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April 29, 2016 - 4:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Vinyl Record Revival, business, batavia, downtown, news.

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The sale of vinyl records has reached its highest level in 28 years and Batavia resident Richard Mistretta is betting that trend continues.

His own research and experience tells him vinyl, once considered a relic of history, has achieved its own kind of staying power.

"Last year, I first had a thought of opening a brick and mortar store," Mistretta said. "I wasn't sure what I'd be selling, but I started selling online and I noticed albums were selling well. I was selling a lot of vinyl, so with my online business, I switched over to exclusively selling vinyl and the sales numbers continued to go up."

Tomorrow he opens Vinyl Record Revival at 220 E. Main St., Batavia.

He's spent the past couple of weeks building bins for records, CDs, reel-to-reel, and he even has a couple of boxes of 8-track tapes, but vinyl is clearly where the action is. It attracts collectors of all ages these days.

"The big age group right now is young people, teenagers are getting into it," Mistretta said. "I've been hearing about it from a lot of people. They find it fascinating. They find it is something interesting to collect, and, also, the sound is different. That's the big thing, but, also, it's tangible. You can hold it, you can look at it, the artwork; it's easy to read. When something is digital, you don't get all that."

Clearly, vinyl records can't beat digital, especially in the age of cloud storage and streaming services, for convenience, but beside of the tactile and aesthetic appeal, most connoisseurs tip in favor of vinyl for the superior audio performance of analog, which doesn't suffer from the loss of dynamic range found in compressed sound files.

It might be surprising, but as Mistretta noted, when teenagers take an interest in The Beatles, they seek out vinyl, some becoming die-hard collectors.

That works out well for Mistretta, who is a lifelong fan of The Beatles and is stocking a full range of Beatles records, books and memorabilia. 

But the Beatles aren't the only hot seller from previous generations. There's also The Who, Queen, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, and, Mistretta noted, even before he died, he couldn't keep Prince in stock. When he put Prince records up for sale online, they would often be gone within hours.

Record stores in WNY are now few and far between, so he's hoping to draw clientele from throughout the GLOW region as well as Rochester and Buffalo. One of his goals is to get to know his customers, know what they're looking for and work with his wholesalers to find it for them.

Mistretta is 60 and recently retired after 20 years at the University of Rochester. He lived in Rochester when he met his wife, Michelle, and fell in love with her and fell in love with her hometown, Batavia. He's lived here for three years.

When he decided vinyl would be the speciality of his retail store, he started buying boxes and boxes of records, including one large collection from a seller in Pennsylvania. He said he's found some real gems among these big collections.

"The poor UPS drivers," he said. "Those poor delivery people probably have sore backs from carrying in boxes."

He's found the type of customers range from young to old, from those looking for just specific artists, to those who buy everything in a genre and those who are more interested in album covers or just exploring.

He has set up several listening stations in the store so customers can sample before they buy.

Right now, the store is strictly used records, tapes and CDs, but with most top current recording artists releasing their albums on vinyl again, he is hoping to find the right distributor so he can carry new inventory as well.

He also sees a need to supply area audiophiles with turntables, receivers and speakers.

"Manufacturers are starting to get back into making a nice receiver, making a nice phonograph and the big speakers, because everything did switch over to something that was more portable," Mistretta said.

Store hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. He's not settled yet on what his Saturday hours will be, but he will be closed Sundays and Mondays.

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April 22, 2016 - 4:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, batavia, downtown, business.

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The Business Improvement District held its annual meeting and awards at the City Church's Generation Center on Center Street, Batavia, this afternoon.

Above, Beth Kemp and Brian Kemp, owners of T-Shirts Etc., accept one of the two Business awards handed out.

BID Director Laurie Oltramari borrowed from the movie "Moneyball" to talk about focusing on our strengths as a business community and not trying to compete with the big companies on their terms.

