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October 16, 2017 - 3:22pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, freshLAB, business, news.

Press release:

It's now LAST CALL for interested restauranteurs to attend the FREE freshLAB BOOT CAMP Program Orientation, which takes place tonight from 6 to 9. Preregistration required by Julie Pacette at the Batavia Development Corp. at 585-345-6380.

The orientation will take place inside City Hall, located at 1 City Centre, in the Community Room.

At the newly coordinated restaurant ownership Boot Camp program orientation, you will learn more about the freshLAB restaurant incubator, network with industry specialists, learn business basics and discuss entrepreneurial traits necessary to be successful.

Attendees may enroll into Boot Camp online before Oct. 20 to attend all follow-up sessions.

freshLAB Boot Camp Objective: Introduce aspiring entrepreneurs to restaurant industry trends, market opportunities, key operating functions and the importance of restaurant management systems.

freshLAB Boot Camp Outcome: Upon successful completion of Boot Camp, two participants will be offered an invitation to open a food service business at freshLAB restaurant incubator on Main Street, Batavia.

Barb Shine, captain of the freshLAB Boot Camp and Batavia Development Corporation volunteer, has put together a dynamic schedule of classes to feature hands-on instruction with Chef Tracy Burgio at the Batavia Career & Technical Education Center and exclusive time onsite at freshLAB before the foodhall opens to the public on Main Street, Batavia.

Instructors from the business community and industry specialists will lead most sessions to include Katie Frillici of JFS/Curtze Food Service and Ken Hudson of Palmer Food Services.

The value of the eight-session Boot Camp, not including tonight's orientation, is valued at more than $1,300 and is being offered for $349.

Tentative Boot Camp schedule:

Oct. 16 -- Program orientation, entrepreneurial traits & business basics featuring guest speakers & networking

Oct. 30 -- Operations, Equipment & Managing the kitchen, food costs, portion control, inventory

Nov. 6 -- Business & Restaurant Marketing with heavy emphasis on concept development

Nov. 20 -- Experiential Learning, professionalism, sanitation, safety in the kitchen
*Signature Dish Evaluation* 

Dec. 4 -- Operating Systems, Accounting & Record Keeping Business Management

Dec. 11 -- Reporting & Risk Management

Jan. 8 -- Business Plan Run-through to reveal class participant restaurant concepts, differentiation and system preparation

Jan. 22 -- Individual pitch to freshLAB Selection Committee, *Final Tasting*

Feb. 2 -- Business Plan Submission Deadline for freshLAB consideration

freshLAB restaurant incubator was conceived to strengthen the local food service industry and capitalize on more than $20,000,000 that is spent outside Genesee County each year when residents eat, drink and are entertained elsewhere. The project is funded, in part, by USDA Rural Development to intentionally link regional agriculture to the menu.

A program coordinated by the Batavia Development Corporation in cooperation with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Batavia Business Improvement District and Batavia Career & Technical Education Center. https://freshlabbatavia.com/

October 12, 2017 - 9:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Foodie Challenge, freshLAB, batavia, business, BOCES.

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Press release:

Officials from the Batavia Development Corporation, the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and the Batavia Business Improvement District, collaborators on the Foodie Challenge, recently presented the proceeds from the People’s Choice Tasting Event to Chef Burgio and Culinary Arts students. Chef Tracy Burgio noted how this $750 donation would support student activities.

“This contribution to the Culinary Arts Club will help to enrich our students’ culinary education by helping to fund field trips, projects and student competitions,” Chef Burgio said.

“We appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with the Batavia Development Corporation and the freshLAB project. It is our hope that this partnership sparks more involvement with our community partners,” said Jon Sanfratello, executive principal of the Batavia CTE Center and Campus.

Photo: Barb Shine, front, left, and Pierluigi Cipollone from the Batavia Development Corporation; Mary Vandenbosch, student; Steve Pies, Batavia Development Corporation; Chef Tracy Burgio, Culinary Arts instructor, Batavia CTE Center; Danny Pernesky, Debra Moore, students. Back left: Austin Deck, student; Jon Sanfratello, executive principal, GVEP Batavia Campus; Julie Pacatte, Batavia Development Corporation; Tom Turnbull, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

More after the jump:

 

September 24, 2017 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in freshLAB, batavia, business, news, notify.

