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May 1, 2013 - 3:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Goodwill Industries.

Goodwill Industries opened its first thrift store in Genesee County this morning, and the store was immediately a big hit with long lines of bargain hunters at the cash registers.

The location is 4152 W. Main St., Batavia, in the Valu Plaza.

"We hope to further our mission in the Genesee County community by adding more variety to the retail landscape," said Lisa Churakos (pictured), director of donated goods/retail. "Goodwill has quality, affordable selections for every shopper."

The store is open Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

The new store also serves as a donation center.

May 1, 2013 - 1:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Batavia Towne Center.

Syracuse-based COR Development is planning four retail spaces for the south end of Batavia Towne Center, VP Joseph B. Gerardi said at a public hearing Tuesday night, and to fill those spaces, COR needs more than $1 million in tax abatements.

Filling those spaces is "better for all the tenants in the center," Gerardi said.

"It would provide a diverse shopping experience so tenants can help attract other tenants to the shopping center," Gerardi said.

Without the tax incentives, the four potential companies -- which Gerardi said could generate $1 million in local sales tax revenue -- may not come to Batavia.

Even though the four businesses would generate $16 million in gross sales, going by Gerardi's sales tax estimate, Batavia isn't an attractive enough market without the tax breaks.

And even though the four potential businesses would spend, on top of the $7 million COR would invest in the project, $11 million before the first cash register recorded the first sale, Batavia is too marginal a market to attract these retailers, Gerardi said.

Gerardi (top photo) refused to talk with reporters to clarify these points following the public hearing.

COR's plan is to convert the former Lowe's location from 138,000 square feet of retail space into 170,000 square feet of retail space.

In previous media reports, COR CEO Steven F. Aiello has said COR doesn't need to lease out the Lowe's space because Lowe's is obligated to another 15 years of rental payments, but Gerardi argued Tuesday that the proposed expansion is critical to Batavia Towne Center's viability.

"The dark store is not, in our opinion, a good reflection on the center and it's not a good reflection on the community," Gerardi said.

The one retailer COR has confirmed as a potential tenant is Dick's Sporting Goods.

In 2012, according to the company's annual report, Dick's generated $5.8 billion in annual sales and achieved a net profit of $291 million, or an average of $405,000 in net profit for each of its 518 locations. On average, gross sales of $11.2 million per store.

Two of Dick's locations are in shopping centers in Webster and Clay developed by COR without the kind of tax breaks COR is seeking in Genesee County.

A group of about a half dozen local Libertarians spoke at the public hearing, arguing that tax breaks for COR would benefit national chains at the expense of existing competitors.

"I believe your intentions are good, but I find fault in your logic," Jim Rosenbeck said (second inset photo). "The reality is you can't give money to one business without disadvantaging its competitors. You are picking winners and losers and that is simply wrong."

Current state law prohibits tax incentives to develop retail outlets, unless the local IDA -- in this case Genesee County Economic Development Center -- can find that the retail center will attract tourists (defined in the law as people who travel from outside the IDA's jurisdiction) and the stores will fill a need not yet met by existing retail.

Gerardi said Batavia Towne Center does attract shoppers from outside Genesee County and the stores in the center do offer goods and services not previously available in Batavia.

Phill Ricci (top inset photo) took issue with the idea that Batavia Towne Center could be considered a tourist destination.

"Hotels are not filling to the rafters because we have a Target," Ricci said. "Little Jimmy doesn't dream about seeing his favorite animi characters in the halls of Bed Bath & Beyond. To attempt to justify it as a tourist destination is hollow at best and laughable at worst."

COR initially received a promise of $4.6 million in tax abatements to build Batavia Towne Center with the promise of creating 297 full-time equivalent jobs. Gerardi said the development peaked in at 277 FTEs before Lowe's closed.

Rosenbeck said it was as if GCEDC helped COR build a new house and now COR wants more money to remodel it.

Gerardi said the four new stores would create 100 FTE jobs.

Elba resident Fred Read said that's just what they are -- FTEs, not real full-time jobs, but jobs with low pay and few benefits.

"They're not the kind of jobs that are going to keep young people here," Read said.

None of the speakers supported COR receiving another round of tax incentives for the project.

A letter from local business owner Jerry Arena was read into the record. Arena, who owns Jerry Arena's Pizza and Ten Cent Millionaire Tavern, said he opposes tax incentives for national retailers.

"Independent small businesses in Batavia are an endangered species and offer much more quality of life and stability to a community that many of us will ever realize," Arena wrote.

The GCEDC board will vote on the proposed tax incentive package for COR at its regular meeting Thursday. The public portion of the meeting is expected to begin at 4:40 p.m.. The board meets at the Med-Tech Center on R. Stephen Hawley Drive, Batavia.

April 29, 2013 - 6:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, agriculture, Oakfield, Triple P Farms.

Wouldn't it be great to eat a juicy, sweet, fresh locally grown strawberry right about now?

You may think that's impossible, but thanks to Pudgie Riner, owner of Triple P Farms in Oakfield, starting Wednesday, you will be able to buy locally grown fresh strawberries at Harrington's Produce Stand at 5282 Clinton Street Road, Batavia.