Felipe Oltramari, Genesee County's director of planning, delivered a keynote speech, pointing out the Batavia's highest value properties are all downtown. One mixed-use property Downtown is worth more than Walmart in tax revenue. He recommended finding ways to add density to Downtown.

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Java Farm Supply, represented by John Bookmiller, also won a BID Business Award.

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Kristen Merriam, who works for Charles Men's Shop, was honored as Volunteer of the Year.

April 13, 2016 - 4:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pollyanna & Dot, The Hidden Door, batavia, business, news, downtown.

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Batavia's newest retail store promises to offer local shoppers unique items for the home, as gifts or perhaps, something special for yourself.

The business, at 202 E. Main St. (Masonic Temple, next to Charles Men's Shop), is really two stores in one and the result of a cooperative agreement between Leanna DiRisio and Ashley Bateman.

The Hidden Door is DiRisio's business and offers rustic, old-timey items that will add tasteful flare to home decor, and Pollyanna & Dot is Bateman's business and offers primarily new dresses in vintage styles.

"We thought this would be a great start for a new business," DiRisio said. "It's kind of like an incubator and if maybe we both grow a little bigger we can go out on our own."

Bateman said Mary Valle (Valle's Jewelry) brought DiRisio and Batemen together and suggested they find a way to partner to pursue their shared dream of owning their own retail shops.

The two aspiring entrepreneurs met, but weren't initially sure it would work out, but as time went on and they thought about it more, the idea started to make more sense.

Both have young children and by working together they can coordinate times to keep the shop open and take care of their kids and other family needs. 

"For me, it's always been something that I've wanted to do and I just figured with the changes going on my life, that if I don't do it now, I would never do it," said DiRisio, who praised a six-week entrepreneur-training program set up by the Batavia Development Corp. at Genesee Community College for giving her the confidence to move forward.

Batemen also thought this was the time to act rather than wait.

"There's a renaissance here that's happening and if we don't do it now, somebody else will, so we wanted to get here first," Bateman said.

The grand opening celebration for Pollyanna & Dot and The Hidden Door is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday.

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February 1, 2016 - 6:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Larry's Steakhouse, batavia, business, downtown.

Larry's Steakhouse has closed, but the Mullen family is far from done with serving up great meals at 60 Main St., Batavia.

Owner Steve Mullen is stepping aside and his son Brendon Mullen is planning a new restaurant at the same location, which will be called Carter's.

"I don't want to say a lot about it right now, but it's going to be something this town will be excited about," Brendon said. "It's going to be a culinary experience like nothing ever seen here."

While there is a chance the new restaurant could open within weeks, two or three months might be a more realistic time frame, Brendon said. It will take time to secure a new liquor license. 

Steve said he thanks all the patrons for their support of Larry's.

Any gift certificates for Larry's that have not yet been redeemed will be honored by Carter's once it opens.

December 5, 2015 - 8:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, BID, Christmas in the City.

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December 1, 2015 - 5:14pm
posted by James Burns in business, batavia, downtown.

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Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was in town today for a meeting with local business organizations. After her meeting, Tom Turnbull, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, and Laurie Oltramari, director of the Batavia Business Improvement District, took Hochul for a shopping trip on Main Street to support the campaign to “Shop Small."

First stop was Charles Men’s Shop.

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David Howe, the owner of Charles Men’s Shop, explained to Hochul that he was skeptical of “Shop Small” when he heard about it but it has been rather successful the last two years. An encouraging discussion about the strength of the town and local business ensued but was interrupted by Hochul because, like most who go into the Men’s shop, her eye was drawn to the tie rack. I will not divulge what happened after that because I do not want to ruin the surprise of William Hochul’s Christmas present.

Off to Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle. 

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Miller’s is another classic local business with unique items and something for everyone. Hochul asked store owner John Roche what the hot item was this year and the answer was the Yo-Yo, American made no less. 