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Victor Figueroa's ambition is to open a Puerto Rican restaurant in Batavia specializing in empanadas, and after winning both the Top Competitor Award and the People's Choice Award on Saturday night at the FreshLAB's Foodie Challenge, that dream is a step closer to reality.

Figueroa along with four other top finishers in the cook-off held at BOCES will now be able to take a tuition-free course in restaurant management and then compete in a Shark Tank-like business plan pitch. The top two contestants will be offered spots to try out their restaurant concept in the new FreshLABs facilities inside the former Newberry Building on Main Street along with Eli Fish Brewing Company.

In all,12 aspiring restaurateurs signed up for the Foodie Challenge, eight competed Saturday night and the other finalists were: Gina Bianco, of Middleport, with an Eggplant Busiolo; Judy Hysek, of Batavia, with a vegan mushroom and sage stuffed ravioli with a cashew cream sauce; Rob Rudnicki, of Batavia, with a fish taco; and Ronald Smith, of Rochester, with a pollo de miel (honey chicken).

The contestants are expected to come up with a restaurant concept and menu that is unique to Batavia and Figueroa is counting empanadas as his path to victory. He made a Puerto Rican cheeseburger empanada with a passion fruit chili sauce.

“It’s one of our favorites in Puerto Rico," Figueroa said. "We eat them for lunch, lunch breakfast and dinner every single day. You can walk with them. It’s just one of those things, when we eat it takes you back Puerto Rico.”

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Photo of the winning empanadas by Alex Figueroa.

September 7, 2017 - 1:06pm

Press release:

A new restaurant ownership training course is slated to begin in October featuring two monthly classes over the winter, or approximately 26 hours of training that concludes in February.

The program involves two juried tastings that each class participant is required to prepare. Registration opens online Friday, Sept. 8th at www.freshLabBatavia.com. Top contestants of the freshLAB Foodie Challenge may win free tuition to attend the freshLAB Boot Camp. 

A range of small business specialists and industry experts have been coordinated by the Batavia Development Corporation to prepare the aspiring restaurant owners for a business sector that is reported to have a multimillion dollar opportunity in Genesee County.

Genesseans are assumed to spend approximately $20,000,000 to eat, drink and be entertained some place other than Genesee County. The downtown strategy is to keep the dining dollars local by becoming a dining and entertainment destination that will capitalize on the market opportunity.

“We are hosting a Foodie Challenge Sept. 23rd to stir food creativity,” said Barb Shine, coordinator of the program and Batavia Development Corporation Board member. “Good flavors come first, we want creative cooks to consider opening his/her restaurant.

"To follow, we’ve assumed a bigger role to coordinate the Boot Camp. We’ve corralled the necessary resources and experts for talented and industrious operators to seriously consider the restaurant business.”

Research and local experience shows that a written business plan is not a sufficient judge of a candidate’s readiness to get started or grow. In fact, 59 percent of hospitality businesses fail within three years according to Restaurant Management Software POS Sector study. One reason for failure is noted as the lack of a strong concept setting the business apart from the competition.

The Boot Camp instruction has carved-out more than three hours to discuss the trends and market opportunities in food service, a highly competitive and shifting business.

“What’s your 'Because?” " asked Katie Frilllici, representative of JFS/Curtze food distributor. “You must have a compelling reason for people to select your eatery over another.” 

JFS/Curtze should know, they have been in the food business for 135 years. Frillici and her colleagues have been invited to participate as guest instructors for the Boot Camp where they, too, will share trade ideas to help develop a winning concept. JFS/Curtze is a full-line food service distributor now serving eight states.

Other select instruction will be led by Palmer Food Services, Chef Tracy Burgio of Batavia Career & Technical Education Center and Matt Gray, entrepreneur and owner of five restaurants. Legal, insurance and regulatory representatives in addition to agriculture business educators will be on hand.

Tentative Boot Camp program schedule:

  • October: Program Orientation and introduction of restaurant operations, concepts, etc.;
  • November: “Back of House” featuring inventory management, food safety in addition to a juried tasting prepared by Boot Camp participants;
  • December: Finance and accounting for the restaurant business, freshLAB support area;
  • January: Concept development and business pitch, topped with final juried tasting;
  • February: Independent study, final business plan due;
  • March: two candidates will each open a restaurant at freshLAB restaurant incubator turn-key space, pre-approved for a $30,000 special rate loan

Industry experts will lead the classroom training in operations, marketing and financial management. Other mentors will guide menu planning to inventory management, distributor purchasing to farm sourcing. Estimated Course Value more than $1,300 being offered for $349.

