 2016 - 8:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, batavia.


A motor-vehicle accident with injuries is reported at Oak Street and Richmond Avenue.

City fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE 9:20 a.m.: No injuries. Police believe the driver of the sedan, heading west on Richmond, ran a red light.

September 3, 2016 - 8:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news.

City police are responding to Union Street for a complaint of "large kids playing football in the street."

September 3, 2016 - 3:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sweet Pea's Cupcakery, batavia, business, news, Batavia PD.


The day in the life of a police officer isn't always just about seeing bad people do bad things, they also see good people doing good things. And the folks at Sweet Pea's Cupcakery Cafe on Jackson Street wanted to provide a way for Batavia PD officers to reward the people they come across who do the little things to help make the community better. They made up "Random Act of Cupcake" cards for police officers to hand out to people they come across doing good things.

The cards read, "You've been caught doing good! Enjoy a free cupcake or cookie."

Pictured Lyndsey, from Sweet Pea's, and Officer Mitchell Cowen, who helped coordinate the effort with Batavia PD.

September 3, 2016 - 1:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, batavia, business, news.

Laurie Oltramari, executive director of the Batavia Improvement District, turned in her letter of resignation this week.

BID president Victor Gautieri confirmed the resignation and said the board would meet in the coming week to decide what to do next. 

Oltramari led the organization for a year. 

Gautieri declined further comment.

September 3, 2016 - 12:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in football, sports, news, batavia, Batavia HS.


The Batavia Blue Devils, 2016 edition, quietly took apart Greece Olympia/Odyssey on Woodward Field on Friday night to the point that the Spartans seems to have lost their fight by the third quarter.

It's as if the team that has won two consecutive Section V titles hasn't missed a beat. In fact, the win was the 20th straight for the program against a Section V opponent.

The final score was 39-0.

"I'm very pleased because going into the game I wasn't sure what we had," said Head Coach Brennan Briggs. "I wasn't sure how we would respond to things and how we were going to go when we got hit in the mouth. But these guys came out and proved that they bought in and they’re a tough group of kids and we’ve got some playmakers out there. I’m very excited for what they can do from here."

This edition slots Jerry Reinhart and QB1 and, Ray Leach and Codie Dioguardi in the backfield, Chandler Baker, Andrew Mruczek and Eric Davis at wideouts and a defense that includes Baker, Mruczek, Taiyo Iburi-Bethel, Anthony Ray and Jzon Richardson.

Those are not names that popped up in many headlines over the past two championship seasons, but they're all players poised to make an impact, if one game is any indication, in 2016.

Reinhart certainly has a lot of confidence in his teammates.

"Everybody asked me, they all asked me, 'how are you guys going to be this year?' and I was like, 'come to the first game and find out,' " Reinhart said. "I was very positive about our team. In the off-season, I thought we were going do great."

Briggs is impressed with the quiet leadership Reinhart has brought to the team, replacing Andrew Mruczek's older brother, Greg, at quarterback.

"Greg was more rah-rah and everything and great about it," Briggs said. "Jerry is more reserved, but he goes out there and gets the job done. He's a leader. He's a great leader. You saw, he made some big plays. He's not afraid to tuck it and run and he kept us together. I'm proud of him. He did a great job."

Friday was also a chance for Andrew to move out from under the shadow of his older brother, and in a big way, and significantly with a key interception in the first quarter.

"I think the biggest turning point in that game was Andrew Mruczek's interception," Briggs said. "They had a drive going, I think 10-plus plays, and we always say a nine-plus play drive is devastating for a defense and we were starting to feel it and all the sudden, number 21 comes in and makes a huge play for us. I’m happy for him because he’s been a trooper and he’s been working his butt off and he’s just silently been doing it."

Mruczek exemplifies the quiet confidence that characterizes the team.

"I think people are going to realize, Batavia football is here to stay and we're going to keep working hard every day," Mruczek said.

The offense was good, the defense was good, but special teams really stepped it up Friday night.

Richardson, a linebacker on defense, handles kickoffs, extra points and field goals. On kickoffs Friday, he consistently put the ball past the 10-yard line, and with defenders hustling down the field, the Spartans were routinely starting drives with their backs to the wall.

