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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 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 - 10:17am

The latest legal challenges to live, amplified music at Frost Ridge Campground in Le Roy have been dismissed by Judge Emilio Colaiacovo, meaning owners David and Greg Lueticke-Archbell will be able to continue their concert series, Jam at the Ridge.

Colaiacovo ruled that the Zoning Board of Appeals acted with appropriate consideration and diligence when deciding live, amplified music was a prior non-conforming use and that there was no substantive violation of the state's open meetings law when it reached that decision in February.

Attorneys for David and Amy Cleere and Scott and Betsy Collins challenged the ZBA's decision on both of those counts.

The decision seemingly concludes two years of legal fights initiated by the Cleeres and Collins and initially backed by the Town of Le Roy.

The plaintiffs maintained all along that Frost Ridge violated the town's zoning laws, because it is in an agricultural-residential district, by hosting music concerts at the campground.

The owners and their supporters countered that both live music and amplified music had been part of the operations of the campground since the 1960s, which means those uses were grandfathered in, or prior, non-conforming uses, before the R-A district was created.

The ZBA met at least twice prior to the lawsuits being filed and sided with David and Greg Lueticke-Archbell, but Judge Robert C. Noonan, who retired earlier this year, ruled that the ZBA meetings where these decisions were made were not properly noticed (a violation of the state's open meetings law), so he ordered the ZBA to hold a new public hearing.

The town board then tried to disband the ZBA -- which at the time was a joint board of the town and the village -- but Noonan barred dissolution of the ZBA until after it conducted a new hearing and issued a decision. 

The ZBA met in December and collected documents and testimony at the time, but never publicly deliberated the issue and issued its decision without a public vote in February. 

Colaiacovo ruled that even if these actions were a technical violation of the open meeting law, the record is clear that the ZBA members had ample information about the issue without the need for public deliberation and there was no evidence presented that the matter was discussed in a closed meeting by the board. 

"The Court finds that the alleged failure to vote on its decision in public is a de minimis technical violation that, in light of the exhaustive record and consistency of the ZBA's determination that there exists a prior, non-conforming use, injunctive relief is not warranted," Colaiacovo wrote in his decision.

Colaiacovo said it was not the court's place, based on case law, to decide whether the ZBA reached the correct decision, only that the decision was reasonable and not arbitrary and capricious.

The mere fact that the plaintiffs disagree with the decision is not evidence that it is arbitrary and capricious, he said.

Courts must be careful, according to case law, not to overturn local decisions that are based on substantial evidence and are rational, he said.

The record shows the ZBA had a substantial amount of testimony and evidence to consider that seemed to back the conclusion of a prior, non-conforming use, he said. 

"The ZBA held that these activities occurred to varying degrees prior to the adoption of the Town Zoning Code," Colaiacovo wrote. "The ZBA referenced Mr. (Eugene) Sinclair's testimony, which established that the defendants' actions were 'consistent with the essential character of the property as a prior, non-conforming use.' Accordingly, the ZBA, after exhausting its reasons for its determination, found that the use of the property as a campground, which permitted live and recorded music, limited food service, and allowed the use of recreational vehicles, was a prior, non-conforming use as permitted by the Town of Le Roy Zoning Code.

"Based on the foregoing," he continued, "the Court finds that the determination of the ZBA is based on substantial evidence that was made part of an extensive record. As such, because the ZBA had a rational basis to reach its decision, this Court will not disturb it."

He added, "Nothing in the record demonstrates that the ZBA reached its determination haphazardly."

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 - 2:50pm

Submitted photo.

Press release:

Linda Doll, pictured left, a staff member with Catholic Charities Home Visitation Program in Genesee County, is retiring after six years of dedication to older adults and volunteers. Doll will be missed, especially for the energy, organization and compassion she brought to the program, the people and the volunteers.

The Home Visitation Program, made possible through a grant from the Muriel H. Marshall Fund for the Aging, provides weekly visits to homebound older adults in Genesee County who are 60 years of age or older with a limited ability to get out of their homes. Goals of the visits are to bring a sense of social connectivity and friendship to both the program member and volunteers.

