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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.

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 10, 2016 - 12:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Canvas, batavia, arts, murals, downtown, news.


Nicole Brill says she loves Batavia, she loves City Church and she loves color, so as part of the City Canvas art trail project, she's painting a mural of a stained-glass window on the side of the Generation Center.

Brill is a graphic designer for City Church, so she often works with Brian Kemp, co-owner of T-Shirts Etc. on projects and Brill said it was Kemp who approached her about participating in the mural project.

There are four murals planned for downtown this summer. Two of the three on the side of the Mancuso Bowling Center are already completed, Brill is working on hers and another one is planned for the northeast corner of Main St. Pizza Co.'s building.

"Pastor Marty (Macdonald) didn't ask what I was doing," Brill said. "He said do it and do it big."

Macdonald, pictured below with Brill, happened by while we were talking with Brill and said he couldn't be prouder of Brill's participation in the project.

The art trail project will create a trail map for downtown visitors and it will include existing murals, such as those in Jackson Square by Vinny DelPlato, and the fire hydrants painted by artists two summers ago.

Kemp said he was able to reach out to artists in the community whose work isn't as often seen locally and get them to participate this year. The project is funded through a grant from GO ART!.

"I want to see creativity and color really shine here," Brill said. "And I love that I get to use it as part of my ministry at City Church."




July 6, 2016 - 9:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, business.

The City of Batavia lost out to the City of Geneva in the regional competition for $10 million in grant money to assist with downtown redevelopment.

Here's what the governor's office said about Geneva:

Over the last decade, Geneva has emerged as a major employment center, boasting over 200 firms and nearly 1,500 jobs in the central business district alone. Geneva’s historic walkable downtown is poised to become a vibrant retail, dining, cultural and entertainment destination for the burgeoning workforce and for students at the three local colleges. Under the DRI, the City will focus on the rehabilitation of key buildings; diversification of housing and retail options; access to healthy food; and building entrepreneurship in the downtown area.

July 2, 2016 - 11:31am


The 2016 summer season of concerts in Jackson Square kicked off Friday night with performances by St. Joe's of Batavia Brass Ensemble (its 85th Reunion) and the Mighty St. Joe's Alumni Corps (with an interlude covering the history of the bugle, featuring members of the ensemble).







June 30, 2016 - 1:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, news.

City officials expected the governor's office to announce today the winners of the statewide contest for grants to assist in downtown economic development, but City Manager Jason Molino said this afternoon that he's received word not to expect the announcement today.

The city is competing with other municipalities in the Finger Lakes Economic Development region for a $10 million prize.

June 28, 2016 - 12:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, business, downtown, Carter's, news.


Yes, dreams can come true, and so far, they have for Brenden Mullen, who eight years after going to work in his father's restaurant, formerly Larry's Steakhouse, is now the owner of Carter's in the same location.

But the dream doesn't stop there. Carter is the name of his 9-year-old son, and if dreams really do come true, it will be Carter someday welcoming you at the front door or serving you a drink.

"If I can, I'll get Carter's successful and then 10, 15 years down the road, I'm on my way down South and I'll leave this place for him to take over if he wants," Mullen said.

It's been seven months since Larry's closed so Mullen could revamp the restaurant and put his own mark on it. There was a lot of planning and work into getting the doors open again, he said, which happened today.

The theme of the new restaurant is nautical with a nod toward the Northeast seafaring tradition.

Naturally, the menu is filled with seafood appetizers and entrees.

"I spent the past seven months coming up with different menu ideas," Mullen said. "When I started narrowing it down, the result was predominately seafood, and then when I got to thinking about it, it seemed like a good idea, our niche, so to speak."

Mullen enjoys the restaurant business, he said, because he loves food and he loves people.

"When I was 21 years old, looking for something to do, I thought, there's no better way to make a living than working in a restaurant," Mullen said. "I love food and I love going out to dinner, and you can't be in this business if you're not a people person. To be able to hang out and mingle with my friends and customers, it really doesn't get much better, in my opinion."

June 28, 2016 - 11:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, downtown, batavia, news, business.

Officials are being coy with details, but the city and the Business Improvement District are apparently close to a negotiated agreement that will end a bit of a dispute over some operational issues. 

The turning point apparently came at a meeting Friday involving City Manager Jason Molino, City Attorney George Van Nest and an attorney for the BID who, up to this point, hadn't been involved in the situation.