"That is so big for our team," Briggs said. "From the standpoint of having just great energy and momentum, they did a fantastic job for us and special teams cannot be overlooked because field position is huge in football games."

Briggs praised the work of special teams coach Ben Buchholz in motivating the players and getting each to do their part to plug holes and cut lanes, and John Garlock has been applying those lessons well, Briggs said.

"Johnny Garlock has been doing it for us for three years and he goes down like a missile," Briggs said. "He’s long snapper on punts and the first guy down there and on kickoff coverage, he makes the plays."







To purchase prints, click here.

September 3, 2016 - 11:04am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, batavia, news.

A residential structure fire is reported downstairs at 136 Pearl St. in Batavia. A person is reportedly burned. City fire and Mercy medics are responding.

UPDATE 11:05 a.m.: Fire command on scene confirms a fire at a two and a half story building. A child has second-degree burns on the left shoulder area.

UPDATE 11:09 p.m.: The fire was small in nature -- in a stairwell -- and is reported to be out. Streets are closed at Pearl and Roosevelt and Pearl and Brooklyn. A second ambulance is called for a subject suffering from smoke inhalation.

UPDATE 11:33 a.m.: Fire Capt. Bob Fix said the fire appears to be accidental in nature and was out when firefighters arrived. A boy about 6 or 7 years old has a shoulder burn and is being transported to Strong Memorial Hospital. A police investigator will interview people about the fire. "It was a little spot fire right inside the door, in the stairwell, about three steps up."

September 3, 2016 - 9:00am
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, news.

Peter S. Hawkins, 49, of A Street, Cayuga Village, Niagara Falls, is charged with second-degree harassment and disorderly conduct. He was arrested at 12:05 a.m. on Sept. 1 after he allegedly got into a physical altercation with a male nurse and then barricaded himself in an exam room inside the Emergency Room at UMMC. He subsequently allegedly attempted to fight Batavia police officers who responded to the scene. He was issued two appearance tickets and released. He is due in City Court at 1 p.m. on Sept. 13. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Darryle Streeter, assisted by Officer Peter Flanagan.

Faith L. Finnin, 22, of State Street Road, Batavia, is charged with tattooing a child less than 18 years of age. Finnin was arrested at noon on Aug. 23 following an investigation into an allegation that a child less than 18 was tattooed by Finnin on Raymond Avenue in Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in City Court at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, to answer the charge. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Kevin DeFelice.

Santiago J. Qumane, 18, of Walnut Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. He was arrested at 11:21 a.m. on Sept. 2 following a home visit from Genesee County Probation during which he was allegedly found to be in possession of marijuana. He was issued an appearance ticket and released. He is due in City Court on Sept. 6. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Marc Lawrence, assisted by Officer Frank Klimjack.

September 2, 2016 - 1:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, byron, bergen, batavia, oak field.

Paul William Tuttle, 45, of Sautell Road, Bergen, is charged with second-degree criminal trespass. At 2:26 this morning (Sept. 2), Tuttle allegedly entered someone's apartment on Byron Holley Road in Byron while being highly intoxicated. Tuttle allegedly urinated in the residence and helped himself to an ice cream cone from the resident's freezer. The resident allegedly located Tuttle enjoying the frozen treat on the couch. Because the Sheriff's Office could not reach a Byron judge, Tuttle was arraigned in the Town of Bergen Court and then released on his own recognizance. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Young, assisted by Sgt. John Baiocco.

Michael Norbert Jagodzinski, 56, of Fisher Drive, Rochester, is charged with driving with a BAC of more than .08 percent, and DWI -- first offense. Jagodzinski was found at 11:31 p.m. on Aug. 31 parked along Clinton Street Road in the Town of Bergen. He was allegedly found to be intoxicated at the time. He was issued tickets for Oct. 5 in Town of Bergen Court. The case was handled by Sheriff's Sgt. Eric Seppala.

Ann Marie Schlegel, 39, of Porter Road, Medina, is charged with failure to pay a fine for petit larceny. She was arrested by the Medina Police Department on an unrelated matter and then transferred to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office on a bench warrant for failing to pay a fine levied because of a petit larceny incident on May 19 on West Main Street in Batavia. She was arraigned and then jailed on $435 bail. The case was handled by Sheriff's Sgt. John Baiocco.

