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March 9, 2013 - 1:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Oakfield, GCEDC, pembroke, Darien, bergen.

Reed Batavia Properties, LLC, 39 Washington Ave., Batavia, has been approved for $140,861 in tax incentives for upgrades to its building. Reed purchased the building from Batavia City Schools. The 13,452-square-foot building is the former administration building. Reed will renovate the building for medical/office use. Genesee County is currently designated a Health Professional Shortage Area. The assessed value is $475,000. The property was formerly tax exempted and will become taxable at the current assessed value. Reed will receive a tax abatement PILOT on the increase in assessed value over the current assessed value, which is an anticipated tax savings for Reed of $76,361. Reed will also receive sales tax exemption on construction materials, furniture and fixtures of $52,000 along with a mortgage tax exemption of $12,500. Reed is investing $1.5 million in the project and expected to create six new jobs.

Yancey's Fancy, Inc./D&Y Cheeses, Inc., 857 Main Road, Pembroke, is planning a $10.2 million expansion. GCEDC has approved $980,000 in incentives. The expansion will increase capacity and create new flavors and cheese types. All packaging will be performed at the facility. The company will also build new offices. The current facility is 29,000 square feet. The expansion is 65,000 square feet plus a 25,000-square foot expansion of the second floor. The sales tax exemption is $320,000 with a mortgage tax exemption of $112,500 and PILOT of $547,533. Yancey's Fancy has pledged 50 new jobs within three years.

Darien Lake Theme Park, is investing $5.2 million in new rides and upgrades to the park and accommodations. The company will receive a $328,939 incentive package through GCEDC. The project includes construction of new cabins, a new "launch ride," and a laser light attraction. The upgrades are expected to take three years to complete. GCEDC has approved a sales tax exemption of $181,600 and a PILOT of $147,339. Darien Lake provides more 400 full-time equivalent jobs, including 2,000 seasonal workers. The expansion is expected to create six new jobs and retain 422 FTEs.

Fontrick Door, Inc., 9 Apollo Drive, Batavia, is expanding through acquisition of the building at 1 Treadeasy Ave., Batavia. Frontrick Door is investing $500,000 to purchase the $31,919-square-foot building, where it plans to develop a window manufacturing location in 2014. GCEDC has authorized a mortgage tax exemption of $6,250. 

Bonduelle is planning to make a $3.2 million capital investment in its plants in Oakfield, Bergen and Brockport. This is mainly a retention project to upgrade facilities, according to GCEDC. The majority of the investment will be made at the Oakfield plant, where a lima bean line will be installed. Bonduelle has secured contracts with farmers for 2,500 acres of lima bean production. The upgrades are expected to lead to 12 new seasonal -- five months -- jobs in Oakfield. Bonduelle is receiving a $250,000 grant for the project. Jobs retained: 305.

March 1, 2013 - 5:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Cedar Street Sales and Rentals.

It's all about relationships, says Guy Clark Jr., owner of Cedar Street Sales and Rentals.

Clark's business turned 20 today, and he said the enterprise has lasted because the people of Genesee County have trusted him and his staff.

"We owe a big thanks to the community," Clark said.

Raised in Stafford, Clark opened his first tool shop in Le Roy in 1985. He described it as an under-capitalized one-man operation, and he struggled, but he also started to gain a good reputation.

As the calendar flipped to 1993, the people at Cummings & Bricker, a Batavia-based wholesaler of farm equipment, approached Clark about opening a rental business on Cedar Street. Cummings and Bricker already owned the property, so they along with Clark and Ricky Palermo joined forces and opened Cedar Street Sales and Rentals March 1, 1993.

After a few years, Cummings and Bricker pulled out because both businesses shared the same peak seasons, Clark said, and that caused a little tension.

Another partner entered the picture for a few years, but seven years ago, Clark became sole owner of the business and has operated it successfully since, despite a recession and increased competition from the likes of Home Depot and Lowe's.

Clark said Home Depot went after the local rental business pretty hard a few years back.

Whatever Clark set as his rental price, Home Depot would offer the same tool for $1 less.

"They were attacking us pretty hard, but then they closed (the rental business) about three years ago," Clark said. "I was thrilled for that. I was proud of that."

Cedar Street has become one of the top Cub Cadet dealers in the nation, but there was a time when Clark didn't sell lawn mowers.

A persistent salesman kept trying to get him to stock a few, until finally, Clark recalled, the salesman said, "Look, let me put six in your store and if they don't sell by fall, I'll take them back, no hard feelings."