The Boot Camp is considered a prerequisite for entrepreneurs considering to lease space at the new freshLAB restaurant incubator foodhall now under construction on Main Street, Batavia. The Foodie Challenge will reward the top five competitors by offering TUITION FREE invitation to the Boot Camp.

freshLAB restaurant incubator was conceived to strengthen the local food service industry and capitalize on more than $20,000,000 that leave Genesee County each year when residents eat, drink and enjoy entertainment elsewhere.

The project is funded, in part, by USDA Rural Development to intentionally link regional agriculture to the menu. A program coordinated by the Batavia Development Corporation in cooperation with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Batavia Business Improvement District and Batavia Career & Technical Education Center. https://freshlabbatavia.com/

September 4, 2017 - 3:00pm

Have you picked your sweet or savory dish, yet? Join the Foodie Challenge fun presenting samples of your favorite flavors. Spirited Foodies will compete to WIN community bragging rights, FREE tuition to attend a restaurant ownership Boot Camp and $30,000 to open a restaurant on Main Street, Batavia. 

For more information www.freshLabBatavia.com.  Space is limited, register online today for just $25. 
Proceeds benefit the Batavia Career & Technical Education Center Culinary Arts Club.

August 31, 2017 - 12:00pm

SEASONED ENTREPRENEUR TO BE YOUR KITCHEN GUIDE -- Proceeds benefit Batavia CTE Center Culinary Arts Club. 
The Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center is hosting the freshLAB Foodie Challenge competition on Saturday, September 23 beginning at 8:00 a.m. Competitor registration fee of $25 will cover all-day kitchen access and chef mentoring by Chef Tracy Burgio. Chef Burgio is a French Culinary Institute graduate, successful bakery entrepreneur and now the certified Culinary Arts Instructor at the Batavia CTE Center. Proceeds from this challenge will benefit the Batavia CTE Center Culinary Arts Club.

The Batavia CTE Center added Chef Burgio to its teaching staff in 2016. Now, this upcoming community collaboration enables Chef Burgio to share her education, skills and storied travels with freshLAB Foodie Challenge participants. Upon decades of managing some of Rochester’s finest restaurants, Chef Tracy pursued a Pastry Arts degree from New York City’s French Culinary Institute. Upon graduation, Chef Tracy landed in Chicago to work at the famed Bleeding Heart Bakery but soon after followed her heart to Italy. Chef Tracy was selected for an internship to learn from the esteemed Chef Malu Simoes da Cunha.

"My career has taken me all around the world where I have studied with culinary masters. I'm so pleased to be able to share my knowledge with my students at the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. The freshLAB Foodie Challenge is an excellent opportunity for anyone who is a budding culinary artist who wishes to experience the world of food service,” said Chef Burgio. “I look forward to hosting the challenge and encourage people to enter this contest." 

Leaning on Chef Tracy’s expertise, Batavia is hosting its first creative cook challenge. This one-day contest is open to seasoned cooks to homemakers and is limited to 25 participants. Each contestant will navigate the Batavia CTE Center teaching kitchen with chef leadership and student porter assistance for the Foodie Challenge.

“Tracy is certainly vivacious. We are fortunate to have her leading this challenge,” commented Mary Valle, Batavia Development Corporation Board member and freshLAB volunteer. “It’s worth $25 just to spend a day in the kitchen with her!”

Space is limited. Register online at www.freshLABBatavia.com. The deadline to enter is Sept. 9.

August 28, 2017 - 6:30pm

SEASONED ENTREPRENEUR TO BE YOUR KITCHEN GUIDEProceeds benefit Batavia CTE Center Culinary Arts Club. 
The Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center is hosting the freshLAB Foodie Challenge competition on Saturday, Sept. 23 beginning at 8 a.m. Competitor registration fee of $25 will cover all-day kitchen access and chef mentoring by Chef Tracy Burgio. Chef Burgio is a French Culinary Institute graduate, successful bakery entrepreneur and now the certified Culinary Arts Instructor at the Batavia CTE Center. Proceeds from this challenge will benefit the Batavia CTE Center Culinary Arts Club.