Laurence Rubin, of Kavinoky & Cook, LLP, in Buffalo, was at Monday's City Council meeting, where Molino informed council members that progress had been made and an agreement should be forthcoming.

A public hearing on a proposed change to local law that would have affected the BID's district plan as well as required the BID board to abide by the State's Open Meeting Law and Freedom of Information Law was held, but there were no speakers.

Both Molino and Rubin sidestepped questions about the sunshine law requirements.

"We have an agreement in principle on the substantive issues," Rubin said. "I don’t want to get into the details and give you a long law school lecture, which I’m sure you don’t want to get into now, but in terms of the principles of transparency and timelines, I think there’s agreement."

Molino said, "I think both the City and the BID board are interested in the issues of transparency and that the public having access to board decisions and board meetings as well as how decisions are being made."

Rubin said he is an expert in the area of special districts and business improvement districts and General Municipal Law (GML).  

Asked if he was aware of any districts that were required to abide specifically by the sunshine laws, he said he didn't know of any, but that such districts and boards are generally open and transparent.

"I think government and the public and taxpayers do want to see transparency and I think there is a common theme about that," Rubin said. "Again, I don’t want to get into a law school lecture. The Freedom of Information Law or the Open Meetings Law, per se, is not really the issue. The issue is should there be transparency and there is absolute agreement on both sides that there should be."

At no point, has there been any specific allegation that the BID or the BID board has been anything less than transparent, but Molino raised the idea few weeks ago that to ensure transparency, the city should require the BID to abide by the sunshine laws.

In a memo to BID members last week -- property and business owners within the downtown district -- Executive Director Laurie Oltramari said the BID board objected to the sunshine law requirement not because the BID isn't transparent, but as a matter of legal precedent and principle. 

"The BID board is opposed to the City of Batavia adopting a local law imposing such as it conflicts with state law and our meetings are already open to the BID membership," Oltramari said. "For the City to implement such is creating new law for the City of Batavia, setting new precedent within NY State and discriminating against a not-for-profit corporation."

The dust-up between the city and the BID began a few weeks ago when Molino required the BID board to cut its budget to better comply with General Municipal Law, which Molino said the BID's budget had skirted for the past few years.

The BID's assessment, which is the basis for the BID's budget, is set by the city and while Molino said he has raised the issue with the BID in previous years, this year he said the city would correct the assessment to comply with GML.

Rubin repeatedly said that in his role as legal counsel for the BID on this issue, he didn't want to look back and concentrate on past history.

"We had a very positive discussion with the city administrator and the city attorney," Rubin said. "We talked about substantive issues. We set aside the history and whatever conversations may have been and we just talked about the statute and the proposed revisions to the local law. It was very constructive. I can’t really speak to what happened in the past, but going forward seems to be very constructive and very productive."

June 27, 2016 - 5:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in downtown, BID, jackson square concerts, batavia, news.

Press release:

Starting this Friday, July 1st, the Jackson Square Concert Series is set to begin with St. Joe’s of Batavia Brass Ensemble as a celebration of their 85th Reunion. Concerts are in Jackson Square every Friday through August from 7-9 p.m. If you’d like to attend, be sure to bring a chair to relax or bring your dancing feet for some great fun Downtown.

Bands are booked by the BID Executive Director Laurie Oltramari. Many people ask how bands are chosen. Price and sponsorship are always factors. However, last year, the new director had a table at every concert to ask people what bands they like and if they wanted any new. She asked on the radio, walked around to several businesses, asked her board members, and asked on Facebook. And of course, bands contact her at the beginning of the year to see who will be chosen. Bands were booked based on price, availability, genre, and returning bands vs. new bands.

“I tried to mix it up, and of course, you cannot please everyone," she said. "We are especially grateful for M&T Bank as always being the title sponsor to bring such a wonderful event Downtown.” 

The lineup for this year:

Friday, July 1st -- St. Joe's of Batavia Brass Ensemble (85th Reunion)
Friday, July 8th -- Fat City (Soft Rock)
Friday, July 15th -- Ghost Riders (Country)
Friday, July 22nd -- Universal Mind (Rock)
Friday, July 29th -- The Fibs (Rock/Reggae/Funk)
Friday, Aug. 5th -- Stone Row (Celtic Rock)
Friday, Aug.12th -- Midnight Cruisers (Rock)
Friday, Aug. 19th -- It's My Party ('50s and '60s)
Friday, Aug. 26th -- Josie Waverly Band (Country)

For any questions or concerns, please contact Laurie Oltramari at (585) 344-0900 or email [email protected].