Clark added, "That was about 5,000 lawn mowers ago."

Clark was all smiles during the 20th anniversary party at his store today and said he does feel like he's accomplished something getting this far, even if you don't always notice the time sliding by.

"You don't think about it, and I didn't start thinking about it until I started looking at a calendar," Clark said. "Until people start coming in and saying, you've been here a long time, and you think, 'hey, I have been here a long time,' you don't think about it. You just go to work every day and never give it much thought."

The celebration continues Saturday with food, games, prizes and a chance to ride an all electric zero-turn mower from Cub Cadet. Clark said Cedar Street is the only dealership in the United States with the new mower in the store. They will go on sale this spring. The photo above is of Clark riding the mower. Customers who test drive it get a free hat. Food will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

March 1, 2013 - 3:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, business.

Edward Jones Financial Advisor Michael R. Marsh, of Batavia, is hosting a free educational seminar titled "A Woman's Guide to Money Matters" at 9:45 a.m. Saturday, March 2, at 7 Jackson St., in Batavia.

During the upcoming seminar, participants will learn more about:

  • What one can do now to prepare for retirement;
  • One's options to pay for a child's or grandchild's education;
  • Developing a strategy to help achieve one's financial goals.

The seminar is free, but space is limited. To make a reservation, call Robin Ettinger at 345-1773.

February 28, 2013 - 2:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC.

Press Release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) announced that applications to its Food Processing Training Program are available beginning March 4th. The deadline for submitting applications is April 15.

Applications will be available at the Genesee County Career Center, located at 587 E. Main St., Suite 100, Eastown Plaza in Batavia. Applicants will need to complete a Customer Registration Form at the Genesee County Career Center as well as submit an up-to-date resume, and, if required, participate in a math/reading test and a follow-up interview.

“This is a very exciting initiative because it is an integral component of our business operations, creating opportunities for employment for our residents,” said GCEDC Chairman Charlie Cook. “The program also continues our commitment of collaboration among various public and private sector partners throughout the community.”

In addition to receiving a non-credit certificate from the Genesee Community College (GCC), participants will have a permanent record and transcript for successful completion of the program. They will also receive certificates in Lean Systems Six Sigma Yellow Belt (Rochester Institute of Technology), Team Building (GCC), Basic Dairy Science & Sanitation Certificate (Cornell University), and an OSHA Certificate for Safety in a Manufacturing Environment (GCC).

The training program, developed by GCEDC, GCC, RIT and Cornell University, will benefit the area’s existing food-processing companies. It will also prepare a workforce for companies in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The training program is being funded by an Area Development grant obtained by the GCEDC from the National Fuel Gas Corp. with additional financial support from the Finger Lakes Food Cluster Initiative — funded by the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration in the amount of $38,000 or 28 percent of the program. The program is expected to train approximately 120  people while creating a model for future food processing and technology training programs.

“If we are to continue to market and grow the food-processing industry we need skilled and educated workers,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “The investment we make to train and educate our workforce is just as important as the investment we make in bricks, mortar, water, and sewer infrastructure that makes our properties shovel-ready to bring business here.”

February 27, 2013 - 4:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Center Street Smokehouse.

There were two things that brought Scott Paul back to Western New York two decades ago -- the chance to go into business with his brother and the fact that he just had to get away from the long commutes in Washington, D.C.

"He'd had enough of the two-and-half hour drive to work and the three-and-half hour drive home in DC traffic," Cregg Paul said. "He said, 'there's got to be a better way to live your life.' "

Scott packed up his belongings and headed to Batavia to help Cregg restore the former Batavia Times building and open in 1993 the Center Street Smoke House.

Yesterday, Scott Robert Paul died after a short illness. He was 57.

While Cregg has run the day-to-day operations of Center Street, Scott worked behind the scenes, in the back office and handling the marketing materials and menus for the popular restaurant.

Scott was always the creative type, Cregg said. He went to RIT for photography, remained an avid photographer, and was by trade a graphic designer. He was also a musician, loved playing guitar, played in bands and owned several guitars.

Among Scott's heroes was golfer Ben Hogan, and Cregg said Scott shared Hogan's trait for seeking perfection. Scott was also an avid golfer.

One of Center Street's iconic promotional gimmicks brought together Scott's visual sense with his love of music -- a black-and-white sedan, looking much like a police car from the 1970s, that was patterned after the old police cruiser in the movie "The Blues Brothers."

There were restaurants in Florida and Myrtle Beach, S.C., that used a Blues Brothers' car and Scott thought the theme would fit the Smoke House, which often features live music.