Next stop was p.w. minor

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p.w. minor is a company on the move. Andrew Young, the president of p.w. minor, light ups when Hochul asks him how things are going. Apparently they are going well, very well. Young is delighted with the progress the shoe manufacturing business is making and says he's very happy with the local work force.

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Young explains to Hochul some of the technology in the athletic shoes that is unique to p.w. minor.

The last stop was Main Street Pizza. It's another small business success -- doubling in size, taking over the store next to it. Inside, the popular pizzeria is celebrated with pictures and wall murals mixing up the past and present. Owner Vic Marchese is pictured in his red apron.

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November 24, 2015 - 3:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Larry's Steakhouse, batavia, business, downtown.

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There's been too much bad news in the world recently, so Brenden Mullen, co-owner of Larry's Steakhouse, on Main Street, Batavia, decided he wanted to do something good.

Larry's will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day serving free meals to "anybody and everybody" who wants to stop in.

The meals will include turkey, mash potatoes and gravy, stuffing, squash and cranberry sauce along with a slice of pumpkin pie.

All for free.

"Somebody very dear to me, touched my life, had a positive impact and made me want to better myself in any way I can," Mullen said. "I thought it might be a step in the right direction."

Word has spread quickly on social media, Mullen said, and just today he got a touching call from an administrator at Batavia High School who said a student who had been wondering what he would do on Thanksgiving, with no place else to go, heard about the community meal and now he plans on being at Larry's.

That really touched Mullen, he said. It's hard to believe in this day and age a high school student would need some place to go on Thanksgiving Day, but there are people in our community with all kinds of needs, he said, and perhaps his gesture will help a few people out.

He just came up with the idea Saturday, enlisted the chef to help, and started getting things organized. He doesn't know what to expect and said additional volunteers to help are welcome.

"I thought it would be a good way to do something good for the community," Mullen said. "Like I said, I just get sick of reading the news, turning on the TV, and it's nothing but bad news anymore, so I wanted to give people a reason to smile and feel good about something."

November 15, 2015 - 10:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia.

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November 10, 2015 - 6:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, BID, batavia, Art Ah La Carte, business.

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Kimberly Yasses Argenta has moved Art Ah La Carte from Harvester Avenue to Downtown Batavia, into a storefront on Jackson Street.

She moved the art studio and classroom space because she needed more space, she said, and she thought the location would give her better exposure.

"Already, people have come in off the street, so that's a good thing," Argenta said.

She also thought it would be beneficial to be part of the Business Improvement District and enjoy those promotional opportunities.

This Friday and Saturday she is hosting "Brush Out Cancer," an event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Friday is an art show, vendors' auctions and a 50/50 raffle. On Saturday, from noon to 1:30 p.m., there is Kids Paint. The cost is $30 and pre-registration is required (call (585) 245-1655). And in the evening, starting at 6, Monet and Merlot, which costs $45 and includes refreshments, though if you want wine, you need to bring your own bottle. There will be a wine tasting. Saturday evening's event also includes auctions and a 50/50 raffle.

The fundraisers are in memory of Argenta's mother, Mickey Yasses, who passed away in December, 2013.

November 10, 2015 - 10:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, BID, parking.

Downtown business owners, especially bar owners, want to see a change in the restrictions on overnight parking Downtown, Laurie Oltramari, new executive director of the Business Improvement District, told City Council members during Monday's meeting.

Oltramari spoke during the open public comments portion of the agenda.

She's asking that the city adjusts the parking law, which prohibits on-street parking and parking in public lots from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., during the spring, summer and fall to allow bar patrons to leave their cars overnight if they decide that's the best option.

"The bar owners came to me because they felt their patrons are being penalized for leaving cars after drinking (at the bar)," Oltramari said. "When you have to make that choice between moving your car because you might get a ticket or leaving it when you're intoxicated or a little tipsy, you might make that wrong choice."