June 23, 2016 - 2:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, batavia, news, downtown, business.

Members of the Batavia Improvement District were informed yesterday in a memo from Executive Director Laurie Oltramari, that the BID Board of Directors has voted to oppose a plan to change the rules for how the BID operates.

City Manager Jason Molino has proposed to City Council that the city adopt a district plan for the BID, which in the past has been drafted by the BID board and then approved by the council, and require that BID comply with the state's Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law.

Oltramari said the BID has already turned in a budget for 2016 that is compliant with the state's General Municipal Law.  

The whole issue of the BID's budget is what precipitated the city's recent actions, but Oltramari told BID members that it was the responsibility of the city manager to ensure property owners in the Downtown tax district were charged the appropriate tax rate, not the BID's.

"The City wants to implement compliance of the debt limits within the General Municipal Law, something that has been known to the City Manager for several years," Oltramari said in her memo to members. "In addition, the City levied the 2016 assessment knowing that there was a compliance issue, collected the BID assessment, and is retained the funds without any authority to withhold funds that are due and owing to the BID."

BID members are people who either own property in the Downtown district or operate businesses in the district.

Oltramari invited BID members to visit her office at 200 E. Main St., Batavia, on Monday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to discuss these issues, or to make an appointment with her for a conversation.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the city's proposed changes at 7 p.m., Monday.

The proposal would also require the BID to comply with the state's open government law, but Oltramari said director's meetings are already transparent and open for its members.

"The BID board is opposed to the City of Batavia adopting a local law imposing such as it conflicts with state law and our meetings are already open to the BID membership," Oltramari said. "For the City to implement such is creating new law for the City of Batavia, setting new precedent within NY State and discriminating against a not-for-profit corporation."

June 18, 2016 - 10:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Beertavia, batavia, downtown, BID, news.


Beer, sun and fun at Beertavia today.











June 10, 2016 - 7:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, BID, public market, farmers market, business, news.


The new public market -- a merger of the Business Improvement District's public market and the Genesee County Farmers' Market -- opened at Bank Street and Alva Place today.

A new vendor this year is Big Bossman's BBQ, run by Anthony Person, of Lockport.

Person said his family has a long tradition in the food business, and after his mother died recently, he wanted to keep the tradition going.

Fighting back tears, Pearson told WBTA's Alex Feig that he was president of his mother's company, Mrs. Ribs, but after she died, he didn't want to trade on her name, so he bought his own truck and called it Big Bossman's, a name his parents used for their first restaurant, which they ran out of their home.

The recipes have been handed down generation after generation in his family, from mother to mother to mother, going back to the family's days as slaves in the South. 

He was pleased to get invited to be a vendor in Batavia, he said.

"I’m a small businessman just trying to make an honest living just like anybody else, always looking for a way to expand my market, sell my product in new areas, and Batavia, I’ve always wanted to come this way and the Farmers' Market offered me a chance to showcase my cuisine," he said.

The market will be open for business from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and will run through Oct. 28, weather permitting.





June 7, 2016 - 10:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, news, downtown.


adamtab_june62016.jpgJust 10 years ago, Batavia was a city barely hanging on. Nobody could imagine, said City Manager Jason Molino, that things would have turned around enough by 2016 that Batavia could be a serious contender for a $10 million prize in a competition for downtown revitalization projects.

Genesee County Economic Development Center CEO Steve Hyde said Batavia is certainly a top contender in the Finger Lakes Region because of the progress made, the joint initiatives underway, the recent wins in job creation in Genesee County. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo loves competitions for economic development, Hyde said, and Finger Lakes came out on top a few years ago in a competition of the state's 10 economic development regions, winning a $500 million prize. Of that $500 million, 34 percent is earmarked for use in Genesee County, primarily at the high-tech Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in Alabama. With Dairy Farmers of America taking over the $200 million Quaker Muller food processing plant in the ag park, and 1366 Technologies heading into STAMP, Batavia his hitting all the high points the governor's office looks for in these competitions.