Program volunteers make a weekly visit to the home of an older adult, stay connected with the client's loved ones and help participate in hobbies and crafts. Volunteers often find a rich sense of fulfillment with the knowledge they are reaching out to someone in friendship.

Doll, who is retiring and moving closer to family members, said, “This is the only job I’ve had that I absolutely love! I love hearing the stories our clients have about their lives. It’s such a great feeling to see the happiness in the face of our clients when we match them up with a visitor who really cares about them. There are so many lonely seniors in our county and this program is so worthwhile.”

Indicative of her caring approach was a recent incident that played out the day before Linda was to go on vacation: A volunteer called to say that the senior she visits wasn’t answering her phone. Staff was concerned about the extreme heat of the recent days so Doll quickly said, “I’ll go check on her.” She was about to call 9-1-1 when the door opened. The elderly member was OK but her phone was out of order and, after calling the phone company, it appeared her phone wasn’t working. Because the senior had no one else locally to rely on, Linda went out, purchased a new phone and waited to be sure it was working before returning to complete her own work. 

Doll also praised the volunteers, “We have such wonderful volunteers who give their time and friendship.”

She expressed appreciation for the community partners with whom she has worked. 

“I’ve also enjoyed, and been so grateful for, the opportunity to work with staff at the Office of the Aging, VA Home Based Primary Care Unit, Lifespan, Sage, Handyman and RSVP programs.”  

Home Visitation services are provided free to older adults, along with linkage and referrals to agencies that offer other services. The program has a flexible visitation schedule and all volunteers are screened, trained and supervised. The program also is available in Orleans County.

For more information, to express interest in receiving visits or to learn more about becoming a volunteer in Genesee or Orleans counties, please call (585) 343-0614.

Services for all ages, including individual and family counseling and emergency assistance, are provided in Genesee County at 25 Liberty St., Suite 7, in Batavia. 

As the most comprehensive human service provider in Western New York, Catholic Charities served nearly 132,000 people in need in 2015. For 93 years, Catholic Charities has been making a difference for people of every faith and ethnicity in Western New York. Catholic Charities empowers individuals, children and families to achieve meaningful, healthy and productive lives. Catholic Charities is an excellent steward of the contributions that it receives, attaining the highest rating (four stars) from Charity Navigator and the 2015 Torch Award for Philanthropic Excellence from the Better Business Bureau Foundation of Upstate New York. The agency also receives highest rating from the Council on Accreditation for quality service.

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.


August 27, 2016 - 3:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in business.

lisafickel2016.jpgAAA Western and Central New York (AAA WCNY) is proud to announce that Lisa Fickel, a native of Batavia, has been promoted to travel manager of the Greece Travel and Insurance Center located on West Ridge Road in Greece. She will manage the current agent salesforce with a focus on customer service, business development and community involvement.

Fickel’s career with AAA began in 1990. She has held several managerial positions within the Club.

She graduated from Genesee Community College with an associate degree in Travel & Tourism/Business Management. She has been employed in the travel industry since 1982. Ficke'’s favorite part of her job is helping employees grow professionally and personally; and making customers' dreams come true.

Fickel is very active in the Batavia and Rochester communities and plays an integral role with many area organizations.

AAA WCNY’s Greece location can be found at 3160 W. Ridge Road. Call 585-227-9600 to make an appointment with a travel consultant or stop in to plan a trip! Visit for more information.

As Upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 860,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at or download our mobile app at

August 25, 2016 - 10:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, agriculture, business, batavia.


Rep. Chris Collins hosted members of his Agriculture Advisory Committee -- local farmers and people involved in the local ag industry -- at Genesee Community College yesterday for a briefing on issues at the federal level affecting agriculture.

Collins noted that while he's not on the Ag Committee in Congress, he is on a committee with key oversight of a number of issues that affect agriculture.

"I am on Energy and Commerce, a more powerful committee, with oversight over the EPA and FDA," Collins said. "It’s certainly a good place to be."

Collins also addressed the issue of immigration, an important issue to farmers who, in recent years, have struggled to fill their farm labor force.