The brothers found the perfect sedan for sale on Ebay. It was being stored in a barn in Kansas. They had it shipped to Batavia and a friend converted it into a "bluesmobile."

The car would get strange looks on Batavia's streets, Cregg recalled, but the most memorable incident with the car happened in Rochester.

Scott and Cregg drove it to the big city to pick up some supplies and next thing they knew, a police car was flashing its lights.

Scott pulled over and a police officer approached and asked if he had a permit for the giant bullhorn on the roof.

Of course he didn't.

Cregg recalls the officer saying, "This is what we're going to do. You two guys are going to get out of that car. You're going to go over there and stand on the curb.  Then, me and my partner are going to get into your car and you're going to take our pictures."

Cregg laughs recalling the story. "OK," Cregg said they told the officers. "We're OK with that."

The cops handed over their own Polaroid camera for the brothers to take pictures of them in the car and then of "arresting" them by the car.

Today, Cregg recalled Scott's life at Center Street, which he said Scott loved, and there were no tears, but lots of laughter.

The Auburn native liked to live life the way he wanted to live it, Cregg said.

"If somebody came in and said you should do this and you should do that, he would look at him and tell him don’t tell me what to do," Cregg said. "And that was the way he was. He said, 'I’m going to live my life my way on my terms.' "

And he had his own opinions -- many of them -- and he'd hold fast when he thought he was right.

"To his credit, he didn't compromise on very many things," Cregg said.

"It’s funny," Cregg added, "because T.J. (Woodward, of Gilmartin Funeral Home) asked me, 'was your brother a veteran?' I go 'no, but he did fight a lot of wars.' I said, 'he did win some, he lost some and he signed some peace agreements, but not many.' "

There will be a gathering from 1 to 4 p.m., Friday, at the Center Street Smoke House for close friends and family to honor Scott and remember his life.

February 25, 2013 - 6:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Ellicott Street.

We posted earlier today about plans by the City of Batavia to auction off properties obtained because of unpaid taxes. One of those properties is the former Green Wolf Pub on Ellicott Street.

Potential business opportunity for somebody.

February 24, 2013 - 8:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, terry hills, Bridal Show.

Today was the third annual Bridal Show at Terry Hills. Unfortunately, I got there later in the afternoon and most of the big crowd that had been there when the doors opened had moved on, but organizers said the show was a another big success.  Above, models showing off gowns from Stella's Bridal Boutique in Le Roy.

February 22, 2013 - 11:35am

As part of a project to make the Mancuso Office Building at 26 Harvester Ave., Batavia, handicap accessible, a new elevator is being installed behind the building.

Mancuso Business Development Group President Tom Mancuso said other accessibility upgrades are being made to the building in all the public areas, such as the bathrooms.

The four-story building is split-level, with the first floor not being on grade with either the front or the back of the building, so the elevator is being designed to make five stops.

A new lobby is being installed in the back of the building that will be at grade with the back parking lot.

"It's just (such) a historic, attractive building that we didn't want to make changes to the front of it," Mancuso said.

The elevator should be operational by the end of March.

Mancuso didn't reveal the cost of the project, but indicated it is expensive. The entire project is privately financed, he said.

One of the building's current tenants, Rosicki Rosicki & Associates, is an enthusiastic supporter of working with disabled people, Mancuso said.

Another Mancuso tenant, in the Harvester Center, Larry Brown, is a disabled veteran.

"He's always helping us be aware of and work on our accessibility issues," Mancuso said.

February 21, 2013 - 3:16pm

Today the YNGodess celebrates our 1st anniversary! We've been blessed with over 16,000 customers as we continue to grow. Our wine selection is unique and expanding weekly. We also support New York State wines with pride.

I'd like to thank the community and our friends for welcoming us and showing their support. It's been a beautiful experience getting to know everyone. I can't thank my wonderful staff enough, including my mom and sister, for all their continued hard work and customer service.

We'd also like to thank The Batavian for helping us grow our business over the past year.

Pictured above, from left, the YNGoddesss staff: Sandy Nixon, Theresa Kershner, Jack Kershner, Alisa Dickson. Not pictured: Jill Panipento, Amy Luckenbach, Denise Garrett.

February 18, 2013 - 3:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, agriculture, O-AT-KA Milk Products.

O-AT-KA Milk Products will soon complete a $16 million expansion of its production facility in Batavia, but the potential of the expansion could be hindered, Sen. Charles Schumer said today, if Canada enacts new trade barriers to milk products.