A 17-year-old resident of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. The subject was arrested at 5 p.m. on Aug. 31 on East Shelby Road in Oakfield for allegedly stealing an iPad Touch (valued at $150) from a female's residence. The subject was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Town of Oakfield Court on Sept. 16 to answer the charge. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Chad Minuto, assisted by Deputy Lonnie Nati.

September 1, 2016 - 5:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Foxprowl, downtown, batavia, business.


It's a lot of work moving thousands of collectible toys along with 40,000 comic books, but that's what Bill Hume, along with his wife, Joy, staff member Wayne Stahler along with helpers and friends have been doing for the past few days.

Hume opened Foxprowl at its new location at Main and Jackson, downtown Batavia today, even though not everything is unboxed or on the shelves yet.

We've covered Foxprowl from its opening on Ellicott Street over the years and watched the business grow. The store expanded, added inventory and Hume hosted a convention in Batavia last year (it will return this year; details to be announced).

Several other small businesses have come and gone in Batavia in that time, but Hume has persisted and succeeded. He said lasting and growing has had a lot to do with his passion for the business, his passion for collectibles and his willingness and enjoyment to work the long hours necessary.

September 1, 2016 - 2:40pm

Press release:

As summer winds down and we head into fall, there are still three more “Garden Talk” programs this year!

Taught by Master Gardeners, programs will be held once a month, during the “lunch hour” from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Bring your lunch to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office (420 E. Main St., Batavia) and join us. This series is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Sept. 6 will be a follow up to our May herb program. After growing your herbs all summer, what can you do with them now? We’ll give you some ideas of things you can use your herbs for.

On Oct. 4, get ready to feed your backyard birds as we’ll offer tips and answer questions about Winter Bird Feeding.

Nov. 1 will be a demonstration on how to make a beautiful holiday swag to decorate your home.

Need a Garden Talk schedule? Contact Brandie at 585-343-3040, ext. 101.

Future topics and other Master Gardener events will be posted on the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County website at and also on our Facebook page at

September 1, 2016 - 2:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, news, corfu, byron.

Jonathan David Knauss, 22, of Depot Street, Corfu, is charged with sixth-degree conspiracy. He was arrested at 9 a.m. on Aug. 29 at the Genesee County Jail on West Main Street in Batavia for allegedly conspiring with at least one other person to commit a crime at the jail while being housed there. He was due in City Court this morning to answer the charge. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Parker, assisted by Genesee County Jail personnel.

Emily Elizabeth Dubois, 19, of Batavia Byron Road, Byron, is charged with sixth-degree conspiracy. She was arrested at 11:34 a.m. on Aug. 27 at the Genesee County Jail on West Main Street in Batavia for allegedly conspiring with an inmate to have another inmate commit a crime. She is due in City Court on Sept. 22 to answer the charge. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Parker, assisted by Genesee County Jail personnel.

A 17-year-old resident of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with sixth-degree conspiracy. The subject was arrested at 9 a.m. on Aug. 29 at the Genesee County Jail on West Main Street in Batavia for allegedly conspiring with at least one other person to commit a crime at the jail while being housed there. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Parker, assisted by Genesee County Jail personnel.

September 1, 2016 - 1:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in Genesee Cancer Assistance, news, charity, batavia.

Press release:

Genesee Cancer Assistance, based in Batavia, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded $15,000 as a part of The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo 2016 grant disbursement.

Genesee Cancer Assistance is one of 19 organizations from across Western New York that received grants from endowment funds created to carry on Ralph C. Wilson Jr.’s legacy of giving and visionary leadership.

Effective immediately, the organization has plans to increase the amount of financial assistance available to new patients.

“We are both honored and excited that the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has chosen Genesee Cancer Assistance as a recipient. This money supports our mission of helping cancer patients in Genesee County and will also allow us to increase public awareness of our services and programs,” said Sue Underwood, GCA executive director. 