The NY-27th's representative is one of the few members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president and until this past week, Trump was calling for the deportation of 11 million immigrants who may have entered the country illegally. In the past week, Trump modified his position and is no longer promising to deport migrant workers living in the United States peacefully. 

Collins said the shift reflects Trump growing into the job of presidential candidate and one who is open to discussion.

"We will secure the borders and make sure the workforce that many of you have do have legal work papers and can figure out visas and other things that might ensure you’re not short of help," Collins said. "I think that’s a positive."



Mark Zittel, from Erie County, who brought samples of some of the produce he grows.


Collins staff member Jeff Freeland.

August 25, 2016 - 9:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Clean Cut Barbershop, batavia, business.


Joey Williams and Marcell Taylor, friends from Albion, started talking about opening a business together six years ago, when Williams was still in high school.

A few weeks ago, it all finally came together when they opened Clean Cut Barbershop at 466 Ellicott St., Batavia.

"The most ironic part is he's actually the one who got me into barbering," Williams said. "I used to do it as a hobby and he told me, 'dude, I think you can get pretty serious about this. Let's go check out a school.'

"Once you start cutting a couple of people in the neighborhood, the kids started talking and the word gets around," Williams added. "I didn’t really take it serious at first and then I graduated high school and that’s when he was like, let’s get a move on things."

Williams started barbering school and Taylor, who had completed his training in cosmetology at Continental School of Beauty in Batavia, honed his craft working in the basement of his mother's house.

After a couple of years, Taylor was ready to open a shop, but Williams wasn't quite there yet, so Taylor went ahead and opened up on his own in Albion. The process was on-the-job training for starting and running a business, so after Williams apprenticed in Brockport for a couple of years, he told Williams it was time to get going on their plans. 

It was up to Williams to find the location.

"I told him as long as you can do some quality cuts and get some good barbers in here, I can take care of the paperwork and everything," said Taylor, who describes himself as as "an entrepreneur by day and by night," and he's also a partner in Taylor and Taylor Consulting, an accounting firm.

They picked Batavia because it's a big enough city that is centrally located and they think there is open space for a barbershop that offers modern haircuts.

They also want to grow a business that has an impact on the local community. Their shop is more than a barbershop. They have a pool table and are planning to bring in TVs with video games where they can host Madden tournaments and perhaps erect a basketball hoop in the parking lot.

"It’s all just a way to bring kids together and kind of get away from all the negativity that is out there," Williams said. "We want to offer different activities that help kids stay out of trouble. We both come from a background where it was a struggle to find programs for youth and we see a need out there."

Taylor said they hope they can be a positive influence that shows kids they can accomplish things in life.

"We want to help the youth out there know that there is a future out there beyond what maybe they know right now," Taylor said.

August 25, 2016 - 9:01am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, unemployment, economy, business.

Genesee County's unemployment rate last month was at its lowest level for July since 2006, hitting 4.0, lower by sixth-tenths of a percent from July of last year.

In 2006, the rate was 4.0 and the last time it was lower was in 2001, at 3.7 percent. The highest rate over the past decade was 7.5 percent in 2012.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 5.1 percent and for New York State it is 5.0.

In June for Genesee County, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent. June's rate locally is usually the same or lower than July.

The county's labor participation total -- the number of people working or actively looking for work is 30,800. A year ago it was 31,400. The highest level this century was 34,800 in 2008.

The unemployment rate for the GLOW region is 4.5 percent, down from 5.2 percent a year ago.

In the Rochester area, the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. It's 4.9 percent in the Buffalo area.

August 23, 2016 - 1:56pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, sports, news, harness racing, Batavia Downs.

By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

If you have ever attended live harness racing and realized you may be interested in becoming an active participant in America’s oldest organized sport, Batavia Downs is offering a new owner seminar at 3 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 10) in the Robert J. Kane Boardroom, located in the lower grandstand. It is being held in conjunction with the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State.

The program will include a two-and-a-half hour classroom presentation by representatives of the United States Trotting Association (USTA) and the Harness Horse Breeders of New York (HHBNYS) and will include guest trainers, drivers, owners and management from Batavia Downs Racetrack. Topics will include risk and reward, what it costs, choosing your horse, trainer and driver, and time will be allowed for questions and answers throughout the evening.