"(At build out), we're talking about 30,000 to 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region," Hyde said. "In the Finger Lakes Region, what other community is poised to benefit off that job growth more than Batavia? It will be difficult for any other community."

Stiff competition may come from Rochester, which is battling one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, and fighting poverty is a key goal of the governor's office, but Rochester also got $100 million from that $500 million prize for its anti-poverty efforts. The $10 million could have a bigger impact in Batavia, which could be a factor in the prize consideration.

"The $10 million is a potential drop in the bucket in terms of explosive transformation for Rochester," Hyde said. "The state likes to look at the leverage model and when it looks at $10 million in Batavia and what it could do in Rochester when they have $100 million already committed, they will look at the marginal benefit. That's just my personal view."

Every city and several villages and towns in the Finger Lakes Region are competing for the same $10 million prize, and we should know by the end of June which community wins the award, which would be spent on projects over a five-year period.

Yesterday's panel discussion at the Generation Center on Center Street, with Molino, Hyde, Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte and County Manager Jay Gsell, was a chance to share with the community how Batavia will respond to the application request and gather feedback on how the questions will be answered.

"You would think for a $10-million prize, they would have a 40-page stack of paperwork, but it's just a two-page application," said Councilman Adam Tabelski (inset photo), who moderated the discussion.

The application needs to address issues about downtown boundaries, mixed use, walkability, public gathering places and economic opportunity.

The city already has traction in some key initiatives, Molino said, most notably its brownfield program, known as the Batavia Opportunity Area, or BOA. An experienced brownfield developer has already committed to redeveloping the former Dellapenna building on Ellicott Street, and there is interest from developers in the city's other four target BOA areas.

"Over the past 18 months, we've seen the most interest yet in investment in Batavia," Molino said.

Just an announcement that the city won the prize, if it won, would generate even more interest, Molino said.

Pacatte said Batavia is getting developer attention because of its mixed-use potential. Downtown scores well on walkability ratings; it has parks and open space, both retail and business space and the city's initiative to bring quality housing to downtown has been tremendously successful. The BDC helped developers open up nine refurbished apartments downtown, and all were leased immediately. The apartments at the former WBTA building at Swan and East Main are also all rented, even though two of them have not yet been completed.

"We think that's a great testament to what can happen in our market," Pacatte said. 

Pacatte also revealed that in addition to a microbrewery and restaurant incubator being planned by Matt Gray and Jon Mager for the former Newberry building on Main Street, they are also planning a $1.5 million investment to convert the second and third floors of the building into apartments.

Gsell said the city's investment in infrastructure, notably the current work on Washington Avenue, is a further sign the city is moving in the right direction and creating an environment developers will find attractive. 

Other projects in Batavia's favor, Molino said, are the flood insurance rating program, which has helped reduce the cost of flood insurance for affected properties by 15 percent, and Batavia's first-in-the-state zombie property law. Batavia is showing tangible success in dealing with zombie properties, which is still unique in the state.

All of these efforts will give Batavia a good start on dealing with its own poverty rates, Hyde said, and putting people to work and reducing poverty is the main reason all of these economic develop efforts exist in the first place. 

"If we say we're a democracy and we're a free enterprise society, then we address the poverty issue," Hyde said. "The only way we get a society to function well is if we create opportunities for everybody."


The video below is part of Batavia's application for the prize.

June 2, 2016 - 4:41pm


A roomful of business and community leaders heard today from Vincent Esposito, director of Empire State Development’s Finger Lakes regional office, as he talked about the economic development opportunity and effort both regionally and in Batavia.

The gathering comes prior to meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall were officials will discuss Batavia's application for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which is a regional competiton with a $10 million prize. CORRECTION: It's at 5:30 p.m., Monday, at the Generation Center.

Batavia has a good shot at the prize because of all the work already put into improving Downtown, most notably the Batavia Opportunity Area, which has 10 brownfield revitalization projects already in the pipeline.

The Finger Lakes Region has already been a big winner in a statewide competition fro regional economic development areas, receiving a grant of $500 million from the state for projects in the region.

There are three main areas of focus for those funds, Esposito said:

  • Eastman Park in Rochester;
  • Downtown Rochester; and,
  • The STAMP project in Genesee County.

About 50 percent of the $500 million are going to projects in Monroe County, Esposito said, and the rest is spread out in the other county's in the region; however, about two-thirds of that 50 percent is going to Genesee County, he said.