Always an innovator looking for new ideas, Riner found a picture online of a farmer in Denmark growing strawberries from hanging baskets in a hothouse and he realized he could do locally and get strawberries out to market weeks ahead of other local farmers.

"The concern is, if we say we've got fresh strawberries from New York, nobody going to believe us," Riner said. "These really are grown right here. They're not from Florida.They're not from California. They're grown right here in New York and the same varieties that are grown locally and people are used to eating from the ground, but these are grown in a basket."

The 5,000 plants are two years old and should produce 5,000 quarts of strawberries, Riner said.

Peak harvest will be within 10 days, which is a little earlier than Riner wanted, but he'll learn from this year's growing cycle and push it back a bit next year.

He partnered with Andy Harrington (left, above) to bring the strawberries to market because the Harrington family has such a good reputation for locally grown produce.

"I decided that knowing his business, he is the right guy to sell them," Riner said. "I could sell them in my own place, Pudgie's, but I don't have the reputation of being in the produce business, so that would be one more hurdle."

Harrington's on Clinton Street opens Wednesday. The family's Oakfield location, 7550 Lewiston Road, opens in June.

It was an easy decision to take on Pudgie's berries, Harrington said. It gives him more stock early in the spring and, "they're fresh and they taste great."

Previously: Pudgie puts the local into 'locally grown' produce and garden plants

April 29, 2013 - 12:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, garbage collection.

Mark Smith sees a business opportunity in Batavia: To provide local residents with a garbage service that includes totes.

Smith is owner of Nu Way, an Arcade-based company that already has residential and commercial clients in Genesee County.

When Smith learned none of the companies that will start offering trash service in the City of Batavia will offer totes, Smith thought, "I can do that."

Starting June 1, when the Genesee ARC contract expires, the local trash market becomes open to competition.

The tote is optional. Nu Way will also offer bag pick-up.

The price for bag service is $22 month for five 30-gallon bags a week. The tote price is the $22 basic fee plus $4.50 a month. The service includes one bulk item per week.

Totes are 90 gallons, but a smaller tote can be requested.

Totes are also available for recyclables.

To contact Nu Way, call (585) 492-5880.

April 26, 2013 - 5:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Big Pauly's.

With a new name and a new logo, Paul Berardini is just about back in the pizza business.

Berardini unveiled the new look on Facebook last night.

It's been three months since Pauly's Pizza closed, but after lining up his brother as his new business partner, securing the lease for the Ellicott Street restaurant, as well as getting new equipment, Berardini anticipates opening the doors on Big Pauly's May 13.

"I'm happy to get back to making pizza in my hometown," Berardini said. "This is where I'm from and this is where I want to do business."

Pauly's ran into a little trouble with its expansion into Clarence and Berardini's partner needed to pull out. 

At the same time, Berardini had some health issues to deal with. He said he's healthy now and ready to start tossing pizza dough again.

The menu will change only slightly, with some items that didn't sell that well getting trimmed, but all of the recipes, the sauce, the dough, the wings and the chicken fingers will all be the same.

And many of Berardini's employees will return, he said.

The new shop's phone number will be (585) 343-BIGP.

There's also a new Facebook page for Big Pauly's. Click Here.

April 25, 2013 - 3:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Press release:

The legendary Buffalo, N.Y., Anchor Bar franchise announced today they will be cooking up wings in a whole new way this summer, with the opening of their newest location at Darien Lake Theme Park. The new in-park Anchor Bar opening will coincide with the first day of the park’s 2013 season on May 11th. When guests visit the new in-park Anchor Bar, they can expect the same authentic wings at the same prices but in an exciting new atmosphere. 

“We’re thrilled to bring a Western New York favorite like Anchor Bar to the park this season,” said Bob Montgomery, Darien Lake general manager. “Guests can now grab a bucket of crispy original buffalo wings, and relax on the outdoor deck at Anchor Bar all while surrounded by the fun and excitement you’d expect from Darien Lake.”

“Opening a new location at Darien Lake is a very exciting moment for Anchor Bar,” said Ivano Toscani, president, Anchor Bar Franchises. “We couldn’t be happier that our latest business partnership is with one of the most fun places in Western New York.”

The in-park Anchor Bar is part of several cosmetic and capital improvements this season at Darien Lake designed to bring the park back to its Western New York roots. Improvements include: the latest ride addition to the park, Blast-off, a spaceship like thrill ride that skyrockets guests into the air at 4g speeds; the $1 million Ignite the Night laser show; and the all-new Lakefront Boardwalk area, which is a tribute to the region’s lakes and is also the location for the new Anchor Bar.

Darien Lake is also partnering this season with several other local businesses including Tim Hortons, Webers Mustard, Sahlen’s Hot Dogs, and Perry’s Ice Cream.

April 25, 2013 - 3:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Lawley Genesee.

Press release:

At one Batavia insurance agency, when spring rolls around, it’s Team Lawley all the way. Staff throws donations into a hat to win vacation days from work, and clients of Lawley Genesee Insurance Agency open their wallets, too, in support of the agency’s managing partner, Bill Fritts. Fritts’ wife, Theresa, has multiple sclerosis, and each spring for the past five years, just about everyone in the office has participated in Walk MS Batavia, a fundraiser for the National MS Society Upstate New York Chapter.