The package includes:

  • All needed classroom materials;
  • A hands-on tour of the paddock as horses prepare for the night's action;
  • Reserved seating in the clubhouse;
  • Dinner at the prime rib, crab leg and shrimp buffet;
  • A trip to the winner’s circle for a win picture after a race;
  • Membership to the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State;
  • $20 worth of free-play on the gaming floor;
  • and a free one-year subscription to the industry’s award-winning publication, "Hoof Beats Magazine."

The cost is only $30 for a single and $50 for a couple. Reservations should be made in advance but payment will be made at the door. There are several ways to register. There are links on both USTA and Batavia Downs Facebook pages or go to and click Prospective Owners Events. You can also e-mail [email protected] or call 877-800-8782, ext. 5555 or 585-343-375, ext. 6322.

This is your opportunity to own your own sports franchise and go from the grandstand to the winner’s circle with your winning horse. Purses have never been higher at many tracks in North America and there has never been a better time to get involved in all the fun and excitement of harness racing ownership than right now.

August 22, 2016 - 4:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in michael ranzenhofer, STAMP, business, GCEDC.

Press release:

Empire State Development has approved $46 million in state funding for the WNY STAMP Project. Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has issued the following statement:

“I laud the Genesee County Economic Development Center and Empire State Development for their most recent actions to bring the WNY STAMP Project to fruition. The unanimous approval of $46 million in state funding paves the way for construction to begin in the fall.

"In 2015, I spearheaded the effort to secure $33 million for the project, and I am pleased that it will soon reach its final destination, the largest economic development project ever in Genesee County. The project is a game changer for our region. Now, we are one step closer to creating at least 600 new, full-time jobs for residents of Genesee County.”

August 22, 2016 - 12:47pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, GCC, BEST Center.

Photo provided by GCC of Jennifer Wakefield, left, and Justine Briggs.

Press release:

The GCC Business and Employee Skills Training (BEST) Center recently welcomed two new staff members to its team with the addition of Justine Briggs and Jennifer Wakefield in the roles of business training specialist and program coordinator, respectively. Briggs and Wakefield both began their new roles with the College on July 25.

"The BEST Center is extremely pleased to welcome both Jennifer and Justine," said Reid Smalley, executive director of workforce development and The BEST Center. "Both individuals bring outstanding professional credentials to our team, including new program development and training design experiences, and creative and innovative ideas to further expand our presence in the GLOW area."

Briggs, a Batavia native, graduated with both a bachelor's and master's degree in English from St. Bonaventure University. Her work experience includes multiple roles at Paychex in Rochester since 2012, including human resources online advisor and online services trainer. Among her many duties, Briggs was charged with researching and gathering information to implement new training processes across multiple products and designing and scheduling training sessions and webinars to new, existing and perspective clients. These skills will readily transfer to her new role with the BEST Center.

In her spare time, Briggs enjoys outdoor activities such as biking, swimming, hiking and running, and she also enjoys spending time with her family, which is about to grow. Happily married to her husband, Brennan, for two years, the couple is expecting their first child at the end of September. Briggs currently resides in Batavia.

Wakefield moved to Western New York in 2001 when her husband, veterinarian Tom Wakefield, became a partner at the Perry Veterinary Clinic. Originally from Ohio, she graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in International Studies and a minor in Spanish. Prior to joining The BEST Center, Wakefield taught Spanish at Holy Family Catholic School in Le Roy and at Genesee Wyoming Catholic School in Attica. Most recently, she worked at the Geneseo Migrant Center through Genesee Valley Educational Partnership in Leicester as a family educator and as a Spanish speaking outreach worker.

Wakefield has three children, twin boys, Tanner and Quentin, who are both sophomores at The University at Buffalo, and a daughter, Meryl, who is a junior at Warsaw High School. Her personal interests include watching Ohio State football games, watching her daughter's soccer games, running, cross-country skiing, cooking and increasing the stamps on her passport. She currently resides in Warsaw.

