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June 9, 2017 - 8:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, public market, batavia, news, business.

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The Batavia Downtown Public Market season has started and the market will be open three days a week this year, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Above, one of the vendors, Charleen Satkowski, of Harper Hill Farm, of Darien.

June 8, 2017 - 1:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Foxprowl, downtown, batavia, business, news.

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Saying it's a reality of business these days, Foxprowl Collectibles announced on Facebook that it is closing its downtown store, though the business will continue as an online-only business.

"This is by no means the business ending," Bill Hume said in the statement. "It is simply changing and adapting with the current state of retail (over 50 percent of U.S. retail sales now occur online)."

Hume, who operated the business with his wife, Joy, started Foxprowl as an online-only business and opened a store on Ellicott Street in 2010. They moved the store to Main and Jackson streets less than a year ago, in September 2016.

Foxprowl won the Chamber's "Entrepreneurial Business of the Year" award for 2016.

The store also operates an annual local comic and collectibles convention, Foxprowl Con. Hume said the convention will be on hiatus this year because of the business transition but will return in 2018.

The physical store location closing is effective July 1.

Photo: File photo of Joy and Bill Hume.

May 18, 2017 - 3:57pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in batavia, downtown, news.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the second round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, DRI, on Tuesday, investing $100 million into 10 additional downtown neighborhoods across the state.

Batavia’s Economic Development coordinator Julie Pacette said the City of Batavia will be applying for the grant again this year.

“I think this year we will have a stronger application,” Pacette said. “We have had one year to think about it. We have been through the process and have a better understanding of the competition.”

According to a press release from Cuomo’s office, in the first year of the DRI, $100 million was awarded to 10 communities, one in each region of New York State, to identify and implement projects to restore their downtown.

“This new Downtown Revitalization completion will build upon the demonstrated success of round one, allowing even more communities across the state to reach their full potential,” Cuomo said in the press release.

“With this funding, we can provide 10 more forward-thinking communities the opportunity to transform their downtowns into vibrant economic hubs for people to live, work and raise a family.”

Pacette said there is a team meeting within the next week to finalize a plan for the application, but that residents of Batavia should look out for opportunities to offer ideas.

Last year, Pacette organized an event for residents to write and draw on the sidewalks in chalk to show how they would spend the $10 million if Batavia was chosen. Pacette said she will be looking at how to get residents involved this year.

Applications for the second round must be submitted by 4 p.m. on June 14.

One downtown community will be selected by each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils. Each council will choose from applications for downtowns that are “ripe for revitalization and have the potential to become magnets for redevelopment, business, job creation, greater economic and housing diversity, and opportunity.”

Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said 123 communities applied for the DRI designation last year.

“We look forward to working with the 10 additional communities nominated by the Regional Councils this year to identify strategic investments for their downtowns that will help attract new and growing small businesses, improve the visitor’s experience and attract more residents to downtown,” Rosado said in a press release.

May 3, 2017 - 11:13pm

Are you ready for a resurgence in Batavia? It's coming.

Well, at least Resurgence Brewing Company of Buffalo is coming.

The popular Buffalo-based brewery is going to be part of the revitalized and rebuilt Ellicott Station (the former Della Penna property) on Ellicott Street on the edge of Downtown Batavia.

"We're obviously ecstatic about the project and seeing it come to fruition," said City Manager Jason Molino. "We're incredibly excited about Resurgence, a reputable brewery coming to the community and bringing a new, kind of niche beer, sour beer. I think it's going to help complement what we're trying to do downtown, bringing in more dining and entertainment options for people."

We've known for a long time that Ellicott Station would include a brewery and brew pub. What we didn't learn until today is that the company moving into the space would be a brand that has rapidly grown in popularity in Buffalo.

Resurgence will open a restaurant, a brew pub and beer garden that will serve their full line of beers, and a brewery that will produce sour beer, a kind of beer that has only recently started to reach the East Coast market.

Because its brew process is different and the yeasts involved can't mix with the other brews, Resurgence was looking for a location separate from their current Buffalo location.

In fact, Batavia had been on the map for Resurgence owners Chris and Jeff Ware for a long time, according to developer Sam Savarino. Savarino said he had heard the Wares had been looking at Batavia as a possible location for a brewery if not a restaurant and pub. After his company won the RFP for the Ellicott Station project, he contacted them and a deal came together very quickly, he said.