City Manager Jason Molino said he became aware of the request for the change for the first time when Oltramarie raised it during the meeting. He said with the city about to embark on a new comprehensive planning process, that process is the appropriate venue for addressing the issue.

"I think there is positives and negatives with it," Molino said. "It does create a maintenance issue at times. I really don't know if the restriction on overnight parking really does or doesn't create a problem. I mean, it's been in existence and I don't think it's prevented anything from happening."

One of the primary reasons for the restriction is to make snow removal easier during the winter, which is why Oltramari is asking for a seasonal adjustment, not a blanket, year-round change.

Oltramari presented a list of other small cities in Upstate New York and their various parking restrictions, many of which have seasonal parking laws, including Fulton, Geneva, Hornell (restricted overnight in the fall for leaf cleanup), North Tonawanda, Norwich, Ogdensburg, Olean (based on snowfall levels) and Rome.

Molino said he's spoken with many of his colleagues throughout the state about the issue and it's not that straightforward.

"They say, 'when you find a solution, let us know,' " Molino said.

As for going through the comprehensive plan process, Oltramari said something should be done sooner rather than later. 

"I think it can be addressed with the comprehensive plan, but that's a long process," Oltramari said. "Why would we want to wait for that when this is the right choice in the meantime?"

November 5, 2015 - 8:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Brewing Company, downtown, batavia, business, freshLAB, bdc.

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Matt Gray remembers the old J.J. Newberry's Downtown, with its creaky floors, dusty inventory and a lunch counter he would saddle up to next to his grandmother to enjoy a hot dog.

Now he owns that building, but his ambition far exceeds nostalgia. It's about revitalization and doing his part to bring vibrancy and economic growth back to his community.

Gray, along with partners Jon Mager and Matthew Boyd, will be the owners of the anchor tenant in an ambitious project backed by the Batavia Development Corp., Genesee County Economic Development Corporation, and Rural Development/USDA to help aspiring restaurant owners get a start in Downtown.

The partners are creating Batavia Brewing Company, a new microbrewery at 109 Main St., Batavia.

The location will also be known as freshLAB, a restaurant incubator where entrepreneurs with great ideas for unique menu items sourced mostly with local and regional ingredients can see if they can turn their food concepts into thriving businesses.

Mager said the ambition for the project is rooted in the fact that he and Gray grew up in Batavia, are businessmen in this community, are raising families here and want to see their community thrive.

"We wholeheartedly believe Batavia is a great place to live, work, play and raise a family," Mager said. "By joining the ranks of the many great places to eat and drink Downtown, we hope to be part of a complete and full resurgence and revitalization that is attracting people back to Downtown."

Gray said they picked a downtown location because that would generate the greatest economic impact, both for other restaurant and bar owners and for themselves.

"There were a lot of other pluses on a lot of other sites, including parking, but (what) it came down to, is we believe in the clustering effect," Gray said. "There are so many good restaurants and so much good nightlife already down in this area. Adding more to it is only going to make each one of us healthier. By going off on our own, we're going to have to fight uphill to trying to get people to come to us." 

Mager and Gray, who got his start in food business ownership with Matty's Pizzeria and currently own's Alex's Place along with restaurants in Southern states, first started talking about opening a brewery in 2013. In 2013, Mager completed training with the American Brewers Guild. 

At the same time, Julie Pacatte and the BDC board were looking at all this data saying too much restaurant and bar spending by local residents -- some $12 million -- was being spent outside of Batavia. People wanted more food choices locally. And there were a number of people who would come to the BDC for assistance in starting restaurants, but just didn't have the wherewith all to pull it off. So this incubator idea, which has been successful in other markets, started forming.

Pacatte heard about Mager and Gray's ambitions and recognized the possibility of a partnership.

"We want those dollars to say here," Pacatte said. "We want a reason for people to be eating and drinking in Downtown Batavia, more reason to do that. We want to offer a product that really ties our commerce, our downtown businesses to our agriculture community."