The BEST Center at GCC is the recognized regional leader in developing the skilled workforce that powers local economic growth. The Center serves individual employees as well as businesses large and small with seminars, workshops and trainings designed to improve the performance of people and processes. For more information, visit www.bestcenter.og

August 19, 2016 - 1:50pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, business.

During the last week of September, a Bovine Reproduction & Artificial Insemination Training Course in collaboration of Genex Cooperative, Inc., will be offered IN SPANISH at HY-Hope Farms in Stafford.

(The English version of this two-day class will be offered in Shortsville on Sept. 26-27 at Willow Bend Farm.)

The Stafford course on Sept. 29-30 is an excellent opportunity for Spanish-speaking farmers and employees who are interested in learning the important points of artificial insemination. It runs both days from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. HY-Hope Farms is located at 5908 Horseshoe Lake Road.

Jonna Egli and Abraham Cohen of Genex will be teaching the class. While the course will offer as much hands-on practice as possible, it's important to note that it is a beginner's course meant to teach the basics of artificial insemination. Participants should expect to practice inseminating cows on a regular basis in order to become proficient.

Cost is $175 for those enrolled in NWNY Team, others pay $225. Cost includes classroom material and lunch both days

Register today at or by calling Zachary Amey at 585-786-2251. Contact Libby Eiholzer (607-793-4847) with any questions.

August 18, 2016 - 5:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Joshua Dent, business, batavia, news.


Joshua Dent, after a decade with Merrill Lynch, has joined the ranks of small business owners in Genesee County, becoming an independent investment advisor with an office in the First Choice Travel building at 3080 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

"A big reason for the move is it changes my role from working for somebody else like I have for 13 years now (he was with Edward Jones before Merrill Lynch) and I'm a small business owner just like a lot of my clients," Dent said.

As his own boss, Dent said he can offer more services to his clients, set his own fee structure and take on clients with smaller investments that larger agencies tend to avoid. He thinks that model, with all the small business people in Batavia, is a much better fit for the local community.

Dent has developed strong community ties since joining Merrill Lynch's branch in Batavia. He worked with his colleagues there organizing the GLOW Corporate Cup and serves on the board of the YMCA.

Eventually, he'll develop a new brand name for his firm, but he'll affiliate with Raymond James, to access that financial services firm's technology and resources; day-to-day operations and decisions will be entirely his own.

"I like having the ability to determine the clients I work with and the pricing of their assets under management," Dent said. "It offers a lot more flexibility. When you're the one who owns the business, you get to make those decisions and price things more appropriately. Sometimes with clients at other firms, you have to have high minimum fees or high minimum account values. Those things kind of go away when I'm calling the shots."

Dent's new office number is (585) 418-4163.

August 17, 2016 - 5:01pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in business, Announcements, darien center, inns, hotels, news.



When he was a 16-year-old dishwasher at a local restaurant, the chef he worked under got too busy to handle all the orders and enlisted his help. That moment was to become a defining turning point in Dave Hamer's career in the food industry.

After he graduated high school, he continued on at the restaurant. About a year after that, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in New Haven, Conn. – what he likes to affectionately refer to as akin to “becoming a chef at Yale.”

Not only did the institute expand to a location in New York – High Park – after stints in the states of Alaska, Florida, Tennessee and a few others, Hamer and his wife, Carolyn, returned to their home state of New York. More specifically, they returned to Wyoming County to plant their roots in a new business located at 1961 Church Road, Darien Center.

River Spring Lodge, a premier boutique hotel, nestled on 20 tranquil acres overlooking a private pond, provides luxurious guest rooms that include a three-course breakfast. The inn offers five beautifully appointed king (bed) rooms and two queen rooms that are smart, modern, comfortable and luxurious.

“As a New York native and a former resident of Wyoming County, opening a lodge here is like coming home again,” Hamer said. “My wife, Carolyn, and I are excited to be in Western New York (WNY). We love the quiet, secluded location that is only 30 miles from Buffalo and an hour from Rochester.” 