“Theresa is a very nice person, and it just seemed like a great thing to get involved with once we learned she had MS,” said Marissa Weaver, an account manager at the company.

Money raised through Walk MS goes to research to find a cure for the often disabling disease of the central nervous system that affects more than 100 people in Genesee County. Funds also support programs and services for more than 12,800 people living with MS in Upstate New York and their families. This year, Walk MS Batavia is on Sunday, May 5, at Dwyer Stadium starting at 10 a.m.

“Our office enjoys participating in fundraisers and events in the community, so it just seemed natural to want to get involved where it meant something to someone we know,“ said Weaver, who is captain of Team Lawley, which raised $1,500 last year.

One unique fundraiser they devised is an office raffle – a dollar a ticket – and the winner gets paid time off from work.

“People in the community think it’s great,” Weaver said. “Our company has several core values and one is community involvement. We are trying to come up with more creative ideas how to fund raise that might be out of the office and more in the community.”

The staff puts together baskets to raffle off, that include a mix of lottery tickets and gift cards, and clients generously pitch in to win.

The staff’s leader, Fritts, will be among the team’s 20 members walking this year.

“It’s fun to get out of the office and together with coworkers,” Weaver said, “especially for an event like Walk MS. It’s most enjoyable on a nice weather day, but we walk through rain or shine.” 

And Weaver says Fritts is grateful the whole office has come on board in honor of his wife, supporting her through good weather and bad.

April 24, 2013 - 9:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Alpina Products.

Press Release:

Artisan dairy manufacturer Alpina Foods has announced its Alpina Revive Greek yogurts are now available at another major regional supermarket retailer. Wegmans Food Markets, one of the largest private companies in the U.S., has been recognized as an industry leader and innovator, with stores across New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The family-owned company, which has been on FORTUNE magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list every year since its inception in 1998, has begun selling Alpina Revive Greek Yogurts at all their locations.

“We’re excited to continue to expand the availability of our products with retailers like Wegmans, who truly appreciate providing the best to their customers,” said Alpina Foods’ General Manager, Gustavo Badino. “The recent opening of our latest yogurt facility in Upstate New York has enabled us to greatly expand the availability of our yogurt and we’re thrilled to share our locally produced products with the region that has nurtured and supported our growth.”

Alpina Revive is an authentically strained, all-natural, and nonfat Greek yogurt that packs an impressive 14 grams of protein in every cup. It contains simple, natural ingredients such as milk and active yogurt cultures, is low in sugar and carbohydrates, and contains no artificial ingredients, sweeteners or flavors.

Each variety of Alpina Revive Greek yogurt is paired with a one-of-a-kind blend of gluten-free artisan granolas, crafted by a health & wellness chef to give consumers essential nutritional value for on-the-go lifestyles.  The four unique granola blends are prepared by Udi’s, the leading gluten-free baked goods company.

April 18, 2013 - 10:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy.

The best estimate John Pontillo has received so far for repair of the former Pontillo's Pizza location in Le Roy is $33,000.

The building was damaged Aug. 6 when it was struck by a car owned by Marie Costa.

Costa's insurance company is apparently denying a claim for damage to the building under something known as the "emergency doctrine."

In New York and other states, a person is not liable for injury or damage in an accident if a person is "faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance, not of their own making, that leaves them with little or no time for reflection."

What exactly happened that caused Costa's vehicle to careen over a curb and ram into the Pontillo's building seems to still be a matter of medical dispute, but from John Pontillo's interpretation of what he's been told by Costa's insurance company, she died prior to the accident so the company isn't responsible for any claims.

Costa was insuranced by Adirondack Insurance.

The way Pontillo sees it, Costa was driving the vehicle before any sort of medical condition arose -- if one did -- and therefore Adirondack should pay up.

"Like others have said, she is the one who put the car in motion and there was damage done before the car finally came to a rest," Pontillo said.

When Costa's car hit the building, it dislodged a large limestone brick from the archway by the front door. The repair will require extensive safety measures to keep other stones from cracking or falling.

Meanwhile, Pontillo has foreclosed on the property, claiming substantial debts to himself from the Elizabeth Pontillo estate. The property will go up for auction, but Pontillo fears with the damage it won't even sell.

The more the building sells for, the more of the estate's debts (which Pontillo said are substantial to himself and others) can be paid.

If the building doesn't sell, John Pontillo is stuck with a heavily damaged building that he can't use without repairs.

He's thought in the past of opening another pizzeria at the location, but with the damaged building, that isn't possible.

The condition of the building is also a major concern to the village, according to Mayor Greg Rogers.

Pontillo said Adirondack has refused to pay Le Roy for damage to a planter and signs. Rogers said he isn't even thinking about that claim.

"I would much rather worry about getting that building back in shape," Rogers said.

The village is working with its insurance company, Tompkins, to try and resolve the dispute.