Schumer appeared at the plant today to publicize the issue and encourage U.S. trade negotiators to make fair trade in milk products a priority.

"The $16 million expansion not just to stay status quo," Schumer said. "Their (O-AT-KA) products are in large demand. The market in Canada and the market in the U.S. are very similar. Our tastes are similar, so this is an opportunity to grow and you don’t want to stop it in its tracks. Many of the new products they’re making are booming. Again, a whole new market of 30 million extra people right nearby would be really important."

O-AT-KA employs 300 people locally and at least 16 jobs are expected to be added with the expansion. The expansion will go forward to meet growing U.S. demand for nutritious milk products, company executives said, but there won't be as many new jobs and as much opportunity if Canada cuts imports of U.S. milk products.

"O-AT-KA has been paving a path of innovation for Upstate New York for years," Schumer said. "They've been taking the milk our farmers produce and turning it into new products that consumers demand. Rolling back trade access now could rip the rug out from under O-AT-KA's grand plans."

February 15, 2013 - 4:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Rebel Storm Shelters.

Some people call them storm shelters, others fallout shelters, or bug-out rooms or bunkers.

Nate Fix thinks you should just call them "peace of mind."

Fix is now a distributor of underground shelters built by Kentucky-based Storm Shield.

The shelters come fully assembled, ready to drop right in a big hole in the ground and come in sizes that can handle from four to 21 people in a short-term emergency event.

"The shelters meet all of FEMA's standards," Fix said. "FEMA says the best place to be during a storm is underground."

There have been 20 tornadoes reported in Western New York since 1950, and with changing weather patterns, some people might want to prepare for more.

The shelters may also appeal to people worried about changing political winds.

There's even people, Fix noted, who just might like the shelters as extra storage.

"They make excellent cold food storage units," Fix said.

The shelters are watertight and, unlike concrete or steel shelters, the fiberglass bodies will last a lifetime, Fix said.

He said his company -- Rebel Storm Shelters -- is the only distributor for these units within an 800-mile radius.

Fix has three contractors ready to help residents install the shelters.

February 15, 2013 - 12:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Tim Hens, who owns property neighboring the Wiss Hotel building and is an engineer and history buff, sent along this photo of the "Wiss House" circa 1900, when it was two stories with a wood exterior.

He notes it was a wood-framed building.

Is it possible that the three-story structure there now is the same two-story building with a third-story addition? Most of the frame structures built in the early 1800s were post-and-beam construction with wood siding. Very few remain in our area. It would have been difficult to add a third floor to a post-and-beam constructed building. Was there ever any history of a fire? Possibly they rebuilt on the same site?

Building permits were not required way back when, so the historical record is rather incomplete.

Hens also notes that the facade in the postcard pictures we ran the other day make it look like the facade is stacked stone.

Here's one of those postcards:

Of course, we all know the current facade is red brick.

Hens said it makes no sense to put brick in front of stacked stone and it isn't likely somebody would have removed the stacked stone to put up brick.

Thinking about this, I remembered something I read in the Lynne Belluscio article from 2005.

Hepps added the third story to the old two-story landmark and capped it off with a flat roof. He covered the exterior with metal siding.

In 1927 he replaced the siding with 'tapestry brick" veneer. He added the small one-story store to the east ...

So the Hepps-owned building we see above was probably sided with tin that was pressed to look like stacked stone.

I asked Hens if that was possbile and he said yes, but said such a facade in that era wouldn't not have weathered well.

As for adding the third floor to the wood-framed structure, compare window and door placement. The interesting thing to note is how the east end of the building isn't level with the west end in both pictures. 

However, Hens said a new building, given the slant of Main Street, could have been built the same way.

Personally, it seems to me unlikely that the building of 1900 would be so similar to the building of the 1920s if they were different buildings.

So here's something else to debate: Is the current Wiss the same building as the structure originally built at that location in 1802 (the construction date in an article Hens shared).

On another note, a caller this morning raised the issue that I haven't reported that the Le Roy, NY, LLC, isn't in a position to take immediate ownership of the building even if the village board approved the sale today.

That hasn't been an issue, at least in public statements, for the three trustees blocking the sale, but it's also true.

I confirmed with Bob Fussell this morning that there is a contingency in the LLC's offer that would give the group four months to raise funds sufficient to move forward with the project.

Fussell said he believes people have made sufficient verbal commitments to ensure the funds would be raised well within the time frame, but until the funds are committed, the LLC won't take title to the building.