The couple owns the country estate. They are two of the most highly regarded professionals in the boutique lodging industry and have served discriminating clients from all over the world at Orvis-endorsed hospitality businesses, a company which is touted to be the “purveyor of the Distinctive Country Lifestyle,” as stated on its website

The Hamers have worked at some really nice places, such as the Monhegan Island Inn, in Monhegan, Maine. The Inn, 10 miles off the coast of Maine, sits atop a bluff looking west over Monhegan Harbor toward the Atlantic Ocean; Kennicott Glacier Lodge, Kennicott, Alaska. Built in 1987, the Kennicott Glacier Lodge is a replica of one of the historic mining buildings from the copper mining boom town days. The Timbers at Chama, in Chama, N.M., is a 400-acre ranch originally built as an executive retreat and it's constructed from century-old bridge timbers. Elk hunting is the main attraction. And Pheasant Crest Lodge, Kimball, S.D., is part of a family-owned farm and ranch, the hunting lodge is set upon one of the ranch’s highest hills.

In addition to his employment at hunting lodges, Dave has also worked at a few "high-end” country clubs in Florida and Tennessee and performs ministry work through speaking engagements and travel.

“We started looking for a place in New York about three years ago,” he said. “We lived in Attica years ago and wanted to return here. We returned last winter as the caretaker of the place while getting it ready.”

Dave said he has been “in food” all his life, describing himself as a “career culinary person.” Tutored in classical European cuisine, the chef creates food that is beautiful, generous and exceptional.

There are two dining options at River Spring Lodge. Each Friday and Saturday the Chef's Table serves a remarkable five-course dining experience, with or without chef chosen wine pairings. The Bistro at River Spring Lodge will serve a four-course, country gourmet dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Bistro serves hearty cuisine that includes walleye, beef, chicken, venison and pheasant. The menu also includes gluten free, vegan, dairy free and vegetarian options. 

The Chef’s Table not only offers a truly memorable five-course dinner, but also panoramic wooded and water views, a beautiful chandelier, a flickering fire, and lovely table linens. The sophisticated china and crystal stemware add ambiance to an authentic fine-dining experience. Chef chosen wine pairings are offered nightly. Bottles of wine can also be chosen from the River Spring Lodge cellar.

The Bistro at River Spring Lodge offers gourmet country dining at private tables in a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere. Tables are limited and reservations are required.

This upscale inn is a full-service hotel and corporate retreat hidden on 20 quiet, wooded acres. It is located just 30 minutes from BUF Buffalo/Niagara International Airport and less than one hour from ROC Greater Rochester International Airport. The bedrooms are beautifully appointed, each with a private bathroom with heated ceramic floors, double vessel sinks, bathtubs and large European shower rooms. This boutique hotel -- not far from Niagara Falls, and close to Letchworth State Park -- is in an ideal location to explore the natural wonders of the county and all of WNY.

A fully equipped conference room is available for meetings and conferences. A variety of beverage package options are available for private events. A lobby with a baby grand piano and comfortable leather furniture provides the perfect place to host a wine tasting or cocktail reception or to mingle with other guests, read a book or to just relax while enjoying a glass of wine before dinner.

While the Hamers' goal at the lodge is for it to become a premiere destination for couples and corporate gatherings, the couple is also involved in ministerial work.

“From time to time we’d like to host meetings and leadership training and spend time in fellowship with pastors and their spouses. But our primary business is creating a destination for couple to escape to, and companies to see us as a corporate retreat.”

Not only is the setting central to larger cities, it’s far enough away to be an “escape” from the daily grind, but close enough to be affordable.

“We will be expanding in March by building state-of-the-art conference and corporate rooms that will be fully equipped to be able to accommodate daytime business meetings and the like for those who can do without extended travel. Our lodge complements the other retreats in the area and we look forward to working together with others.

“The friendliness of the people in the county, not just the business folks, has been wonderful. When working on establishing the business, the county folks were nothing but helpful, friendly, warm... I kind of forgotten how friendly the people in Western New York are.”

And in keeping with the hometown feel, the company’s motto is: We’re everything exceptional.

At a recent ribbon cutting to celebrate the grand opening of the facility, Wyoming County Chamber President Scott Gardner said, “We are thrilled to welcome River Spring Lodge and Dave and Carolyn Hamer to Wyoming County. They’ve made a tremendous investment in the property and offer a premier location for guests and corporate retreats. River Spring Lodge is a beautiful facility offering unique amenities and high quality accommodations.”