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, a 501(C) (3) organization, was established in 1919 to enhance and encourage long-term philanthropy in the Western New York Community. The Foundation’s mission is: Connecting people, ideas and resources to improve lives in Western New York. For over 95 years, the Community Foundation has made the most of the generosity of individuals, families, foundations and organizations who entrust charitable assets to its care.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation established endowments at the Community Foundation in November 2015 to provide support to three areas that were important to Wilson during his lifetime: cancer care, community assets, and youth sports. Endowment funds, like these created to honor Wilson, are designed to grow over time and provide funding for charitable causes according to a client’s wishes.

Genesee Cancer Assistance is a registered 501(c) (3) not-for-profit. It was cofounded in November of 1995 by Dorothy Schlaggel and Russ Romano, both of whom had a desire to create an organization that would help residents in Genesee County facing a cancer diagnosis, by providing financial support and services to lessen the burden that this disease causes. Since opening, GCA has had the opportunity to help more than 1,900 individuals giving out $500,000 of assistance. 

"The organization relies on contributions and memorials as well as local support and board sponsored fundraising events to finance patient reimbursements. Receiving the grant from The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo will help meet these needs and have a positive impact on the community" said GCA Board President Kevin J. Mudd, MD. 

For more information about Genesee Cancer Assistance, including the specific ways the organization helps cancer patients, please visit the website, call (585) 345-0417, or stop by, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Please note that our new office is now located on the ground floor of United Memorial Medical Center, 127 North St., directly across the hall from the switchboard near the radiology waiting room.

August 31, 2016 - 1:56pm


Willis Middleton moves into a new apartment in Batavia tomorrow, and the day before yesterday, he signed his lease and picked up his keys.

At first, he didn't think much of it. He went back to his room at the VA Center, in the Cazenovia Recovery Program, and sat down on his bed and started looking for a keychain.

"After I put all the keys on the chain, I just stared at it and I was like, dang these are my keys," Middleton said. "I mean, I’ve had that before, but it just means a whole lot more. I was just staring at those keys and I was like, ‘wow.’ It’s been a long road and I’m very appreciative of the people who helped me. It’s just a great feeling, it really is."

The ladies of the VFW Auxiliary Veness Strollo Post #1602 in Batavia were among those who helped Middleton get to this point, which comes after years of struggling with addiction, in and out of rehab programs, until he was finally brought to one that is making a difference.

One of the key benefits of the program, Middleton said that at the end of it, counselors make sure patients don't go back to the same community and the same life and same associates they were mired in before.

"Let’s be honest, we all do rehab really well," Middleton said. "We all go in and make these promises we’re going to do better, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, but then when it’s time to leave, we really didn’t have the resources, so basically we got threw back into that environment that we came from. Excuse my French, but snowballs stand a better chance in hell with that situation. But here, it gives you an opportunity to change everything, even your environment. I think that’s more important than anything, those resources and employment are more important than anything."

Middleton, originally from Cross, S.C., and most recently a resident of Durham, N.C., is getting a fresh start in Batavia.

He thinks that's wonderful.

"By the time this program came, it saved my life," Middleton said. "That’s really all I can say. It saved my life because I was thinking crazy, I was doing irrational things and, well, I ended up in the psych ward at the Durham VA. That was the beginning that put me on this road right here and I’ve been blessed to be on this road for so long, Thank God. I’ve been seeing all of these wonderful things that are happening to me now."

The VFW Auxillary is providing many of the necessities Middleton will need to get a good start in his new apartment. They've purchased for him, as they do many other veterans who have been through Cazenovia, a coffee pot, pots, pans, dishes, silverware, dishpans, a strainer, utensils, kitchen trash can, cleaning products, dish towels, oven mitts and potholders, sheets, blankets, a shower curtain, curtain rings, a wastebasket, toilet brush, plunger, towels, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, shaving products, alcohol-free mouthwash, curtains and furniture.

They ladies buy all that for multiple veterans with funds raised from Buddy Poppy sales, social events and raffles.

Middleton joined the Army when he was 17 and served four years. His problems, he said, started when he got out. He struggled with drugs and homelessness off and on, though he also had times of stability, but hit rock bottom in Durham.

"When I got here at first started learning about myself, it wasn’t a pretty picture at all," Middleton said. "It was kind of ugly, to be honest, but the more I stayed the course, the more it just was so obvious that if I didn’t want to die in my addiction, I knew that I had to change. I just had to get down and dirty and do it.