February 14, 2013 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Louis Buono, top photo;
Chris and Chandy Kemp; Bill Kettle

Even Louis Buono thinks the Wiss Hotel building should be saved.

Buono owns the McDonald's franchise in the Village of Le Roy. Buono is concerned that tearing down the Wiss will hurt the character of the village and do nothing to bring more people downtown.

That outcome would hurt his business.

"I am the last person that wants empty storefronts, that’s for sure," Buono said. "I stare at them regularly and it is frustrating."

When speaking of the Le Roy, NY, LLC, Buono used the word "we" a lot and indicated he is planning to invest in restoration of the Wiss if the LLC can persuade at least one more village trustee to approve the sale of the building.

In all, five people who have never spoken up before on behalf of saving the Wiss spoke at the trustees' meeting Wednesday night.

Even Police Chief Chris Hayward, who never comments at village meetings about anything not directly related to the police department, had something to say.

Hayward doesn't favor apartments for the building -- there are enough apartments in Le Roy, he said -- but he doesn't understand why the LLC group isn't being given a chance to try and save the Wiss.

"When the mayor asked me back in March to stay on and not retire, part of our discussion was about what my motivations were for leaving and what would motivate me to stay," Hayward said. "One of the motivations I talked about for leaving was that in almost 30 years we’ve turned from a community that always worked together to get things done to a community that always looks for reason not to do things.

"Robbins Nest," he added, "we came up with reasons not to do it. The pool. We came up with reasons not to keep it open. I think we need to turn back into that community that looks for reasons to get these things done.  ... I just think we’re coming up with reasons not to do something that might have a positive impact on the community."

Another downtown property owner, Bill Kettle, said he thinks tearing down the Wiss would hurt the value of his own investment.

Kettle owns the buildings at 10 and 12 Main St. He said he's put a lot of money into restoration of those buildings and considers them the bookend -- with the Wiss being the other bookend -- to Main Street.

"My focus and concern with the Wiss is maintaining the character of Le Roy," Kettle said. "I’m very concerned about the Wiss being the fuse that will ignite a larger demolition of Main Street."

Mayor Greg Rogers, later in the meeting, pretty much confirmed what a lot of preservationists fear -- that once the Wiss goes, other buildings will be on the chopping block.

The Wiss property by itself is not big enough to attract a developer for the kind of new commercial construction that attracts investors.

“I’m not going to blow sunshine up your Kool-Aid," Rogers said. "It’s going to take more than one or two. It would take that whole corner. That parcel over there isn’t big enough for basically anything by itself."

Keeping the character of the village is also what brought Chris and Chandy Kemp to Wednesday's meeting.

The professional couple -- he's a math teacher in Rochester, she's an attorney in Buffalo -- moved to Le Roy because they were charmed by the village atmosphere.

Chris Kemp said he and his wife had never heard of Le Roy before a real estate agent drove them into town, heading east into the village on Route 5.

"We came in under the train trestle, and before that it was like, ‘yeah, whatever. It’s like Lancaster. Woopie freakin’ do,' and we came under it and, no lie, it was like the sun came out, the flowers were swaying, people were walking hand-in-hand up some kind of main street, which you can’t get anyplace else," Kemp said.

The village sold itself immediately to the couple and one of the first things they did was visit the Wiss for wings and hockey while a biker gang was hanging out there.

Both Chris and Chandy said that they worry tearing down the Wiss will start exactly the kind of domino effect described by Kettle.

"I don’t want to live in Generica," Chandy said. "I could have built a McMansion in a suburb anywhere in America. I’ve been a lawyer for 20 years. I don’t have to live here, but I want to and this is why: It’s the character. It’s the village. We don’t want to be where there’s some major development on every corner."

Many, many young professionals want to live in communities that are true communities and have character and charm, Chris Kemp said.

"We’re the people you want to have here," Chris said. "We’re the people who pay your taxes. We keep the place running. We’re the people with a little money, a little ambition, a little drive and a little common sense."

Bob Fussell Jr., spoke out, too. Of course, he said, he agrees with his dad, who is heading up the LLC effort.

"I think you would make a big mistake to tear that down," Fussell said. "I don’t want to see a Tim Horton's or some commercialized garbage sitting on that corner.  When I take my daughter on her bike down Main Street, I don’t want to take her by a Tim Horton's. I enjoy main street. I’ve lived here most of my life, and that’s just how I feel."

As the conversation became a little more free flowing, with some back-and-forth between citizens and board members, Chris Kemp and Louis Buono tried to draw out of the three trustees who oppose saving the Wiss just exactly what their thinking is.