"They’re good people," Savarino said. "They’re dedicated to their craft and they care about the product they produce. That’s evident to anybody who has bought their products or visited their premises in Buffalo. As far as a brewer or retail tenant, they are a very good bet."

The Resurgence name comes from the founders' own belief in the resurgence and renaissance of Buffalo, which they've been a part of over the past several years.

Jeff Ware, company president, sent over a statement about how pleased the company is to find a location in Batavia.

"Resurgence Brewing Company is excited to announce their new brewing and biergarten location in Batavia," Ware said. "The brewery will anchor Savarino's Ellicott Station Development and help with the revitalization of downtown Batavia. With the help from New York State from Homes and Community Renewal (state pass-through of the Community Block Development Grant money mentioned below), we will be able to move project one step closer to reality."

Savarino got involved in the project after a third party told him about Batavia looking for proposals to redevelop the Della Penna property and that Savarino Companies might be a good fit.

The company has been involved in a number of revitalization projects in Buffalo. They redeveloped several buildings in the Cobblestone District of Buffalo, renovating buildings and developing mixed-use projects. They redeveloped 500 Seneca Street, a large factory converted to mixed use. They also redeveloped River Landing in Buffalo, which was a brownfield project.

Savarino said when he looked at the Della Penna property, he checked off the qualifications: A distressed property with possible environmental contamination; a distressed census tract with 35 percent unemployment; a median income that is 50 percent of the area's median income; on the edge of a downtrodden downtown. 

"I joked with my friends that it had several strikes against it, so it's just the kind of project we like to take on," Savarino said.

The project will be more than just a restaurant and brewery. There will also be office space -- Savarino said he's in negotiations with possible tenants that he can't disclose yet -- and a 47-unit, four-story apartment complex.

The apartments will be especially great for Downtown, Molino said. Not only will tenants be just steps from Resurgence, within a block's walk are dining and drinking options such as City Slickers, Bourbon & Burger Co., O'Lacy's Irish Pub and Center Street Smoke House, Main Street Pizza Co., and T.F. Brown's.

"Those 47 market-rate apartments fit the demand we're seeing for living downtown," Molino said. "People want to live in downtown areas, whether it's Millennials, seniors or empty-nesters. They have overlapping interests."

Much of what we see on the Della Penna property will be demolished, Savarino said. The front of the Della Penna main building is too far gone to save and the garage to the east of the main building isn't structurally sound and is beyond repair. The main production area of the Della Penna will be restored, and that area is a perfect fit for what Resurgence plans to do, both for its size and design characteristics.

"It's important to have some link to the past," Savarino said. "It wouldn't be the same without that link. It makes the site unique to have a little bit of Batavia's past as a part of it."

Resurgence, combined with the new food establishments, brewery, and apartments going into the former Newberry building, he said, hit key redevelopment goals for Batavia.

"It really completes the project of living in a revived downtown," Molino said.

To help move the project along, Genesee County Economic Development Center is using money from the federal CDBG program. The $15 million project will receive $210,000 that will be half loan and half grant if project requirements are met. The restaurant and brewery are expected to create 15 full-time equivalent jobs, three-quarters of which will go to low- and moderate-income residents.

Getting the project to this point has been a long haul, said Julie Pacatte, coordinator of the Batavia Development Corporation.

"We've been talking about this project for a long time and people have been waiting for some movement," Pacatte said. "I think it just shows how long it takes to get things lined up before we can go public with an announcement."

Financing for the project is coming from several sources, Savarino said, and he expects financing to close in July. Construction should begin by August and Resurgence should open its doors during the first quarter of 2018.

The way the project came together, Molino said, with the involvement of the City School District, GCEDC, the county, BDC, and the City, it's really a model for how revitalization projects can be handled when everybody works together for a common goal.

"It was great work from everybody involved with great support from Resurgence," Molino said. "When you talk about how projects come together, it's really a model for best practices of the collaboration of the different entities involved.

The "heartfelt dedication" local officials had for the project was notable, Savarino said.

"I can’t say enough about working with the City of Batavia and the Batavia Development Corporation," Savarino said. "It’s quite unusual to have that level cooperation and to be working on the same side of the table with people like that."

Molino was pleased to hear the praise.

"That's what we're trying to say with the '$100 Million I'm All In' initiative," Molino said. "We want to give people the experience of great service. We want people to say, 'I can't imagine doing business anyplace other than the City of Batavia. His comment just reinforces what we're trying to say and do to make the experience great for people."