One option for Pontillo would be to sue the estate of Costa. He doesn't really want to do that to her family, but such a suit might force Costa's family to sue Adirondack. He's hoping the family will put pressure on Adirondack to settle with Pontillo. He suspects -- though can't prove -- that Adirondack paid the family for a claim on Costa's car.

We requested a statement from Adirondack on the case but have yet to hear back from the company.

April 18, 2013 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID.

Press release:

The Batavia Business Improvement District will hold its annual meeting and awards luncheon on Friday, April 26, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (registration is at 11:45 a.m.) at the City Church Generation Center, 15 Center St. in Downtown Batavia.

The agenda will include a review of the B.I.D.’s accomplishments and the announcement of the newly elected members to the Board of Directors.

The “Downtown Spirit” Business Awards are to be presented to: Michael DelPlato & Peter Casey of DelPlato & Casey Law Office, Howard Owens of The Batavian, and Harry Wortzman of Wortzman Furniture.

The “Downtown Spirit” Volunteer Awards are to be presented to: James Isaac (Crossroads Abstract), serving as B.I.D. vice-president and on the Organization Committee and Michael Marsh (Edward Jones Financial), serving on the BID Promotion / Taste of the Holidays committees. 

Guest Speaker: Patrick Finan, Founder & Principal of Block Club (Buffalo-based branding and marketing agency). His topic will be:  Downtowns and the Importance of Building Strong, Local, Living Economies.”  Patrick business was named "The Third Fastest Growing Company In WNY" and he's the youngest recipient of Business First 40 Under 40 Aaward. 

All B.I.D. members and area business are invited. A special buffet will be served at T.F. Brown’s. Price is $15 per person. RSVP and payment by Monday, April 22. To make reservations contact Don Burkel, B.I.D. Director, at 344-0900 or e-mail at  [email protected].

April 18, 2013 - 7:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCC, economy.

A recent study released yesterday by Genesee Community College finds that the college has about a $169.1 million impact on the local economy.

Kjell Christophersen, Ph.D., president and founder of EMSI, discussed the study yesterday at GCC and said regional spending by former students, the college and out-of-the-area students adds positive growth to Genesee County's economy.

“Things are good. Things are very good," Christophersen said. "The impacts have actually grown since the last time we worked here (about 2 ½ years ago) and it's attributable to a more efficient allocation of resources."

Christophersen said that in his experience about 60 to 70 percent of students at community colleges stay in the region.

“If you move up the education ladder from one level to another level," he said, "you earn a lot more, and therefore, pay a lot more in taxes. It behooves the citizens of a particular county to continue to support the college because of the fact that they are getting a more educated workforce coming back to reside in the region and pay more in taxes.”

(via WBTA)

April 16, 2013 - 10:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Batavia Towne Center.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) announced today that the public hearing on the COR Development project application, originally scheduled for Tuesday, April 23rd at 4 p.m., has been rescheduled to April 30th at 7 p.m. to accommodate requests for the meeting to be conducted outside of normal business/working hours.

“The GCEDC strives to be a transparent and accommodating agency so when we get these types of requests we do everything we can to honor them,” said Charlie Cook, GCEDC board chairman. “It’s evident that this project has generated quite a bit of interest so we want to make sure that the community has the opportunity to learn more about the project and have their voices heard.” 

At the meeting, the GCEDC will provide a comprehensive overview of the project – including the benefits COR Development is applying for to develop the vacant Lowe's building – as well as a full disclosure of the fiscal and economic impacts the Batavia Towne Center has had on the surrounding community since it came to fruition. Following the presentation, the hearing will be open for public comment; the GCEDC also will read any written comments received by the agency prior to the public hearing.

Written comments can be sent to the GCEDC’s Marketing and Communications Director, Rachael Tabelski at Genesee County Economic Development Center, 99 MedTech Drive, Suite 106, Batavia, NY 14020.  Written comments must contain the individual’s contact information, including address and phone number, and should indicate if he or she would like the comment read at the hearing. All comments and public hearing testimony will be reviewed by the GCEDC board prior to a vote on the COR Development application for support.

April 13, 2013 - 11:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Chamber Awards.

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce held a gala at the Clarion Hotel this evening to honor its 2012 award winners.

Above, Barb Toal accepts an award on behalf of Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden.

Jim Neider accepting his Genesean of the Year Award.

The award winners, Lois Gerace, Jim Neider, Jeremy Liles, Tim Call, Karen Green, Carol Grasso and Barb Toal.

Below, our stories about the winners:

To purchase prints of these photos, click here.

April 11, 2013 - 11:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, business, Oliver's Candies, Chamber Awards.

This is one of a series of articles highlighting the winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards for 2012. The awards gala is Saturday evening at the Clarion Hotel.

Whether it's the salty, sweet perfection of Cashew Glaze, colorful Christmas Ribbon Candy or the unique regional favorite Sponge Candy, Oliver's offers treats that are handmade, high quality and tasty.

For 81 years now, the Batavia landmark has built a loyal following that, aided by a robust online presence, today includes customers everywhere from Irondequoit to Korea, France to Corfu. Oliver's Candies, LLC, is the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce 2012 Business of the Year.