Mike Tucci, Robert Taylor and Jim Bonacquisti, have all raised concerns about safety, the viability of saving the Wiss, and for Bonacquisti, the idea that the corner is "screaming out for retail."

Buono countered that once the LLC takes possession of the building, the safety issue is resolved. There is a contractor ready now to shore up the building and even install a fire wall, though it's questionable whether it's needed.

If safety was the issue for the three board members, he said, there would be a scaffolding and yellow tape around the building already.

Getting to the point of tearing down the building will take a lot longer than it would take the LLC to resolve the safety concerns, Buono said.

As for Bonacquisti's suggestion that the corner is "screaming out" for retail, well, Buono said, the LLC's plan includes retail on the first floor.

"It can't be safety," Buono said. "It can't be retail. The LLC takes care of both of those issues."

Kemp turned to asking trustees what they envision for the corner and Tucci said, "grass."

He said, "I see grass and picnic tables."

An idea Chris scoffed at, suggesting it wouldn't be used much with Trigon Park just down the street and Chandy noted a park there wouldn't generate tax revenue.

By the end of the meeting, neither Tucci nor Bonacquisti really answered the question of what their real objections are.

Tucci seemed to reject the idea that taking down the Wiss will lead to more buildings coming down.

"I’m not for demolishing Le Roy," Tucci said.

Taylor said he remains opposed to saving the Wiss because he doesn't believe it can be saved.

In a back and forth with Fussell Sr., Taylor admitted that he's previously said he's not an expert in construction and restoration. Fussell noted that all the experts who have looked at the building say it can be restored.

"It's just my personal opinion," Taylor said, "but I think it's the ugliest building I've ever seen."

Lisa Compton has been at every village meeting on the Wiss and supports the LLC, though she said she can't afford to invest. Just as Taylor hasn't been convinced by anything he's heard, nothing Taylor, Tucci and Bonacquisti have said changes her mind.

"I’m coming at it from a taxpayer," Compton said. "I just haven’t found a good enough reason to drop it. It makes good financial sense. I haven’t been persuaded, kind of like the other board members who are against it. I haven’t heard anything to persuade me yet that it's a bad idea."

Perhaps the most hopeful word for preservationists came at the end of the village board meeting.

Tucci said the idea of the LLC putting in office units upstairs instead of apartments appealed to him. A change in business plans could change his mind.

Taylor said he agreed with Tucci.

February 13, 2013 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Ellicott Street, Freemans Gallery.

Mike and Frank look for rusty gold every week, and Jeff Freeman always thought that looked like a fun way to make a living, so he thought he would give it a try.

Recently, he opened Freemans Gallery at 315 Ellicott St., Batavia, and filled the 4,000-square-foot space with an impressive variety of antiques and collectables.

"I always loved Pawn Stars and American Pickers, so I thought I’d try it out and here we are," Freeman said.

Freeman started picking and selling a year ago and even with the schooling Mike Wolfe provided on Pickers, the actual experience taught him a lot about what people want, what they'll buy and how to avoid getting stuck with seven fake Christmas trees and boxes of broken ornaments.

"We use the Internet quite a bit to find out how much things are valued at and we do a lot of online sales," Freeman said. "That’s how we learned what to pick and we learned what sells and what people are buying. We try to have a range of different stuff so there’s something for everybody."

Freeman's family owns a fabrication shop in Alden, and with times getting tighter, he started looking for an appropriate retail space for his store.

He liked Batavia because there was nothing else in the county that was quite what he had in mind for his store.

A lot of antique dealers make a mistake, he thinks, in pricing things for full retail, so his prices tend to be right for Batavia bargain hunters.

"If I buy something for $20 and it’s valued at $100, I’m not the kind of person who’s going to sit on it until I get $100," Freeman said. "I’ll take $40 and get my money and get out of it. I keep my prices low like that."

Freeman's sister helps with the store and they're both artists, so they've spent a lot of effort seeking out and buying paintings.

Some of his sister's work hangs on the walls along with other local artists. She's also painted some furniture to give old items an artistic flair, often suitable for a child's room.

Freeman said they will take local artists' work on consignment.

They also buy interesting items from people who come into the store or will take collectables on consignment.

The store is open seven days a week.

This is a whale sculpted by Freeman.

February 13, 2013 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

Preservationists in Le Roy still think the former Wiss Hotel building can be saved from the old wrecking ball.

In interviews and conversations this week, Wiss backers said they still don't believe village trustees will want to spend six figures of taxpayer money, creating a vacant lot with an uncertain future and expense, when there is a willing and able buyer ready to step in and rehabilitate the structure.