April 21, 2017 - 5:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, downtown, batavia, news.

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The Business Improvement District held its annual meeting and awards breakfast this morning at City Church's Generations Hall on Cedar Street, Batavia.

Above, Director Beth Kemp delivers opening remarks.

The Spirit of Downtown Award was given this year to Steve Hawley and his downtown business, The Insurance Center.  Hawley was out of town, so not available to accept the award.

Photos below: Amy Worthington, owner of Amy's Fluffy Friends, and a tireless volunteer for the BID, received one of two volunteer of the year awards. The other went to Corey Wolcott, bottom photo, manager of Angotti's Beverage, for his volunteer work on Beertavia, which is now heading into its third year as a local annual event.

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April 21, 2017 - 4:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, business, news, freshLAB.

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Demolition has started on the interior of the former Newberry's building in Downtown Batavia. The project will convert the building into a brewery and an incubator for startup restaurant businesses, known as freshLAB. The second and third floors will become apartments.

April 15, 2017 - 11:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Foxprowl, batavia, downtown, business.

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The Easter Bunny paid a visit to Foxprowl today. Owner Bill Hume sent in these pictures.

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April 13, 2017 - 8:25am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Bootery, downtown, business, batavia.

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Batavia Bootery, located inside Charles Men's Shop in Downtown Batavia, held its official grand opening last night. Cutting the ribbon, with Dave Howe and Don Brown, is Pete Zeliff, owner of local shoe manufacturing company P.W. Minor. 

For more on the store opening, click here.

April 12, 2017 - 2:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Bootery, batavia, downtown, business, news, Charles Mens Shop.

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When you step into the new Batavia Bootery, the experience will be top rate and you will find only quality shoes in stock, say proprietors David Howe and Don Brown.

The new shoe store at 210 E. Main St. is a joint venture between Charles Men's Shop (the establishment of Howe and Brown) and local shoe factory P.W. Minor.

The store's grand opening is this evening from 6:30 to 8.

"Quite frankly, P.W. Minor was looking to have a strong presence in their own community," Howe said. "I think Mr. Zeliff (Pete Zeliff, owner of P.W. Minor) has really made a strong commitment to the community and he wanted to make a commitment to Downtown. As proprietors of Charles Men's Shop, Don and I like anything that is going to help Downtown businesses."

Howe expects the new shoe store to draw on and expand the customer base of the 70-year-old clothing store, which Howe said has a strong local following, but also draws customers from Buffalo and Rochester.

But with limited space, Charles Men's Shop wasn't able to sell shoes to its customers.

"I think a good shoe store has been sorely lacking in Downtown," Howe said. "When Pete approaches us, I said I can't tell you the number of times people have come in to buy a new suit, whether they have a new job, are going to a job interview, a funeral or a wedding, and when we've finished packing the new jacket, shirt and tie, they say, 'I need a pair of shoes.' " 

Now those customers will be taken to Batavia Bootery, Howe said. There, both men and women will find a complete line of high quality, long-lasting, comfortable shoes sold by a knowledgeable, friendly staff. While featuring shoes from P.W. Minor, other companies shoes will also be available, to offer a price range from moderate to higher end, but all shoes from other lines are selected for their quality, comfort and foot health benefits.

"Our customer service is second to none," Brown said. "We're professionals. We got to all the big shows. You're not getting that kind of service in a mall or a big box store. The knowledge, you can't get that from a bunch of stars left by Millennials online."

Batavia Bootery will be the flagship store for p.w. minor, carrying every shoe the 150-year-old local manufacturer carries, including the new Abrams Boots line and the Batavia Boot and Shoe collection, both high-quality brands for the stylish dresser.

The store will also carry the same quality, orthopedic shoes that has made P.W. Minor famous, but in styles that have been upgraded to more attractive and fashionable designs since Zeliff took over the company and saved it from near closure.

Since Zeliff has taken over, he's moved production back to the United States from China and continues to hire more workers and ramp up production as the sales staff finds new customers across the country.

The craftsmanship of P.W. Minor shoes is really impressive, Howe said. They are made to last a lifetime.

"This is a wonderful example going forward of what can be done in America by American workers," Howe said. "I think that’s really cool. Although we’re just a tiny part of what P.W. Minor is doing. We’re really proud to be associated with them and what they’re doing to bring back American workers and American products."