The primary goals of the Finger Lakes regional office is job creation, regional wealth creation, increase private investment and reduce poverty.

In the past five years, economic development activity has created 20,000 new jobs, he said.

The projects expected over the next five years, he said, will result in $6.4 billion in private investments and a conservative estimate of 8,200 new jobs.

"We want to keep that commitment low and then over deliver," he said.

The main economic engines in growth for the region he said are optics/photonics, agriculture and food processing and high-tech wafer and chip manufacturing.

The third area is where GCEDC's STAMP project comes in and why it's attracting a big chunk of the funds from the Finger Lakes Region.

"If ever there was a time to be optimistic about your future, this is it," Esposito said.


June 1, 2016 - 11:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in pathway to prosperity, economic development, batavia, downtown, news.

Press release:

Partners of the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity (BP2) Program, including the Batavia Development Corp., Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), Genesee County, City of Batavia and Batavia School District, will host members of the business community for an economic development forum on the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s Upstate Revitalization Plan, Finger Lakes Forward.

The forum will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 2, at One City Centre in Batavia (Council Chamber, 2nd floor) and will feature remarks by Vincent Esposito, regional director of Empire State Development’s Finger Lakes regional office.

The event will discuss new initiatives specific to the Finger Lakes region, one of three regions awarded $500 million by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative — a competition designed to help transform local economies by providing $500 million over the next five years to support projects and strategies that create jobs, strengthen and diversify economies, and generate economic opportunity within the region — in 2015.

Attendees will hear about Finger Lakes Forward, a long-term strategic plan which will seek to address workforce development and poverty reduction; entrepreneurship and development; and higher education and research. Information about the NYS Consolidated Funding Application process will also be provided.

“It is important that we continue to educate and keep the business community apprised about the unique collaboration taking place among private and public sector stakeholders to stimulate new growth and development opportunities in our regional economy,” said Steve Hyde, GCEDC president and CEO.

The event is free and open to the public. A lunch sponsored by Clark Patterson Lee and Harris Beach, LLP, will be provided. For more information and to register, please contact Rachael Tabelski, director of Marketing & Communications at GCEDC, at 585-343-4866 or [email protected].

May 25, 2016 - 1:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, downtown, batavia, business, news.

After a City Council meeting where City Manager Jason Molino outlined his recommendations for city oversight of the Business Improvement District, the BID's Executive Director Laurie Oltramari told reporters that the BID is almost out of money because the city hasn't turned over the funds it is contractually obligated to release by May 1.

"Even though we're trying to be friendly, we feel like our funds are being held hostage," Oltramari said.

Reached later in the night, Molino said the only hold up with releasing the funds is a lack of a properly amended budget from BID that complies with the state's General Municipal Law.

"The city fully understands they need those funds to operate and will release those funds once the BID budget can be amended," Molino said. "Once compliance is achieved with the law and the budget is properly amended, then we will release those funds."

Oltramari said the BID can operate for about one more month with current reserves. If funds from the city aren't received by then, it would need to suspend operations until the money is released.

Earlier this year, Molino notified the BID that over the past several years the city's assessment of downtown properties to provide funding to the BID has not been in compliance with the law. Molino said he had previously brought this issue to the attention of the BID before Oltramari became director, and it was never addressed. This year, he's holding up the funds until the budget reflects the law's restrictions.

The law limits the BID assessment from exceeding 20 percent of the total levy for the properties in the district, plus an additional amount for repayment of bonds secured to pay for public improvements in the BID zone.  

There was a bond issued in 1999 for public improvements, such as new street lighting, and as those bonds have been paid off, the annual debt expense for the BID has decreased, but through all that time, the assessment hasn't been reduced to reflect the lower debt payments.

As a result, the BID has a capital improvement account with $216,000.

It would be logistically difficult to return those funds to downtown property owners since the amounts vary annually and many properties have changed hands over the years.

Molino is proposing that the $216,000 be held until the BID's next capital improvement project, which raises another point of contention for Oltramari.

Molino is proposing such a plan be developed with consultants and city officials. Oltramari said the BID should lead any effort to identify and plan for capital improvements using those funds since they were raised on behalf of the BID.

Since 2005, the BID has been receiving a flat $120,000 from the city for debt repayment and operational costs, which Oltramari admits she always found strange because it was always the same without any variance for a cost of living adjustments.