They hope public pressure over the expenditure -- once the cost is known -- will build, and that more people will come forward both to endorse the Le Roy, NY, LLC, and to express their support for retaining some of the charm of the village.

In fact, according to Bob Fussell, more people may show up at tonight's village board meeting to let trustees know how important the issue is to them.

He said he's heard from at least two such people.

The trustees meet at 7 p.m., and since the Wiss isn't on the agenda, any remarks will come later in the meeting during the public comment time.

Meanwhile, the process of requesting bids from demolition companies was delayed a couple of weeks after village officials learned an asbestos survey was necessary before the village could publish an RFP.

Mayor Greg Rogers said the study was completed -- though he didn't immediately have available the results -- and the RFP has been publicized.

The RFP process will give trustees the truest picture yet of just how much it will cost taxpayers to demolish what is perhaps the oldest commercial building in Le Roy.

Informal estimates have ranged from $150,000 to $250,000.

The Le Roy LLC has offered $10,000 for the building and the promise to shore up the building immediately and raise $400,000 to finance restoration.It's unlikely, according to Fussell, that the building could be torn down any sooner than the LLC could shore it up and begin rehabilitation work, negating any concerns over the building's safety.

"My gut feeling is once the community understands the potential cost to demolish the Wiss, we might get a favorable vote at that point," Fussell said.

Rogers has consistently said he doesn't necessarily back the LLC's plans, but thinks their proposal makes the most business sense for the village.

When trustees see the actual price of demolition, it may persuade one or more of them to change their minds.

"I wouldn't say it's a dead deal," Rogers said.

Trustee Jennifer Keys said she's also optimistic that at least one other board member can be persuaded to support the sale of the Wiss to the LLC.

"I hold out hope that until the building is gone, somebody is going to come forward and say something that is going to resonate with other board members," Keys said.

Meanwhile, she said she feels in an odd position. A Democrat, Keys said she feels like she's to the right of some of her colleagues on the issue.

The three trustees advocating the expense of demolition are either Republicans or Conservatives.

"I'm kind of baffled," Keys said. "I must be missing something. I'm generally seen as the most liberal person on the board and I don't see why we would spend this money and not accept $10,000 for the building."

The trustees who so far been backing spending the money are Robert Taylor, Jim Bonacquisti and Mike Tucci.

We tried to reach each of the three men this week to ask a basic question: Why not give the LLC a chance to see what it can do? What's the harm in letting them try?

Taylor said his biggest concern is the people in the LLC. He doesn't think the building can be saved and the people willing to put their own money in the Wiss will lose their investment.

"It's not a question of giving them a chance," Taylor said. "My firm belief is the building is in a condemned condition and they're just pouring their money into a bottomless pit.

"I grew up in this town," Taylor added. "I've known Bob Fussell since he was 2 years old. I haven't seen the list of people in the LLC, but I've lived here for 70 years, so I assume I know them all. Like I said before, I don't want to see anybody pour money down an empty hole."

Taylor said he has fond memories of going to the Wiss as a boy with his parents.

"I remember it when it was in its quote unquote heyday," Taylor said, "and I know what it looks like now."

He said he has it on good authority that the third floor has been suffering from water damage for 30 years and that beams are soaked with water and won't hold a nail.

"I really believe the building is beyond repair," Taylor said.

He also said, "I don't really care what they build. That's not my concern. I don't want them to spend money needlessly."

Bonacquisti also believes getting the actual cost of demolition will help resolve the issue, but not necessarily in favor of the preservationists.

"Despite the folks coming forward now, I can list three times as many folks that agree with our decision," Bonacquisti said in an interview through Facebook messages.

His position hasn't changed, he said.

"I truly believe that corner is worth a lot more empty than having that old building there," Bonacquisti said. "The traffic flow at that four corners is very high and as I have stated in the past, that corner is screaming for some type of retail where we can generate property tax and add to the employment of folks in this area."

The Wiss with apartments on the second and third floor just isn't a good idea, Bonacquisti. There are already too many apartments in Le Roy, he said, plus he knows the building well (he and his wife once lived within 200 feet of the Wiss) and the odor from vehicles, the noise and high traffic volume makes it an unappealing place to live.

He regrets that the village didn't resolve the issue three years ago (which was before he was on the board).

"I also believe taking that building down can fix that corner once and for all," he said. "Have you ever been on Lake Street in the left-turn lane? Pull up to the stop line, only to have to throw the car in reverse as a truck or bus is coming from the east turning north?"