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April 12, 2017 - 12:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Center Street, downtown, batavia, news.

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A large crew from National Grid is on Center Street today replacing a utility pole that has been leaning significantly since the windstorm last month. During the storm, power was out in the area and authorities closed Center Street and School Street.

April 4, 2017 - 11:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, batavia, downtown, business.

Press release:

The Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District will hold its Annual Meeting & Awards Breakfast on Friday, April 21st
from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. (registration at 8 a.m.). At City Church Generation Center, 15 Center St., Batavia.

Overview of this year’s goals, announcement of newly elected board members, and presentation of “Spirit of Downtown” Awards. It costs $10 to attend. All BID members are invited.

RSVP by Monday, April 17th to the Downtown Batavia BID office at 200 E. Main St., Suite 12, Batavia, NY 14020. For further information contact Beth Kemp at 585-344-0900 or [email protected].

February 23, 2017 - 2:57pm

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Sometime in 2017, there may be beer on tap in the former JJ Newberry building on Main Street, Downtown Batavia.

Matt Gray (top photo, pointing toward the back of the room to his partner in the Batavia Brewing Co. venture, Jon Mager) made the announcement during a Start Up Genesee event at the location yesterday, and said that the Fresh Labs concept for the Newberry building is ready to go forward.

The blueprints are in place, permits pulled and a contractor selected and Gray believes all of the work -- a brewery, a restaurant and two additional full kitchens for start-up restaurants along with seven apartments on the second and third floors -- will be completed by the end of the year.

The Fresh Labs concept was taken on by Gray and Mager in cooperation with the Batavia Development Corp. to help achieve several local goals, he said -- bring more people downtown, provide a way for aspiring restaurateurs to start their businesses and help the city retain some of the $28 million being spent by local residents on food and entertainment in Rochester and Buffalo. 

Gray said Fresh Lab will give people looking to break into the restaurant business a supportive environment throughout the process of developing a concept, getting it launched and helping it grow.

"We want to take the person who has the drive and the skill and work them through the point where they're ready to launch," Gray said. "We will give them direction and resources but then we don't walk way."

Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for BDC, said the BDC is working on a competition, sort of a taste challenge, as part of selecting the first two businesses that will be given space in Fresh Lab.

The building, which was a mortuary before it was Newberry's (it was Newberry's for 70 years), is three stories high with a large basement. Each level is 10,000 square feet. There will be seven studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors. Those floors were once office space for doctors, lawyers and at one time, Batavia Area Jaycees, according to the sign on one door.

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Start Up Genesee is organized by Genesee County Economic Development Center and this was the initiative's third event. Bob Capurso was at the first, where he spoke with Chris Suozzi about the business idea he had: producing Boy Scout grave marker medallions. Suozzi, a VP with GCEDC, helped connect Capurso with advisors who were able to assist him in getting his business launched. He's gone from a concept six months ago, to a design to a prototype and now he's had the first 50 medallions produced and ready for sale. 

“My main goal on this is not to make a ton of money on this, but to get the commemoration out there to the people who earned it through their dedication to scouting,” he said.

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Another local start-up at the event was Eichenfeld LLC, makers of the game MöbileSchlägen. The company will hold a Kickstarter fundraising campaign this Saturday at City Slickers starting at 7 p.m.

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December 1, 2016 - 7:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Christmas in the City, downtown, batavia, news.

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• Parade at 7 p.m.
• Holiday Musical Concert at The Mall - 6-7 p.m., by the Batavia Concert Band
• Ornament Making at 39 Jackson Street - 5-7 p.m., by Art Ah La Carte
• Homer’s Workshop, hosted by The Home Depot at 109 Main St.
• Face Painting, hosted by T-Shirts Etc.
• Vendors
• Horse & Buggy Ride/Chili at 8 Center Street, by Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle
• Shirt Coloring Workshop at 37 Center St., by T-Shirts Etc.
• Wonderland Of Trees -- Catch a bus from Save-A-Lot parking lot to the Holland Land Office Museum.
• Professional Pet Photos at 238 Ellicott St., by Amy’s Fluffy Friends
• Celtic Christmas at 201 E. Main St., by GO-ART!
• Pictures with Santa at 201 E. Main St., by GO-ART!
• Letter to Santa at 202 E. Main St., by Pollyanna & Dot & The Hidden Door
• Adult Tasting at 73 Main St., by The YNGodess Shop.
• Children’s Craft at 50 Batavia City Centre, by Hillside Children’s Center
• Live Nativity at 300 E. Main St., by First Presbyterian Church
• Video Gaming - Open Play at 214 E. Main St., by Game On
• Hair Tinsel at 99 Main St., by The Mane Attraction
• Basket Raffle at 2 School St., by The Bahama Bay Salon & Spa
November 30, 2016 - 6:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Beth Kemp, BID, batavia, downtown, business, news.