The Batavia CTE Center added Chef Burgio to its teaching staff in 2016. Now, this upcoming community collaboration enables Chef Burgio to share her education, skills and storied travels with freshLAB Foodie Challenge participants. Upon decades of managing some of Rochester’s finest restaurants, Chef Tracy pursued a Pastry Arts degree from New York City’s French Culinary Institute. Upon graduation, Chef Tracy landed in Chicago to work at the famed Bleeding Heart Bakery but soon after followed her heart to Italy. Chef Tracy was selected for an internship to learn from the esteemed Chef Malu Simoes da Cunha.

"My career has taken me all around the world where I have studied with culinary masters. I'm so pleased to be able to share my knowledge with my students at the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. The freshLAB Foodie Challenge is an excellent opportunity for anyone who is a budding culinary artist who wishes to experience the world of food service,” said Chef Burgio. “I look forward to hosting the challenge and encourage people to enter this contest." 

Leaning on Chef Tracy’s expertise, Batavia is hosting its first creative cook challenge. This one-day contest is open to seasoned cooks to homemakers and is limited to 25 participants. Each contestant will navigate the Batavia CTE Center teaching kitchen with chef leadership and student porter assistance for the Foodie Challenge.

“Tracy is certainly vivacious. We are fortunate to have her leading this challenge,” said Mary Valle, Batavia Development Corporation Board member and freshLAB volunteer. “It’s worth $25 just to spend a day in the kitchen with her!”

Space is limited. Register online at www.freshLABBatavia.com. The deadline to enter is Sept. 9.

August 21, 2017 - 12:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in freshLAB, batavia, business, news.

Press release:

Are you a foodie who loves to cook and aims to learn more about this craft? Under the aegis of freshLAB, Batavia Development Corporation is co-hosting a Foodie Challenge with the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Deemed the official start to recruiting aspiring restaurateurs for freshLAB, this one-day challenge will offer kitchen access and chef mentoring by Chef Tracy Burgio, the certified Culinary Arts Instructor at the Batavia CTE Center.

The Foodie Challenge is limited to 25 participants from seasoned cooks to homemakers who are encouraged to share sweet and savory flavors.

During the competition, a Selection Committee will taste all flavors in order to offer top competitors free tuition to an upcoming restaurant ownership Boot Camp that will take place at the freshLAB facility in Batavia. This boot camp will offer a series of restaurant ownership workshops taught by industry experts, which includes two more juried tastings. The boot camp is set to begin in October and will run until January.

“I challenge students and feel this awesome project is an extension of our approach in the classroom,” said Chef Burgio.

Interested in participating in the Foodie Challenge? A few notable twists add interest to the challenge:

1. You must be a “Spirited Foodie” -- which is defined as a courageous person who seeks new food experiences.

2. The Spirited Foodie must source at least one ingredient regionally to prepare the recipe.

No professional cooking experience necessary, only a good recipe and a $25 entry fee. Bring your own ingredients; any necessary cooking equipment will be provided along with chef guidance. Register online at www.freshLABBatavia.com

The deadline to enter is Sept. 9. Each Food Challenge entry will be provided one free guest admission to the ticketed tasting evening event on Sept. 23. Tickets to this event are $20 per person and may be purchased at www.freshLABBatavia.com

All recipes must be prepared at Batavia CTE Center commercial kitchen on Sept. 23. Student porters will be enlisted to help navigate the kitchen efficiently. Foodie Challenge entrants must prepare 150 two- to four-ounce samples.

A ticketed tasting event will cap off the evening. Proceeds will benefit the Batavia CTE Center Culinary Arts Club. Ticketed guests will cast their votes for his/her favorite sweet or savory sample, which will be granted the People’s Choice Award.

This event will take place at the Batavia CTE Center from 5-7 p.m. following the competition. Tickets to this event are $20 per person and may be purchased at www.freshLABBatavia.com.

“Creative business ideas set companies apart,” commented Steve Pies, board director for Batavia Development Corporation. “We’re looking for flavors not available in Batavia. There’s a huge opportunity for the right concept.”

Pies is referencing the Clue Group market research indicating Genesseeans spend $12,400,000 to eat and drink outside the area every year. freshLAB was conceived to tap that immense market potential, strengthening the local industry to keep dining dollars local. The Foodie Challenge is what the business world would call “ideation,” a way to churn unique ideas.