Located at 211 W. Main St., the Swiss-chalet-style building is where founder Joe Oliver lived and operated his candy shop. It had add-ons built in the '50s, '70s and major upgrades a couple of years after John and Sheila Quincey bought it in 1998. Sheila's son, Jeremy Liles, came on board in 2001 and is general manager.

"It's exciting being named Business of the Year and we appreciate the recognition of other business people," Liles said.

He credits his parents and staff, past and present, with Oliver's continued success.

"I didn't build this business to where it is today," Liles said. "My parents took a business that was doing OK in the '90s -- it was surviving -- but they just made it boom. They put their own money into it. They said this is something that can really grow and do a lot."

In 2000, the candy-making facility was completely revamped. The size of the retail store was tripled -- now it's about 3,000-square-feet -- and the size of the kitchen was doubled. There are no ovens. All the candy is made using commercial-grade, air-induction stoves and giant copper kettles. In 2002, "a full-blown ice cream parlor" was cranking out cones of ice cream blended especially for Oliver's.

Making candy isn't like running a restaurant. Although goods are being made fresh all the time, the process is more like manufacturing and can be done in shifts. And there's a shelf life, unlike what comes to a cafe table hot on a dinner plate.

But as with restaurants, running a successful candy operation requires "a lot of devotion." And the toil and talent of a capable staff.

"Those guys in the kitchen make it happen," said Liles, who is 38 and the father of three. "They're the backbone of the business."

A number of employees have spent a good chunk of their lives working at Oliver's.

Bob Pacer, with about 34 years of service, and Bonnie Battaglia, with about 33, both retired earlier this year. Their knowledge of candy and customers and their skills are no doubt sorely missed.

Then there's retail manager Diana Cuttita, with 20-plus years, and Beth Diegelman, 33-plus years.

"Beth can hand-temper chocolate," said Liles, with a little awe in his voice. "I can't do that, a machine can. But her hands are just cold enough to be able to get just the right consistency by hand."

It takes years to learn that kind of stuff. In fact, it takes about 10 years to become a master candy maker and it's typically learned through apprenticeship.

Ron Drock, who worked at Oliver's for 51 years, learned from his predesessor and he taught current master candy maker and longtime employee Doug Pastecki. Adam Horton is the assistant candy maker learning all he can from Doug.

There are currently about 15 full-time staff people and 15 part-timers, including seasonal workers, high school and college students, and crews for nights, weekends and summer.

"Thank God for them," Liles says, noting that they get to hone some practical math skills like counting back change, converting ounces to pounds or the fact that there's three teaspoons in one tablespoon.

As for increasing sales, Liles says two factors are key (A) consistent store hours and (B) having a successful online shopping site.

"We're open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, and we're only closed on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. If you're not open, how can you sell?"

Their online sales have soared. Online is a great way to expand sales without going the brick-and-mortar route.

In addition, they are selling favorites like Merry Mints, French Creams, Sponge Candy and Cashew Glaze wholesale to national catalog order companies, something which has "become huge" for them.

In terms of challenges, besides small business depressors like high taxes and  minimum wage increases, commodity fluctuations can have an impact on them. Higher prices for sugar and cocoa, for instance, are somewhat offset by product-line diversity -- no-added sugar products, savory snack mixes, and candies that don't require chocolate.

"If something happens on the Ivory Coast because of politics, it can affect us because that's where our cocoa is coming from. Normally it's not a problem because the United States imports so much of it; we can get our hands on it. But we're not as big as Hershey's. They have their own plantations. We depend on small growers.

"So if our costs shoot up, we're not like the gas station across the street -- we can't raise and lower our prices all the time. We (small business candy makers) have set a standard -- we're the same price as anybody else in Western New York."

"Some people don't understand that and they go in Oliver's and say 'This is expensive. I can get this cheaper at Walmart.' But it's really a different ball game altogether. We're dealing with really high quality products, no preservatives, fresh made. There's a huge difference. I think people realize that and that is why our customer base is what it is and growing.

"I think people are acquiring the taste for finer chocolates, finer wines, whatever, and (the trend of) Shop Local."

And Oliver's does shop local whenever possible, whether it's buying dairy products from Oatka, kitchen wares from Batavia Restaurant Supply, or seasonal produce from Harrington's and farmer's markets.

Liles is encouraged by Batavia's potential and what lies on the horizon and says the future looks sweet. Things already are at Oliver's.

April 11, 2013 - 10:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Empire Tractor, Chamber Awards.

This is one of a series of articles highlighting the winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards for 2012. The awards gala is Saturday evening at the Clarion Hotel.

In Tim Call's mind, there's little separation between the success of Empire Tractor and the hard work and dedication of the company's employees.

Whether it's sales or customer service, the conversation with Call either starts or ends with praise for Empire's 112 employees at six Central and Western New York locations.

"We have some of the most friendly and knowledgeable people in the industry," Call said.

Eighteen years ago, Call acquired a company on East Main Street Road, Batavia, then known at Tri-State Tractor. Through growth and partnerships, Tri-State became Empire and is one of the most successful farm equipment companies in the region.