"This program has meant a lot to me," he added.

Photo: Pictured with Middleton are Jean Dolph, Daphne Cross and Judy Cooper, of the VFW Auxiliary Veness Strollo Post #1602.

August 31, 2016 - 12:32pm
posted by Steve Ognibene in pickleball, sports, YMCA, batavia, steve ognibene's blog, news.


(Photos by Steve Ognibene. Story by Phil Coburn.)

Pickleball you say? If you’re wondering what this is, it’s a relatively new sport activity in Batavia! It’s lots of fun, easy to learn, and is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. 

The game is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and is played over a net that is 2 inches lower than a tennis net. The court is 20 feet x 44 feet, about half the size of a tennis court. The ball is a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball, and the paddles are wood or composite material.

The game is adaptable to all ages from youth to seniors, and both male and female. Due to the smaller court and lighter ball, it requires much less running and has less impact on the knees, arms and shoulders than tennis.

Locally, it all started after Batavia residents Phil and Bonnie Coburn decided to travel in an RV across the United States in 2007. They had often said “What will we do if we can’t play tennis anymore?" Well, very quickly they saw some pickleball being played, and they became hooked! Upon returning to Batavia, they located a group in Ogden and played there for a couple years.

Then, after getting tired of driving 25 miles each way, they spoke to the people at the YMCA in Batavia in 2012, and they agreed to let them tape two courts in the gym. They got help from Dave Thomas in Rochester to do the layout, and he also gave them a portable net to use. They obtained grant money from the USAPA, and bought another portable net.

Thus, pickleball was born in Batavia with about six players participating.

About two years later, the gym floor was refinished, and the lines were painted on for a more permanent facility. At about the same time, Eric Volk lent a hand, and they worked with the Town of Batavia to have pickleball lines painted on the tennis courts at Kiwanis Park (replacing the tape which didn’t do too well in the elements), adding the first outside courts in the area.

This year, again with encouragement from Eric, the city, as part of the court renewal at Kibbe Park and Farrall Park, painted pickleball lines on the tennis courts, giving participants an additional five outdoor courts to play on in the area.

(At one of the newest lined courts at Kibbe Park, pictured below are some members of the Batavia Pickleball Club, from left are: Joann McCabe, Chloe Budenhagen, Becky Swanson, and founding members Bonnie and Phil Coburn.)


The YMCA has been very supportive of this activity, and currently there is play scheduled in the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday nights from 6:30-8 p.m.. Currently, every Saturday from 9:30-noon, players are welcome at Kibbe Park. Partners are not assigned, but use the "open" system of rotation for players waiting to play.

From the original six players, it has grown to around 30 fairly active players, and the ability level has definitely increased since those early days. There has been some discussion about holding a tournament next year for our local players, but there are no details available yet.

The club is always looking for additional players to try the sport, and to continue to help this activity gain momentum in Genesee County. Pickleball has become part of Physical Education in many schools, and is played in many parks and recreational facilities across the country. The Batavia YMCA has set the cost for non-Y members at $30 for a 10-play pass, $49 for a 7-week unlimited pass, or a $5 "drop-in" pass. No fee for Saturday play.




August 30, 2016 - 3:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in Big Tree Glen, batavia, affordable housing, news.

Press release:

The United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) and Conifer Realty, LLC, joined by local officials and community leaders, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning for a 56-unit apartment community in Batavia. 

Big Tree Glen, located at 3727 W. Main St. Road, offers seven high-quality, two-story buildings featuring one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment homes for working families earning 60 percent or less of Genesee County’s area median income (“AMI”). Rents range from $569-$916 per month (with a 12-month lease). Apartments range in size from 725 square feet to 1,200 square feet.

James S. Rubin, commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, said, “Big Tree Glen offers families access to one of the highest-performing districts in Western New York, and is in close proximity to jobs, shopping and services. Affordable housing developments like Big Tree Glen provide greater options and opportunities for residents, and make New York a better place to live and work.”