The Foodie Challenge is a collaborative effort of the Batavia Development Corporation, Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, Batavia Business Improvement District and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

Questions regarding the Foodie Challenge may be directed to Julie Pacatte at the Batavia Development Corporation at (585) 345-6380. Registration form available online at www.freshLabBatavia.com.

August 15, 2017 - 7:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in freshLAB, batavia, business.

Press release:

 A volunteer committee led by the Batavia Development Corporation created a website (www.freshLabBatavia.com ) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FreshLab-Batavia-157039621534443/ ) to inform the community about the project, construction progress and recruitment to lease two more start-up restaurant spaces.

“We understand residents are chomping at the bit to learn more about the project,” said Barb Shine, Batavia Development Corporation director and co-captain of the marketing efforts. “It’s an enormous undertaking, pretty complex, with a lot of moving parts. We hope the website helps break it into bite-sized pieces.”

Jon Mager, future master brewer of the anchor eatery, Eli Fish Brewing Company, formerly known as Batavia Brewing Company, has agreed to take the lead on social media construction updates. Beth Kemp, executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement District, has guided the creative direction, technical setup and will post periodic updates in addition to the Batavia Development Corporation.

“We’re getting more and more excited about this project. Programming at freshLAB will benefit all of our downtown businesses,” added Kemp. “Complementing our solid restaurant core, freshLAB will help reshape downtown into a dining and entertainment destination.”

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.

December 13, 2016 - 8:48am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Ellicott Station, Batavia Development Corp., freshLAB.
  • The startup and/or expansion of seven Batavia-based businesses that capitalized on microenterprise grants;
  • The imminent transformation of the former J.J. Newberry building on Main Street into a brewing company and “freshLAB” restaurant;
  • And, of course, the $17 million renovation and redevelopment of the former Santy’s Tire Shop and Soccio & Della Penna Construction site on Ellicott Street into a retail/commercial/residential complex.

These projects, along with a handful of other grant-aided ventures, signal a continuing, successful effort by the Batavia Development Corp. to revitalize the city’s downtown and broaden the tax base throughout the municipality, said the president of the organization’s board of directors.

Speaking Monday night at the City Council meeting, Ray Chaya, a BDC board member for nine years who is “terming out” next month, said Batavia’s positive, can-do message has resonated with regional and state economic development agencies. As a result, grants have been awarded to initiatives to the tune of more than $2 million.

“We’ve come to be a community of believers,” Chaya said, noting that the passing of resolutions by government boards, phone calls from local leaders to regional executives and media coverage were key factors in last week’s awarding of the $1.9 million Consolidated Funding Application grant by the Finger Lakes Regional Development Council for the Ellicott Station project.

He added that the BDC also expects to receive a $500,000 Restore NY grant for environmental remediation of the Santy’s/Della Penna site, and the developer, Savarino Cos. of Buffalo, is in line to receive federal new market tax credits “to help close the gap” and make the project worthwhile.

City Manager Jason Molino said the BDC is looking into “multiple funding sources to offset the cost,” including Brownfield cleanup tax credits and the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity fund – a partnership of the City of Batavia, Genesee County, Batavia City School District and Genesee County Economic Development Center.

“The Pathways to Prosperity addresses the anti-poverty issue and is a feather in the cap,” Molino said. “The way we were able to transfer the property as an LLC to the BDC and then to the developer is the first of its kind on several different levels … and that’s what has drawn attention to it.”

Chaya named seven businesses that participated in the BDC’s microenterprise grant program, which empowered the agency to piecemeal the distribution of $200,000 to qualifying entrepreneurs who participated in the program.

Those businesses are Hidden Door, Batavia Brewing Co., Gams Sweet & Savory, Teddy Bear Day Care, T-Shirts Etc., Amy’s Fluffy Friends and Trash Away. All of the businesses’ expenditures are closely monitored by the BDC and the state’s Office of Community Renewal, with milestones and metrics having to be met per grant regulations.

The Batavia Brewery Co./freshLAB project also has been boosted by several performance-based grants, Chaya said, namely a $500,000 Main Street anchor grant, $60,785 from the United States Department of Agriculture and a $100,000 National Grid Revitalization grant.

Additional tax credits could come if the building – which also will house market-rate apartments on the upper floors -- is put onto the National Register of Historic Place as sought by owners Matthew Gray and Matt Boyd.  