Customers of Empire range from people with just an acre of land to farmers with 10,000 acres of land, Call said. The company doesn't handle push mowers or weed eaters, but the guy with just an acre of lawn to mow can get a nice zero-turn rider while the largest grain farmer in the area can buy the biggest tractor you can imagine.

In May, 2011, Empire moved to a bigger facility on East Main Road that gave Empire more room and paved surfaces that makes the whole business look more attractive.

"Everything is clean and everything just displays so well," Call said. "It's given us a whole different image and it's helped us increase our sales."

The entire service operation is now under one roof, Call said, which helps improve efficiency.

Even with the better facility, it's the people at Empire who make the sales process work, Call said.

"We want a sales process that is easy and fun and not too hard," Call said. "People buy from people and we try to remember that. When a farmer comes in, however much money he's spending, that's a lot of money to him to spend and we want him to feel happy and comfortable and satisfied that he got a reasonable deal."

Some employees have been with the company for more than 30 years, and that's saying something, Call said, especially for those who deal with farmers who had a piece of equipment break down.

When a farmer has to come into the shop because of a broken tractor or broken combine, it means he or she is not out in the field plowing or harvesting or herding. It means work that must get done isn't getting done.

"It's the employees who take care of customers every day," Call said. "A farmer comes in because he's broke down and he's not happy. There's a lot of thankless chores and when you're dealing with a guy who's beating on you and you're trying to be happy and upbeat, well, our guys are pretty darn good at that."

Good employees and a pleasant experience are so key to success in the competitive farm equipment business, Call said.

"Most of our business is referral, and if a customer has a bad experience, he's not going to come back and he's going to tell his friends," Call said. "We've done everything we can to try and make it easy for people to do business with us."

April 11, 2013 - 5:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Batavia Towne Center.

A public hearing has been set for COR Development's request to receive financial assistance to renovate the former Lowe's location in Batavia Towne Center.

UPDATE 7:40 p.m.: The hearing has been rescheduled. It is now at 4 p.m. April 23 at Batavia Town Hall. (It was previously set for April 22.)

COR is seeking nearly $1 million in tax incentives for the project.

April 10, 2013 - 10:59pm

This is one of a series of articles we will run over the next three days highlighting the winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards for 2012. The awards gala is Saturday evening at the Clarion Hotel.

St. Joseph School has been around since 1873 and currently has an enrollment of 300 students from pre-K through eighth grade. The Catholic elementary school employes 14 full-time teachers, four part-time teachers, six full-time aides, six support staff and two school nurses.

Karen Green has been a part of St. Joe's school for 17 years. She started out teaching first and second grade and has been the school's principal for the last seven years. She has witnessed much change in those 17 years. However, the school's mission of teaching faith, academics and service has always remained the same.

Green says, "We are an option for families that are looking for something different. If they want that Catholic and Christian-centered education we are here to give that to them."

She says she is very proud of St. Joseph students. Their work habits, their character and how they treat each other make the teachers' jobs very easy.

Academics and service are what make St. Joseph students stand out.

"I often hear from high-school teachers and administrators that they love getting St. Joe's kids, they have good work habits and they participate in class. Knowing that they leave here doing that is a great feeling," Green says.

Chad Zambito, who has been working at St. Joseph's for the past year running their marketing campaign, nominated the school for the special recognition award. After walking through the halls of the school and seeing the kids and their families, Zambito realized that it was different at St. Joe's. It was a special place.

"They have a strong tradition of supporting the community while struggling to make ends meet," Zambito says. "The school continues to find ways to expand programs like advanced math and sciences along with athletics and music while other institutions have been cutting their programs."

St. Joe's gets very little funding from the state.Tuition and enrollment are very important. "It's what we are used to, we have always done more with less," Green says. 

The parents also play an important role. They help with raising funds by volunteering to work at Friday night bingo, the Mammoth sale, fruit sale, Walk-a-thon, Popcorn Ball, and the Penny Carnival. According to Green, "Those big events give us enough money so that we can give our kids and teachers extras like iPads and SMART Boards to work with. We've tried to make the technology really important here and I think that's how we stay afloat."     

In Genesee County, St. Joseph School is the last remaining Catholic elementary school. St. Mary's closed in 2004 and St. Anthony's in 2006. 

Last year, with the closing of Holy Family School in Le Roy, St. Joseph School had to deal with an influx of about 100 students. "We had a couple of tough months over the summer last year trying to prepare," Green says. "We had mixed feelings and it was bittersweet, we felt bad their school had to close and we know what it would have been like and it very well could have been us put in that position." 

St. Joe's hired six aides and two teachers to accommodate the larger class size. Next year they will be looking for a part-time teacher for their Earth Science class at the middle-school level. 

Looking forward to the 2013-14 school year, the first, third and fourth grades are full and have a waiting list. Kindergarten is filling up fast with only five spaces open. At the middle-school level, sixth, seventh and eighth grades are all open.

Parents who have enrolled their children in 3- and 4-year-old preschool can take advantage of the school's Wrap Around Program which was started two years ago. Green says this program has taken off. It's for parents who need an affordable safe place to take their kids after the half day pre-school session.  