Daniel P. Ireland, BSN, MBA, FACHE, president for UMMC, said, “Rochester Regional Health Memorial Medical Center supports Big Tree Glen affordable housing. Safe, reliable housing is a major component of healthier communities and this initiative aligns with our vision of leading the evolution of health care to enable every member of the communities we serve to enjoy a better, healthier life. We are excited to see this project develop and reach the completion of this phase.”

Tim Fournier, chairman and CEO of Conifer Realty stated, “Conifer could not accomplish what it has in the affordable housing industry in New York State for the past 40 years without the unwavering support of our state and nonprofit partners, like Rochester Regional’s United Memorial Medical Center.” He added, “Big Tree Glen is evidence that the public-private partnerships and collaborative team efforts yield vital, brand new, affordable homes for so many in Batavia.”

Conifer Realty, LLC, was the developer, the total development costs are in excess of $12 million. Permanent financing sources for the apartment community include a $1,220,000 loan from Community Preservation Corporation; $3,200,000 loan from Bank of America; $382,135 loan from New York State Housing Trust Fund; $7,289,751 Federal Tax Credit Equity from Red Stone Equity Partners; and Bank of America provided a $6,300,000 construction loan.

Conifer is a nationally ranked, full-service real estate company specializing in the development, construction, management and ownership of high-quality, affordable housing communities.

August 30, 2016 - 3:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jason Lang, business, Grab-a-Cab, batavia.


jasonlangaug2016.jpgJason Lang is trying to fashion for himself something that is rare in life: a do-over. And if he does, maybe he can set an example for others who fell for drugs as hard as he did.

Lang had a good life, as he sees it. He was running a successful cab company, making good money, and then he wanted to expand his entrepreneurial horizons.

He thought there might be a place in Batavia for a head shop with a tattoo and piercing parlor attached. He called it The Laughing Budda.  

Good name. Bad business.

"I opened the smoke shop and that was like the worse mistake of my life," Lang said. " I opened that because at the time, I was bored. The cab company at its peak and I wanted to find something new. As an entrepreneur, I was always thinking of different ideas so I thought of a tattoo, piercing and smoke shop and then the troubles that came with that business took me out of reality.

"It’s just a big regret," he added, "...If I could go back in time, I would have put more into the cab company instead of choosing another business."

Lang said he didn't start using drugs, specifically bath salts, until after law enforcement raided his shop and seized much of his inventory.

The seizure cost him more than $200,000, he said, and brought him to the brink of financial ruin.

He became depressed, he said.

Authorities had seized much of the synthetic drugs stored in his shop, but they didn't get all of it. The inventory he had left over, he started using.

This was the spring of 2012, when news was starting to spread across the country of people doing bizarre things while reportedly high on a form of synthetic drugs known as bath salts. 

By the summer, the strange behavior had spread to Batavia, with people climbing on roofs, getting into odd confrontations, causing trouble in the emergency room at UMMC, and Lang himself calling police with reports of gunshots at a local hotel (it didn't happen, and he was arrested for making a false report) and weaving tales of elaborate conspiracy theories.

"I just lost my mind," Lang said. "I was acting completely crazy. I had no concept of reality. I thought all these strange, crazy things were going on. I kept having run-ins with law enforcement and I got placed under mental arrest. It was just insane."

Lang knows he contributed to the rise of bath salt usage in Genesee County, and he now regrets it and apologizes to the community for it. But about the time his shop was closed, the 420 Emporium opened at 400 Ellicott St. The insanity continued until federal, state and local authorities raided that shop and another of the chain's locations in Brockport and Fulton as part of a nationwide operation to rein in bath salt distribution.

At first, the Laughing Buddha was much like any other head shop that had existed for decades. It sold paraphernalia, such as glass pipes, that technically had legitimate uses other than the consumption of illicit drugs, and the shop also offered tattoos and piercings, but in the process of building his business, Lang attended conventions in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Distributors there were pushing products such as K2, Spice (synthetic marijuana) and Amp, among other products generally known as "bath salts" that were said to mimic harder drugs, such as cocaine.

"They were really pushing it on the smoke shops saying, ‘it’s legal. It’s nothing to worry about,'" Lang said. "They said there were these huge profits involved."

So, Lang stocked up. The packets were available under glass at his front counter. The law at the time was a bit more ambiguous. The federal law dealing with what are called analogues was considered hard to enforce and Lang's shop wasn't raided until after state health officials determined the drugs violated health and safety standards.