To reserve your place at The Chef’s Table or a table at The Bistro at River Spring Lodge go online at or call (585) 708-4212. Local guests are always welcome for dinner when seats are available. Be sure to take advantage of the Grand Opening room discounts before they expire.











August 17, 2016 - 2:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Main St. Pizza Company, batavia, business, news, downtown.


Ever since he opened Main St. Pizza Company on East Main Street 11 and a half years ago, Vic Marchese has wanted to serve pasta dishes featuring his mom's sauce and meatball recipes, but the small kitchen in the busy and crowded pizza shop just didn't give him room to grow his business that way.

Two months ago, at the end of a three-year planning and building process, Marchese was finally able to expand his restaurant, building a bigger kitchen and adding a new, large (75 seats) and attractive dining area.

And since then, the customers have been pouring in.

"I always knew we would do well because people always liked my mother’s sauce," Marchese said. "She just passed away four years ago. I wish she was here. She would really enjoy this. She would be out here, talking to everybody, and she would be involved here in the kitchen, I know she would."

The expansion helped Marchese fulfill a few dreams -- serving his mom's recipes, bringing Italian dining back to Batavia, double the number of diners his restaurant can serve at one time and providing a more upscale dining experience.

He designed the new dining room himself, with help from his wife and an interior designer who suggested the tabletops and upholstery on the long booth that sits under the custom-made Main Street sign on an interior wall, framed by two racks of wine. The wood and brick ambiance gives the restaurant a classic, urban feel.

"I wanted to build something that was over the top," Marchese said. "I wanted it to be the best restaurant Batavia could have, as good as anything in any big city."

Customers have told him, he said, that they feel like they're in a restaurant in Boston or Montreal when they're in his new dining room, or with the big meals, friendly atmosphere and good food, they feel like they're home. Both compliments apply.

"The best compliment anyone has ever said, people just thanked me for building this for them," Marchese said. "That says a lot right there. Food aside, pizza aside, spaghetti aside, people say the building is for them."

The homespun atmosphere is accentuated by a wall of photographs of local scenes, alongside shots of the family dog, Winston, and a couple of the restaurant's dishes. The local photographs are the work of Batavia residents Mark Gutman and Howard Owens.

Marchese is particularly proud of the 16-foot front window that opens easily when the weather is good, giving diners not just a view of downtown life on the sidewalk, but an open-air cafe feel, much like any big city bistro.  

Main St. now takes reservations, and that's not a bad idea on most nights, and tables by the window are the most requested by those callers making reservations.

While mom's sauce and meatballs anchor the new dining room's menu, much of the culinary creativity comes from Main St.'s new executive chef, Jason Ball, a native of Batavia who got his culinary degree from Erie County Community College and has been a sous chef and executive chef at several restaurants and hotels in the region. He was most recently sous chef at Orazio's in Clarence, where he was part of a team that won four Taste of Buffalo awards. He spent about 10 years at Orazio's with a break in the middle to be executive chef at Byrncliff in Varysburg.

Ball started hearing talk more than a year ago that Marchese wanted to meet with him and discuss an executive chef position and Ball's first reaction, he said, was "executive chef in a pizza shop? No way," but then once he sat down Marchese and understood his vision, he said he was sold on the idea.

"This is something special right here," Ball said. "I've long wanted to come back to my hometown and do something special and this is it. This is great. We said it would be great and we're doing it."

In preparing for the job, Ball took a family vacation in New York City and visited the bistros of Little Italy. He said he absorbed ideas and atmosphere, and during their planning, Marchese took Ball to Tony B's in Rochester and Marchese had a steak there and told Ball he'd like to include a steak on the menu for the new dining room.

Ball found a cut of Angus filet mignon that costs $20 per cut, which means it's $38 on the Main St. menu, but Ball described it as an amazing cut of meat, and since customers keep ordering at that price, it must be pretty good. Ball said the goal was to offer the best cut of steak in Batavia.