Tucci did not respond to The Batavian's request for an interview.

Keys said she is still confused by her colleagues' position and thinks the LLC proposal should appeal to conservative politicians.

"It's free enterprise," Keys said. "It's people in the community taking care of an issue. It's a group of people who believe in it so much that they've spent their own money to get this far. It just doesn't make sense economically to spend money unnecessarily, even it's as low as $148,000. We could spend that $148,000 on infrastructure."

History: The Wiss has stood in Le Roy for at least two centuries. The original structure was built by Richard Stoddard. Stoddard died in 1810, so the building had to have been erected prior to 1810, according to an article by Le Roy Historian Lynne Belluscio. The article appeared in the Oct. 3, 2005 edition of the Le Roy PennySaver. John Wiss purchased the building in 1869. The hotel was briefly known as the Michel House after George Michel of Wheatland purchased it in 1904. John Hepps purchased it in the 1920s and renamed it the Wiss Hotel, in honor of the previous owner. Don Pangrazio ran the establishment for 40 years before closing it down in 2005. The county acquired the property in 2010 in tax lien foreclosure and immediately deeded it to the village.

February 11, 2013 - 12:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Darien, darien lake theme park.

The Genesee County Economic Development Center Board of Directors has approved assistance with the following projects:

Darien Lake Theme Park. Darien Lake is planning new cabins and new rides for 2013. The total investment by Darien Lake is $5.2 million and theme park management sought assistance with $1.9 million of the investment. The board approved a PILOT (reduced property tax on the increase in assessed value due to the improvements) worth $147,339 over 10 years. The project will also save $132,000 on sales tax for construction materials. The project is expected to generate six additional full-time equivalent jobs. Darien Lake employees more than 400 FTEs.

Reed Batavia Properties, LLC. Reed is in the process of purchasing the former Batavia City Schools administration building at 39 Washington Ave., Batavia. The company is planning $1.525 million in improvements to the building, converting it to medical offices. The GCEDC board approved a $76,361 PILOT, $52,000 in sales tax exemption, and a $12,500 mortgage tax exemption. The project is expected to generate six new jobs.

Batavia Hospitality, Inc. (Days Inn / Super 8). The company is planning on investing $530,000 in building improvements, including a new pitched roof, exterior facelift and interior upgrades. GCEDC's board approved a PILOT worth $54,198 over 10 years and sales tax exemption of $28,000. The project is expected to create five new jobs and help retain 16 jobs.

February 6, 2013 - 4:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy.

Casino's has been a Le Roy staple since 1940.

That is the year the O'Geen brothers opened the restaurant.

Current owner, Mark Schildwester, who acquired the business six years ago, said the establishment will close its doors for the last time Feb. 20.

Schildwester said he's been trying to sell the restaurant, and one deal did fall through, but it's come time for him to let it go.

He'll keep the fixtures and equipment in place for a couple of months in case a buyer comes along, but after that he plans to hold an auction and then convert the space -- on Mill Street -- into office or retail space.




February 6, 2013 - 2:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID.

About 50 downtown business owners and managers gathered this morning in the community center of City Church to learn more about the activities of the Business Improvement District.

Part of the goal of the program was to encourage more people to volunteer on BID committees.

Committees are:

  • Business Development Committee, chaired by Anthony Condello (pictured above)
  • Design Committee, chaired by Victor Gautieri, (second picture)
  • Promotion Committee, chaired by Mary Valle
  • Organization/Executive Group, chaired by Paul Marchese (bottom photo)
  • Visioning Commitee, chaired by James Isaac

Marchese unveiled a new mission statement and vision statement for the BID.

Mission Statement:

The Batavia Business Improvement District promotes and enhances the unique experience of shopping, working, and living in downtown Batavia.

Community begins downtown!

Vision Statement:

More Feet Downtown!

February 6, 2013 - 1:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown.

This photo is actually from yesterday afternoon: City workers Kevin Hamilton and Shawn McAlister were working downtown, replacing the banners on light poles.

February 5, 2013 - 10:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Pauly's Pizza.

Pauly's Pizza will reopen in a couple of weeks, according to co-owner Paul Berardini.

The restaurant closed today for two reasons, Berardini said. First, it's time for some remodeling -- and the dead of winter is a good time to do it -- and the doctor ordered some rest for Berardini to take care of a minor medical issue.

In a couple of weeks, customers can expect a "healthy owner," a fresh cleaning, a new fryer hood and some equipment changes, Berardini said.


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