At the time, Lang said then and admits now, he didn't think the drugs were a big deal and back then he defended his business practices.

"At the time I was like, ‘I don’t care. It’s their choice,’ " Lang said. "If somebody wants to do any drug, that’s their choice. That’s the outlook I had on it. Now, that I’ve been on the other side of the fence and addicted to drugs, I would never open a business like that again or sell drugs, or be involved with anything like that, because now I know firsthand what it does to people. I was naive to that before."

Lang's fall was probably as complete as they come.  

According to Lang, by 2012, seven years after starting Batavia Cab, he was doing pretty well, pulling in $5,000 to $6,000 a week and by his own admission, feeling pretty cocky. He thought he had it good.

Before the year was out, he would have spent his first night in jail, had his name spread through the media from Rochester to Buffalo and be on the verge of losing his cab operation -- he did eventually sell it in 2013, and it is still in operation, with its third owner.

Criminal prosecution led to a chance at rehab, and through rehab, Lang met heroin.

"It was a big relief when I first started doing heroin because it took away all the paranoia and it got me away from the bath salts," said Lang, explaining the opiate's initial allure.

Of course, with heroin, once addicted -- and it's highly addictive -- the high you chase is elusive yet it's hard to function without the drug in your system. You need the drug just to feel normal (according to medical literature).

It didn't take long for heroin to wipe out what little money Lang had left and then he turned to shoplifiting. He was arrested in multiple jurisdictions, including as far away as Hamburg and Victor.  

"I was even homeless at one point, which was a huge turnaround for me because just years prior I was vacationing all over with my family and staying in nice hotels, and then I’m homeless in Rochester and I’m a heroin addict," Lang said.

He was eventually arrested on felonies in Orleans and Ontario counties, which led to a prison term.

Prison included three months of 23-hours-a-day locked by himself in a cell. That gave him a lot of time to think, he said.

"I wasn’t using drugs and in those moments of clarity I could think about everything," Lang said. "That's all you could do is sit and think all day. I realized I really screwed up. I decided to just get through the prison time. I choose not to use drugs in prison, and there are tons of drugs in prison, and I stayed clean the whole time I was in there. Because of that, they sent me to shock camp where I became a squad leader for my platoon. I really excelled through all of that and I just decided I wanted to get back to the old me."

Once home, his son, Lathan, started pushing him to get back into the cab business. Lang said Lathan is already bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and helped him plan his return.

Lathan even came up with the name for the new cab company, Grab-A-Cab.

Lang had already determined he wanted to stay away from a name with a regional identification. He felt calling his previous cab company, Batavia Cab, limited its growth potential. It made it hard to expand into other counties.

"I liked that name," Lang said of Grab-A-Cab. "It seemed kind of modern and trendy and I thought it would be a good name that would go with expanding the business and developing an app."

Lang admits to having big plans. The new cab company should launch soon. He's got one cab painted and decaled and ready to go and he's hired six drivers and plans to add a second cab to his fleet as soon as he can. And, yes, he hopes to build an app for cabbies. He said it will borrow ideas from Uber, which can't legally operate in Upstate, but for licensed and properly insured hacks.

"I miss the cab business," Lang said. "I love driving. I love meeting people, talking with people, knowing people, knowing other business owners. I miss it."

He thinks Batavia is still a wide open market and he's heard from friends and family and former customers who say the cab business in Batavia hasn't been the same since he got out of it. He said he's already lined up several transportation contracts, so he'll get off to a good start.

But he knows to keep it going, he's got to stay clean, and that means not associating with the people he did back when he was hooked on narcotics.

"I don’t talk to anybody who is involved in selling drugs or using drugs," Lang said. "I stay away from all of that now. I’ve got a lot of clean time now and I just want to do good. I know I have the potential to do good and I have good ideas. I learned a big lesson from everything."

If he does good, he thinks both his example, the money he earns and the business he's able to build, will enable him to be in a position to help other addicts.

He's gone from a guy who thought drugs were just a recreational activity that only losers couldn't handle to somebody who now understands drugs can grab ahold of anybody and change their lives in horrible ways.  