Marchese and Ball want everything to be first-rate, he said, so they only get the best ingredients, including cheese from Yancey's Fancy (for dessert, homemade ice cream from Oliver's Candies, to continue that local theme). 

Ball has the freedom to offer unique and creative specials every night, including some really special specials on weekends, such as this past weekend when the menu included an ahi tuna steak with vegetables and a jasmine rice.

The appetizers include the Winstonator (named after the Marchese family pet), which is comprised of two 10-ounce meatballs in mom's sauce with cheese, and Ball introduced his own take on Arancini, a Sicilian rice ball with asparagus, ricotta, various cheeses and a roasted tomato sauce and chive oil. 

It's quickly become one of the most popular items on the menu, Ball said.

"We want customers to have a great experience," Ball said. "I believe sitting down and enjoying a meal is an experience. Anybody at home can cook spaghetti and meatballs, but here we want it to be an experience. We want to it to be a top-notch-level service, an amazing atmosphere and great food like this town has never seen before. We’ve set our standards very high."

Marchese said he hopes people feel like they've had a real Italian dining experience after a meal at Main St., and not just because they had a pasta dish or a meatball.

"When you go to an Italian family’s house, you always eat well and you never leave hungry," Marchese said. "That’s what I want to emulate here. Our portions are always huge. I don’t want anybody to go away hungry. So far, it’s been good. People are leaving with doggie bags and I like that."


Jason Ball









August 17, 2016 - 10:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Gateway I, batavia.

Plans for a new 62-room hotel in the Gateway I Corporate Park off Route 98, north of the Thruway, continue to move through the approval process without a hitch.

Last night, the Town of Batavia Planning Board approved an environmental review assessment and the previous evening the Zoning Board of Appeals approved variances for the height of the building and signage. 

The proposed Fairfield Inn will be the second hotel built in the Gateway development within the past five years. In 2011, local hotel owners objected to the planned Holiday Inn Express in the park, but it was approved and built.

The Fairfield Inn will be owned by the Patel family from Erie, Pa., a family that already owns hotels in Batavia.

An attorney for Oakfield Hospitality, LLC, said the owners have marketing studies that show there is still a growing need for hotel rooms in the Batavia market.

The hotel needed a height variance because it will be four stories tall instead of three stories. There is also a plan for a free-standing sign of 147 square feet.

The project must still undergo a site plan review before final approval. The developers are also waiting for the DOT to approve a traffic study.

If there are no delays in the approval process, construction could begin within two months.

August 15, 2016 - 1:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, business, Announcements, Tompkins Bank of Castile.

Press release:

Proving that a minute can matter, Tompkins Bank of Castile is kicking off the "Community Minute Challenge," a contest that invites participants to vote on the bank’s Facebook page and rewards local not-for-profits with a total of $10,000 in much-needed funds.

The first round will begin Aug. 17 through 31, and the public is invited to watch one-minute videos produced by participating nonprofits in Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Monroe and Orleans counties, and then vote for their favorite. Each video explains how the non-profit will use the awarded funds. The contest will run in four different quarters and will award $2,500 to each quarterly winner.

Competing in this round are: Going to the Dogs Rescue in Wyoming County, Community Action of Genesee and Orleans County, United Way of Genesee County’s Backpack Program, Mary Cariola Children’s Center of Rochester, GO ART!, and Sweet Adelines Chorus of Rochester.

To show support, participants should “like” Tompkins Bank of Castile’s Facebook page (, click on the Community Minute Challenge app and then select their favorite nonprofit. Each individual can vote once per day during the contest period.

August 13, 2016 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Arc of Genesee Orleans, business.

The Arc of Genesee Orleans is seeking the public's input in a survey on its services.

The agency is the result of a merger between Genesee ARC and Arc of Orleans County.

Executive Director Donna Saskowski said the agency is looking for information that will help it better serve the community. 

"Arc of Genesee Orleans is planning for the future and we are requesting your valuable input," Saskowski said. "As we determine our strategic priorities for the next three to five years, we want to know your thoughts to help us make the best decisions about our future and how we can best support the individuals we serve and our communities in the years to come."

Here is a link to the survey, which will be available until Aug. 19:


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