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Beth Kemp, who has been active in the Downtown business community since she and her husband, Brian Kemp, moved their business, T-Shirts Etc., to East Main Street in 2012, has been named the new executive director of the Business Improvement District.

Kemp replaces Laurie Oltramari, who resigned about two months ago, following a recruitment search by the board of directors that brought in potential job candidates from throughout the region.

Kemp thinks the board recognized her passion and commitment to Downtown.

"I feel there is a lot of potential for our Downtown and I would love the opportunity to bring it to the vision that I see," Kemp said. " I feel the board of directors is moving in the right direction. I think I’m able to collaborate nicely with all the organizations and the city. I have great relationships already established to move things forward."

In order to take the job, Kemp resigned from her director position with the Business Education Alliance.

The move seemed like a natural extension of her longtime involvement with the BID, she said.

"I've actually been in love with our downtown since we moved our small business down here," Kemp said. "I jumped on any opportunity I could take to get on all the committees to help with events to help other small business owners, so it just seemed like a perfect fit for me.  It’s everything that I love to do."

Since moving Downtown, T-Shirt's Etc., which started in the Harvester Center, them moved to the former WBTA building at Main and Harvester, before moving to East Main, has continued to grow and is now located on Center Street.

There's been some tension the past year or two between City Hall and the BID, but Kemp things will be smooth sailing going forward.

"For me personally, I’ve never had any tension or problem dealing with the City on any level," Kemp said. "They’ve always been very willing to help me with any event that we’re coordinating. Any committee I’ve been on, we’ve had great relationships. I don’t see that as being an issue at all."

November 26, 2016 - 6:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, business, Shop Local, kathy hochul, news.

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It's been five years since Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul first came to Batavia for part of her Christmas shopping and she noted today while standing outside Valle Jewelers how much things have changed.

For the better.

"Five years ago you would see one person, maybe two, in a store and you would feel kind of bad because I know hard it was when my mom had a little business and nobody walked through the door," Hochul said. "It’s a lonely feeling and I know how hard these people work."

Hochul owned a small shop in a WNY village at a time when most people were predicting decline for the area, but she stuck with it and that's one reason Hochul believes so strongly in supporting locally owned businesses.

"My connection with these people is that I feel that same entrepreneurial spirit (as her mother), true believers, people who never gave up in places like Batavia," Hochul said. "I come out and thank them for staying with it during the tough times and hopefully they’re very successful now as people are starting to rediscover downtowns."

There are new retail shops in Downtown Batavia and in addition to visiting her favorites, Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, Charles Men's Shop and Valle Jewelers, Hochul also stopped in at The Hidden Door/Pollyanna & Dot and Foxprowl Collectables.

Hochul remarked on the great diversity of businesses helping to anchor downtown as a more vibrant shopping destination and that's good for all the businesses.

"The downtown has really come alive again and it’s satisfying for me to see," Hochul said.

Hochul was accompanied on her walk through downtown by City Manager Jason Molino, who shared information about the projects completed and underway that are transforming downtown, such as the planned brewery and restaurant incubator going into the former Newberry's building. Projects like those, and the new shoe store, a joint effort between Charles Men's Shop and p.w. minor, will only help draw more people to Batavia and to downtown, she said.

Hochul promised that the governor's office will continue to support programs that assist in local economic development, such as those that assisted in bringing new apartment units downtown and is helping with brownfield redevelopment and projects that will hopefully help the whole county's economy grow, such as STAMP -- Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

"There’s a direct correlation between a governor who has been paying attention to Upstate New York, and myself knowing it so well in the past five years, to where I really think we've made a difference," Hochul said.

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November 23, 2016 - 1:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, downtown, business, charles men's shop, news.

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Batavia-based p.w. minor held an official kickoff party for its two new lines of shoes on Tuesday night in the future home of its new retail store, the former Chamber of Commerce headquarters on East Main Street.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley were both in attendance and they tried on some new shoes.