"I met people who have been using drugs since their teenage years and they don’t have any faith that there is any better life out there," Lang said. "They just keep relapsing and they just think there is nothing better. I want to prove to people that you can pull it together.

"I know people just look at addicts like scum of the earth," Lang added. "They're really not. There are a lot of really great people I’ve met in rehabs. A lot of people I met in prison, even though they may keep relapsing, going back to it, they don’t want that life. They don't want to be shoplifting and they don’t want to be committing whatever crimes they’re doing. They just have a really bad addiction that keeps leading them back to that."

He'd like to start a program for people who need a hand up, out of addiction.

"I'd like to help people who don't have entrepreneurial skills because nobody is going to give them a fair shot," Lang said. "There’s not a hot of help out there for people like that. Maybe I can help them with some other business venture, or help guys that need employment and need guidance and help them out because there's nobody who cares about them."

August 30, 2016 - 2:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, byron, news.

Robert James Moulthrop, 48, Mechanic Street, Byron, is charged with: driving with a BAC of .08 percent or higher; DWI; aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd; and unlawful operation of an ATV on a public highway. At 8:18 p.m. on Aug. 27, the defendant was arrested on Byron Holley Road in Byron for allegedly driving while intoxicated. The arrest came after an investigation into a traffic offenses complaint of a dirt bike racing up and down Route 237 in the Town of Byron. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Ryan DeLong, assisted by Deputy Chad Cummings.

Corey D. Wilson, 20, of Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. At 2 a.m. on Aug. 28, Batavia police conducted a traffic stop on Oak Street for a speed violation. A vehicle search was conducted and patrols found two male occupants allegedly in possession of two bags of marijuana. Wilson was issued an appearance ticket and he was also cited for the speed violation. Wilson is due in City Court on Sept. 13. The case was investigated by Batavia PoliceOfficer Arick Perkins, assisted by Officer Mitchell Cowen.

Maliq N. Douglas, 19, of New Jersey Avenue, Brooklyn, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Douglas was arrested at 2 a.m. on Aug. 28 on Oak Street in Batavia following a traffic stop. A vehicle search was conducted and patrols found two male occupants allegedly in possession of two bags of marijuana. Douglas was processed and released with an appearance ticket to City Court on Sept. 13. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen, assisted by Officer Arick Perkins.

August 29, 2016 - 8:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, business, batavia, news.


About 3,900 pairs of shoes are rolling down a highway tonight in the back of a semi-trailer bound for Louisiana.

The shoes are being donated to flood victims in the Baton Rouge area by p.w. minor.

CEO Pete Zeliff said he decided to make the donation just as a way to give back.

"Nothing more than that," he said.

"We partnered with a program called Soles for Souls through the National Shoe Retailers Association," Zeliff said. "They paid to send the truck and pay the freight and we specified that they go to Louisiana."

Most of the shoes on the 27 pallets loaded onto the truck this afternoon were manufactured in China and were being sold as closeouts, but Zeliff said he decided it would be better to donate them to flood victims.

Over the past several months, p.w. minor has moved production out of China with the goal of making all of the company's shoes in Batavia.

"We'll be making 500 pair a day by the end of this year and 1,000 pair a day by next August," Zeliff said.

Much of the ramp-up in production is made possible by a bevy of new machines that automate much of the shoe production process.

Zeliff said with a robot and another automated machine in place, the plant is already 20-percent automated. Nine more machines arrived within the past week and are being put into service.

The jobs of one of the machines in production can perform is to rough up the leather on the shoe so the glue binds better when the sole is attached.

"We went from five minutes to rough a pair of shoes to last week to Denise did a six-pair rack in 40 seconds," Zeliff said.

It's been his goal to move all of the company's shoe production back to Batavia since he and a partner rescued the business just before it was shut down, but the process has taken longer than expected.

"It will take three years from the time we invested in the assets of this company," Zeliff said. "It’s not as quick as I would have liked it to have been, but it’s still a pretty good accomplishment, I feel."

Below, photo provided by Pete Zeliff of his granddaughter, Nicole, with a country star Keith Urban and his band new pair of p.w. minor shoes. Zeliff took his family to see Urban at his show in Camden, N.J.



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