Green says her group of teachers, aides and support staff are amazing. They go above and beyond every day. Some run the After School Program, some are involved in extracurricular activities like Drama Club and Art Class and all are available after school each day to provide support for students and parents.

"It takes a special person to work here, to put that much time and dedication in and they do it on a daily basis. The salary is not like in the public school systems," Green said.

Each school year there will always be challenges. Green thinks that is not always a bad thing. 

"St. Joseph School will always be looking to improve in every aspect," she says. "We just don't want to sit back and say things are working well the way they are. You have to always be looking forward to the future. We are always trying to think ahead to make our school stronger and I think that's why we continue to do what we do here." 

For more information on St. Joseph School at 2 Summit St. in Batavia call 585-343-6154 or check out their Web site at

Photos by Howard Owens.

Karen Green

April 10, 2013 - 10:33pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in batavia, business, Chamber Awards, Peace Garden.

This is the first of a series of articles we will run over the next three days highlighting the winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards for 2012. The awards gala is Saturday evening at the Clarion Hotel.

When Barb Toal went on a sightseeing trip to Rome, Italy, with her sister six years ago, she sat in a beautiful garden across from the Colosseum to rest for a few minutes. At the time she had no idea what the garden was, only that it was a wonderful peaceful spot to sit and take a break.

Fast forward two years later to 2009.

Barb is sitting in the living room of Paula Savage, president of the International Peace Garden Association, who is trying to convince Barb to help set up an International Peace Garden commemorating the War of 1812 in the City of Batavia.

As the two women sat discussing the project, Paula had a laptop on the coffee table running pictures of International Peace Gardens from around the world. Barb froze when she saw a photo of the beautiful garden she remembered sitting in a few years earlier on her trip to Rome.

After scrolling through a few more of Paula's photoss, Barb recognized another garden she visited the following year after her trip to Italy -- in Dublin, Ireland.

"It's pretty ironic. I've been to two of them now. This is a no-brainer. I gotta get involved," Toal said.

Being president of the Holland Land Office Museum at the time, she thought this would be good use for the vacant land to the east of the museum and a good way to bring more people in to visit the Holland Land Office."This is a great fit, a perfect fit," Toal thought. The idea was now planted.

She then solicited the help of longtime friend Carol Grasso. The two have been friends since ninth grade and both graduated from Pembroke High School together.

"I just knew I had to be a part of it," Grasso says.

"This community, we knew since we were little, would come together to make this happen," Toal added.

Armed with seven solid volunteers, the group now referred to as "Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden" went to work. After four years of meetings, fundraising, and solicitations, they were ready to make the garden a reality.  

Running into many obstacles along the way, the project had to be accomplished one day at time. The electric wiring and digging through the base of Walnut Street and the old bridge was a stopper.

"After the electric meeting we were whipped. We thought, 'we can't do this and it's not gonna happen,' Toal said. It was like climbing a mountain, I slipped went down 10 notches then had to go up another 10 again." She said she learned a lot about patience over those four years.

Toal said they knew what they had to do, but had no money. It was amazing how the community came out to help. There were 15 landscaping trucks in the prime season that showed up and volunteered to revamp the once-barren land.

Martin Dilcher, of Dilcher's Excavating, who nominated the group for the award, was driving by the work in progress one day and spotted Barb using a jackhammer. She was making her way through layers of old buildings and solid rock to create a 5-foot hole in the ground for the electric and base for the globe. Dilcher yelled out to her, "What are you trying to do kill yourself ?" Dilcher showed up at 9 a.m. the next morning with a backhoe to help out.

When Toal needed someone to make the giant metal globe she turned to her neighbor Rob Barone who is a welder. He didn't know what she really wanted.

Toal made a trip to BJ's Wholesale and purchased a glass globe in a box and showed it to Barone. She also handed over a few pictures of one located in the Town of Lima. Barone then solicited the help of Patrick Waite, and together they created the globe that is currently on display at the Garden.

According to Grasso, "There were a lot of ups and downs. We didn't think we were going to make it, especially moneywise, but we did it."

She says people can't wait to help out and fund-raise now.

The Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden will be holding their third annual fundraiser dinner to be held at Terry Hills April 27th. They are planning a fashion show and are honoring Joe Gerace and Carolyn Pratt this year.

May 11th they will be having a birthday party and celebrate by raising the 23 flags for the year. It will be a community day from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come out and join in the festivities.  

The Batavia Peace Garden commemorating the War of 1812 is stop number 13 of 25 on a 600-mile trail that runs through Canada and the United States. Batavia became the rallying point in the War of 1812. British forces burned 200 homes in Youngstown, many families then relocated to the Batavia area to take shelter.

Three more gardens were added to the trail last year. All are located in the Thousand Islands region of New York State. Brussels, Belgium, will be the location of the next garden. It will be created in 2014.

Toal says the group has plans on expanding the Batavia Garden in 2014. They want to extend the grounds to include the area behind the Genesee County Courts facility near the falls of the Tonawanda Creek. They will add more flags and possibly a gazebo.

Toal, who is now retired, says she is more busy now being president of the Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden. She says, "It hasn't been a hard road, just a long road to get to this point."