The new shoe lines are Abram Boots, an affordable, steel-toed work boot, and a line of higher end men's fashion shoes, under the brand of the Batavia Boot and Shoe Company.

The store will be a joint venture between p.w. minor and Charles Men's Shop, run by owners Dave Howe and Don Brown.

Next year, p.w. minor will celebrate its 150th anniversary. It recently moved all of its production back to Batavia from China and the new store will stock only American-made products.

Howe said owner Pete Zeilff, his family and the rest of the team at p.w. minor have done something a lot of people talk about but few do: make a real investment and commitment to the local community.

"I will tell you," Howe said, "we need your commitment as a community to support us. We're hoping for a partnership that everyone can be proud of."

Brian Benedict, the new director of sales for p.w. minor who was lured from a good job in Chicago to return to his hometown and work for Zeliff, said he's amazed at how far p.w. minor has come as a company in a short time and that he's excited about the potential of these shoe lines.

"We have 86 people employed at p.w. minor, so when you buy a pair of shoes, a pair from the Batavia Boot and Shoe Company, seven people touched that shoe as it goes through production," Benedict said. "And, 94 percent of our employees live in Genesee County. It’s not buying an American-made shoe. You’re buying a shoe from people who are your neighbors, your friends, people you see in the street, you see at Tops.

"If you buy two pair we can actually hire more people," he added, which got a laugh from the invited guests in the room.

The kickoff party is the first of six such events over the next couple of months, including a factory tour and chance to check out the new shoe lines at the factory in late December. The invited guests for that event will be people who have liked p.w. minor on the company's Facebook page.

Zeliff said he doesn't think he could have better partners for this venture than Howe and Brown.

"I had to learn a new profession (in taking over p.w. minor) and a new way of making a living over the past two years," Zeliff said. "I really didn't think I would do that at my age, but I really didn't want to learn another one doing retail, so Dave and Don are great people to partner with. I'm happy we're able to do this with them."

Howe has been in the retail business for 50 years, and owned Charles Men's Shop for 31 years, a business that has been in Batavia for 70 years.

The new shoe lines were developed by Kristine McCarthy, a graduate of Batavia High School, who returned home after working in New York City, to join the team at p.w. minor.

Zeliff said he's excited to reach this point of growth for p.w. minor. He sees bright days ahead.

"We've finally turned a corner and we've got a new product out," Zeliff said. "We've got a lot of exciting things happening. I think in these next 12 months will really be the turning stone for us to become a proftable company again and grow more."

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November 21, 2016 - 4:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in p.w. minor, batavia, business, charles men's shop, downtown.

It's been years since Downtown Batavia had a nice shoe store and it's a void in the Downtown retail space that Dave Howe has looked at since the day Thomas and Dwyer closed up shop.

He never added a shoe section to his store because of limited space, but two things have come together to make it possible for Howe and partner Don Brown to open up a shoe store just a few doors down from their current East Main Street location.

One, the Chamber of Commerce vacated its space in the City Church (former Mancuso Theater) building, opening up an attractive retail store front with lots of space and great visibility. Two, p.w. minor has two new fashionable shoe lines it wants to sell locally.

"We love the fact that Pete Zeliff and his family and all the family of p.w. minor decided to bring all of the production back from China to here in our own community," Howe said. "It seems like it's the perfect partnership to put together a hometown."

The move is the start of a business expansion for p.w. minor, said Brian Benedict, director of sales. The more than 150-year-old, Batavia-founded and Batavia-based company is going into shoe lines beyond the orthopedic shoes it's long been known for.

The Abrams Boot line is made up of fashionable work boots and the company will also introduce the Batavia Shoe and Boot line.

Bennett said the Downtown retail store will be the company's one-and-only retail location as it seeks new distribution channels for its new line with shoe retailers across the nation.

Howe said two factors will be hallmarks of the new store: quality and American-made products.

And there will be other products besides shoes, such as American-made workwear, belts, gloves and other accessories.

Howe thinks the shoe store will be a good complement to Charles Men's Shop.

The new store won't open until sometime in January, but people looking for shoes for themselves or as Christmas presents can stop into Charles Men's Shop to see the lines of shoes and be fitted for some of the first pairs to come out of the Batavia factory.

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

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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.

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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."

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Jason Ball

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

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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."

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