In a survey, the vast majority of respondents said they want healthier food choices in Batavia, they want more ethnic food (Millennials especially, marketing data shows, go for Far Eastern cuisines and spicier choices), and diners want more seafood.

"We're hoping that in this concept and in this project, that we're able to draw some of the folks in who can create some of those plates and meals and sandwiches or salads, that will be able to invent those kinds of meals and lunches and dinners and breakfasts here in Batavia," Pacatte said.

Rural Development is kicking in more than $67,000 in grants to provide equipment and furnishings for the "dining hall" element of the facility, that will be a shared space between the brewery and the food vendors. 

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, praised Gray and Mager for their foresight and willingness to take a risk, as entrepreneurs, to start a new business concept in their own community that will help their own community. Batavia is on the rebound, Hyde said.

"We have the innovation economy in our community now, higher-paying jobs, bigger-paying jobs, so our kids (can) stay here, come back home, and guess what, it makes this place a great place live, work and play and opportunities like this are going to make this happen even more," Hyde said. "It's really a great way to shine up the apple here in the city."

He said Mager and Gray are visionaries.

"It's so rewarding to us to have our local guys step up to the plate, invest in their community, and do what they're good at, 'cause this isn't new news for these guys," Hyde said. "This is right in their wheelhouse and they'll make it a great success."

November 3, 2015 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Brewing Company, batavia, downtown, business, freshLAB.

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Aspiring restaurant owners are going to get a unique opportunity to start their own businesses in a Downtown Batavia location that will be anchored by a new microbrewery, economic development officials will announce tomorrow.

A press conference is scheduled at 109 Main St., Batavia, at 3:45 p.m. to announce plans for freshLAB and the Batavia Brewing Company.

The freshLAB concept is borrowed from other successful restaurant incubators in larger markets, such as Dallas, Denver and Los Angeles. 

Batavia Brewing will be owned by a current local restaurant owner. Attempts to reach that owner to confirm his participation have been unsuccessful.

The announcement from officials of the press conference, however, makes clear a brewery is part of the plan (the logo included with the announcement is at the top of this post).

The concept of the restaurant incubator will be fully explained tomorrow, but Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for Batavia Development Corp. said the idea grew out of what the BDC board has observed for a number of years. The board had to turn down several requests to provide low-interest loans to proposed restaurants because of either undercapitalization or inexperienced aspiring owners.

With the incubator concept, aspiring restaurant owners can get started with a smaller initial investment and there will be advisors available to help them plan their concept, get up and running, manage the operations and hopefully, eventually, expand into a bigger, stand-alone location.

"Opening a restaurant is a big undertaking," Pacatte said, "60 percent fail within the first two to three years. This will provide those owners with a more affordable space and more coaching and guidance."

The location, 109 Main St., is the former Newberry's building. Most recently it was the location of T-Shirts Etc. and the Red Cross. It was previously the location of Main Street Coffee. Previous owner Ken Mistler has sold the building. The new owner will be announced tomorrow.

Also participating in the press conference is the Rural Development division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA will provide grant assistance for the restaurant incubator.

Part of the concept of the incubator is that aspiring restaurant owners must source most of their ingredients from farms from throughout the WNY region. The restaurant/food station concepts must also be unique to Batavia. The menu needs to be a different concept with offerings that vary from what's available in restaurants currently.

Part of the driver for creating the incubator is marketing surveys that show a lot of the entertainment and dining dollars spent by Batavia residents is flowing out of the county. Economic development officials hope to create a stronger cluster of restaurants in Batavia to help keep more of those dollars in the local community.

October 30, 2015 - 9:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, business, City Slickers.

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After a couple of years of considering his options, City Slickers owner Ken Mistler has settled on a design for an awning over the patio of his Downtown restaurant. The steel beams for the awning are being installed today and the awning should be completed in about a week. While the patio will be open, it will be heated, Mistler said.

October 6, 2015 - 10:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, downtown, business.