"We have gone above it (the GML limit) in order to continue operations because property values are so low in Batavia," Oltramari said.

Under the terms of the GML, the BID's budget for this year is being reduced to $55,000 for operations and $15,000 for debt service, which is the last debt payment from the 1999 bonds. 

That's a severe cut in operational expenses, Oltramari said. In addition to canceling Summer in the City, Oltramari doubts she will be able to keep her assistant on payroll and the BID is looking for new, lower-cost office space downtown.

The current office is on the second floor of the Masonic Temple building at Main and Center streets.

Molino's recommendations provided to the City Council last night include:

  • Ensuring the BID amends its budget to comply with the General Municipal Law;
  • Identify commingled funds that need to be separated from the BID account, which includes capital improvement funds, operational funds and money generated by BID events;
  • Ensure the City Council adopts the proper local laws each year for governance of the BID;
  • As part of the local law amendments, require that the BID's board of directors comply with the state's open meetings law and freedom of information law;
  • Require the BID to update its district plan in cooperation with residents, businesses within the BID and the city to ensure future budgets and excess capital funds are used in a manner that best represent the business and property owners needs to achieve the organizational mission.

Oltramari thinks there is some overreach by the city in these recommendations.

First, BID board meetings are open to the public, though they're not announced on the BID's Web site, Oltramari said, and approved budgets are available to the public.

The district plan is essentially a business plan and Oltramari contends that's entirely the purview of the BID's board.

"The role of the city is to figure out the assessment and what the BID gets and to assign people to our board, that's about it," Oltramari said. "From there, it is our money to spend, and if we spend it wrong, then it's up to the state comptroller say, 'slap on the hand to you.' "

May 19, 2016 - 12:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, tree removal, downtown, news.

Crews from the city Bureau of Maintenance are removing five dead trees along Main Street downtown. The trees will be replaced. They can't simply dig out the trees due to brick paving and utilities underneath such as water pipes and electricity line. So the dirt must be washed from the roots in the extrication process.

May 17, 2016 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Summer in the City, batavia, downtown, business, news.

There will be no Elvis impersonator, no hot rods, no dunk booths, no kettle corn on Main Street in Batavia this August. 

Summer in the City is cancelled for 2016, and quite likely, in any future summers, according to Laurie Oltramari, executive director of the Batavia Business Improvement District.

Oltramari is in her first year as BID director and since taking the position learned that city is clamping down on the BID's operational budget, restricting spending to just $55,000 a year.

In recent years, the BID has spent $120,000 on operations, but City Manager Jason Molino said the BID has been allocating more of its special tax levy to operations than state law allows.

The law allows only 20 percent of the city's levy on properties in the BID to go to an improvement district's operations, plus an additional levy to service any debt.

The BID took on nearly a million in bonds in 1999 to fund a series of upgrades to downtown, such as new street lamps, paving stones and landscape improvements. The BID's final $15,000 payment will be made this year.

While Molino's insistence this year that the BID follow the budgeting requirements of the General Municipal Law, a memo Molino prepared for next week's City Council meeting makes it clear that prior to Oltramari taking the director's job, he tried to bring the requirement to the attention of the BID.

"When reviewing prior records, budgets and the district plan, the BBID (Batavia Business Improvement District) has struggled to comply with the GML regarding oversight of assessment funds and consistency with the district plan," Molino tells council members in the four-page memo. "In addition, as recent as 2013 and 2015 the city has advised the BBID of both budget management concerns as well as compliance with the GML faults."

Dropping Summer in the City is the biggest change in the BID's budget, Oltramari said, but there will be other cuts, including cutting down the hours worked by her part-time assistant.  

There are other annual programs that the BID sponsors that will continue, Oltramari said, because they both make money and do a better job of promoting downtown businesses, including the Fall Wine Walk, Beertavia (in June) and Christmas in the City. All are self-funding, if not profitable, and help boost local business, but downtown merchants have long complained that Summer in the City took away parking while doing little to generate foot traffic into their stores. Oltramari said it generated very little revenue for the BID.

Even without Summer in the City, the BID can continue to work hard to promote downtown, Oltramari said, and seek out opportunities for "small victories" that in the long run can pay off big for the local business community.

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


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.










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


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.


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


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


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