Chaya said that bidding on construction is taking place through Jan. 6 and work is expected to begin in late winter. The overall cost of this project is estimated at $1.5 million.

The city also received two other FLREDC grants -- $25,000 for the Downtown Batavia Healthy Living Campus’ feasibility study and $12,500 to the Batavia Business Improvement District for a Downtown Batavia Public Market Study.

Chaya also reported that an Empire State Development grant in the amount of $15,000 is being used to develop a plan for the Harvester Park subdivision.

November 15, 2016 - 8:58pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia Planning and Development Committee, freshLAB.

Believing that the City of Batavia is "on the rebound," entrepreneur Matthew Gray said he and partner Matt Boyd are eager to transform the former J.J. Newberry building downtown into a residential and commercial success.

Gray and Boyd are partners in AGRV Properties Inc., which will be creating the Batavia Brewing Co. and -- as City Planning & Development Committee members found out on Tuesday night -- seven apartments on the second and third floors of the vacant building at 109-111 Main St.

Gray was unable to vote on the special use permit request to convert the upper two floors into dwelling units since he is on the planning committee. But he was willing to talk about the venture afterward.

The committee did vote in favor of the project, which has an expected price tag of around $1.5 million in construction costs and also involves plans to have the building put on the National Register of Historic Places.

When it was mentioned that Gray must be pretty confident in Batavia to make this type of investment, he replied that "we were confident in Batavia to move back here in 2007 (from North Carolina and take over ownership of Alex's Place restaurant on Park Road), and we're confident now..."

"We really think that Batavia is on the rebound."

Nicholas Ryder, job captain for TRM Architect in Buffalo, provided details to the planning committee, stating that there will be four apartments (one- and two-bedroom) on the second floor and three on the third floor. The average size of the units will be around 800 square feet, with one to be about 1,400 square feet. The total space of the building is around 27,000 square feet.

Ryder said his firm is working with the city manager's office on a parking plan -- eyeing lots on Center, Court and Jackson streets -- and will be putting out bids for some exterior modification.

As far as the interior is concerned, he said they have discovered significant historical elements -- walls and ceilings of bead board and decorative wood wilth finite ribbing, for example -- that will not be tampered with per historical registry requirements.

"There also is existing chain link, pendant-like fixtures and milk-glass dome fixtures that trickle throughout the entire building," he said.

Ryder added that historic preservation rules prohibit the altering of hallways and doorways.

Gray said he doesn't expect any problems attracting tenants, noting that "everyone who goes through" the building has given it rave reviews.

Julie Pacatte, coordinator of the Batavia Development Corp. that is steering the project, said the monthly rental rate for the one-bedroom apartments can not exceed $1,142 and the monthly rate for the two-bedroom units can not exceed $1,371.

She said that rates are capped at 90 percent of the median income in Genesee County due to the fact that grant funding is being made available through the state Office of Community Renewal's New York Main Street Program.

The Batavia Brewing Co. will be the anchor tenant, with its brewing tanks in the basement viewable to patrons at the first-floor pub and eatery. The first floor also will contain two as-yet-to-be-selected "freshLAB" concessionaires -- hopeful restaurateurs offering unique menu items. Gray said he hopes to begin construction by January and be open by next summer. 

In other action, as expected, the planning committee held a public hearing in connection with a revised city sign code, and sent its recommendation for approval to City Council.

Prior to the unanimous vote, however, it heard from Guy Clark, owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rentals, who said he objected to the regulation that the message on electronic digital signs could be changed only once every hour. Clark had appeared before City Council on the same issue about a year ago.

"I had requested that the frequency be four to five seconds," Clark said. "Now I saw the once-per-hour, and know that every school and church change their messages every two seconds, and include graphics."

Clark went on to say that digital signs have not caused any accidents or incidents, and he just wants to be able to change his message more frequently.

City Code Enforcement Officer Doug Randall stated that changeable text signs are permitted only on state routes (with the exception of downtown), and that the code -- as currently written -- does not permit these types of signs on Cedar Street.

The city planners' recommendation, along with Clark's comments, will be forwarded to City Council to be placed on its conference agenda and, per City Manager Jason Molino, another public hearing will be scheduled in January or February.

City planners and the Genesee County Planning Board worked together to revamp the city sign code with an emphasis on readability and streamlining the procedural process (see a previous story on The Batavian).

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.

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