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The product is Batavia made, so it should be Batavia sold, the way Andrew Young and Pete Zeliff see it, so they've opened up a downtown retail store for p.w. minor's shoes.

Not just seconds, but the full product line.

"That is something totally different from what the store was known for before," said Zeliff, speaking of p.w. minor's outlet at the factory on Treadeasy Avenue. "The store was always known for seconds and it was a discount store. We still have the factory seconds and all that, but we also offer everything we sell. All of our number one product is here in the store."

Young and Zeliff have been aggressive about growing the 148-year-old Batavia-founded business since acquiring it in August, 2014. They're moving manufacturing jobs from China back to Batavia and have hired top-tier professional product development specialists and designers.

As some of those new products are brought to market, they will be introduced in the Batavia store, Young said.

"It's neighbors making the product you're buying," Young said. "It couldn't be any neater."

The company has rented the retail space at 97 Main St. only through January. Young and Zeliff want to see how it goes before making a longer-term commitment. The store will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, starting today.

While they are continually asked by people in the community where they can go to buy p.w. minor shoes, they aren't often making it over to 3 Treadeasy Ave. The owners hope the new location is easier to find and more top of mind.

"I've lived here for 60 years and I didn't know where 3 Treadeasy Ave. was," Zeliff said. "So we'll try being here on Main Street, being in front of people and reminding people as they walk by that p.w. minor is here, it's hometown, it's hometown jobs."

For previous p.w. minor coverage, click here.

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October 4, 2015 - 10:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, business, downtown.

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Nearly 700 tickets were sold to this year's wine walk in Downtown Batavia, with a couple of dozen businesses participating. Rain didn't dampen the good times.

Top photo is the service area for The Batavian in the entryway of the Masonic Temple building. Thanks to Dee Neilans, Lisa Ace and Lucie Ann Griffis for serving the food and wine, and special thanks to Dibble Family Center for catering our food service.

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September 18, 2015 - 1:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Main St. Pizza Company, downtown, business, batavia.

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Vic Marchese, owner of Main St. Pizza Company, on East Main Street, Batavia, stands in front of the opening of the commercial space next to his business where workers are busy remodeling so Marchese can add more space to his popular restaurant.

The front part of the restaurant will feature a sliding window system, called a nana system, that will allow open-air dining when weather permits, but a closed dining area when it gets cold.

With his plans recently approved, Marchese just ordered the windows, which will take six to eight weeks to arrive. Marchese is optimistic the new space will open in January.

The restaurant will expand by about 2,000 square feet and include additional interior dining room space, as well. The dining room and the pick-up counter will have separate entrances, which will help people get in and out of the restaurant faster.  

Marchese is also expanding the kitchen.

August 31, 2015 - 10:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in charles men's shop, batavia, business, downtown.

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Charles Men's Shop always has interesting and attractive window displays, but the clothing featured are usually the in-season fashions for the sharp-dressed man.  For the past several weeks, the store has been featuring a line of clothing it doesn't even carry -- the uniforms of heroes. One window is dedicated to hometown heroes -- police and fire -- and the other to the U.S. military. Don Brown said he and Dave Howe saw the display as a way to give back to the community by showing appreciation for the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free.

August 24, 2015 - 3:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Church, batavia, downtown.

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Workers outside the City Church building on East Main Street this afternoon. Pastor Marty Macdonald said the floodlights are being replaced with LEDs and crews also do some masonry maintenance.

August 15, 2015 - 8:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, Summer in the City, BID.

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August 15, 2015 - 11:25am

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Joey Belladonna, lead singer of the metal band Anthrax and native of Oswego, brought his cover band Chief Big Way to Center Street Smoke House on Friday night. The room was packed with fans as the trio, with Belladonna on drums, powered through big rock hit after hit. Tom Mazurkiewicz, who became friends with Belladonna after meeting him at Darien Lake, helped arrange the appearance.

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