"To think what we've done in a couple of years, it's humbling to think we got this award," Grasso says. "It's was worth every drop of sweat that we had. All the hard work, the back-breaking digging. It's amazing."  

Anyone interested in buying a brick or path stone can contact Barb Toal at 585-344-2548 or e-mail her at btoal@

The group also has a new Web site,

Photo by Howard Owens. From left, Barb Toal, Mary Ellen Wilber, Carol Grasso, and Berneda Scoins.

April 9, 2013 - 8:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Batavia Towne Center.

The way Damian Ulatowski sees it a retail project should be able to stand on its own without taxpayers helping foot the bill to open a new store.

"I'm just kind of old-fashioned that way," said the Town of Clay supervisor. "If you believe in your project, you should be able to reap the rewards if it succeeds. If it fails, you should suffer the consequences as well. It shouldn't be up to the taxpayers to shoulder the burden. I just guess that's the way I was raised.

"We're rather conservative here," he added.

Ulatowski has been on the town board for 13 years and he's seen a lot of retail development within the town's borders during that time.

None of it, he said, has been built with a single dime in tax breaks.

In Clay, you will find dozens of Big Box retailers -- Walmart, Lowe's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Kohl's, Petsmart, Sam's Club, Barnes & Noble and even Wegmans.

"These businesses can survive without tax breaks but we've trained them that they can't," Uratowski said. "Clay is one of the most commercially built locations in all of Onondaga County. We have several business complexes. All of them are thriving. No stores are closing. None of them got any kind of subsidy."

One of the largest retail developers in Clay is COR Development, the Fayetteville-based company that is also responsible for Batavia Towne Center.

COR's two centers in Clay contain more than 700,000 square feet, with the first and largest development starting the permiting process in 2005, about two years before Batavia Towne Center.

COR, according to Genesee County Economic Development Center records, was promised $4.6 million in tax abatements to complete Batavia Towne Center, including a 10-year PILOT that is not yet expired (not all of the tax savings have been realized yet). 

Now COR is seeking nearly $1 million in additional tax breaks, ostensibly to help attract Dick's Sporting Goods and possibly a T.J. Maxx to Batavia, as well as at least one other retailer.

A public hearing will be required before the GCEDC board can vote on the incentive package, because under recently reenacted state law, retail projects cannot receive tax breaks unless there is a finding that the project is a tourist destination or fills retail needs not being met locally.

A date for the public hearing has not yet been set.

While COR apparently doesn't always need tax incentives to build, lease and sell its construction projects, the company has accepted at least $9 million in such incentives from three IDAs in the state, according to records obtained by The Batavian from the Authorities Budget Office.

The ABO did a search for "COR" (to capture possible subsidiary names that also use the COR name) as well as COR's business address to check for IDA handouts.

It's possible not all of COR's IDA-approved subsidies turned up in the search.

It apparently also left out projects where COR sold off assets. With Batavia Towne Center, for example, COR sold the Target property to the Target company, and those subsidies are not reflected in the ABO spreadsheet.

Besides Batavia Towne Center, COR has received IDA assistance for:

  • A $42 million apartment complex in Watertown. There was no PILOT on the project, but COR did receive $2.2 million exemption on state and local sales tax for construction materials. The project was approved in 2012.
  • On a $6.7 million retail project on Route 5 in Fayetteville, COR was approved for tax incentives in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 totalling $3.5 million.
  • Also in Fayetteville, in 2009, COR received $1.2 million in breaks on a 69,000-square-foot manufacturing and research facility for Sensis Corp.
  • COR also built in Fayetteville a 24,467-square-foot office complex for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. at a cost of $3.7 millon and received $406,000.

Besides Clay, other COR retail projects that don't show up in the ABO report are center's in Canandaigua, Latham, New Hartford, Erwin and Webster (COR's creative naming for all of these projects tend to be some variation of "Towne Center").

It's possible some of those projects received local tax assistance -- assistance that didn't go through an IDA (Industrial Development Agency, such as GCEDC) and therefore doesn't show up in the ABO report.

That's case in Webster where Town Supervisor Ron Nesbitt said he uses Section 485-b of the state's real estate code to grant tax breaks.

While the code allows up to 50 percent of a property's assessed value to be forgiven each year (decreasing over the years in increments of 5 percent), Nesbitt said he only grants relief on 20 percent of assessed value, which decreases in increments of 2 percent per year.

That's 20 percent off the entire assessed value, not just on the increase in assessed value, as in the standard PILOT granted by GCEDC. A project that begins with an assessed value of $200,000 and then jumps in value by $1 million after development will be taxed on 80 percent of the entire $1.2 million of assessed value.

Because it's not an IDA-sponsored tax break, the agreement only covers Webster's property taxes, not Monroe County or school district taxes.

Nesbitt made it clear, he's no fan of the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA). If a developer receives help from COMIDA, the company might find tough sledding in Webster.

"I have control over that building permit," Nesbitt said. "I'm not saying I'm playing hard ball, but I have control over the building permit and just how fast it goes through. You've got to remember, somebody is making a lot of money off these tax breaks."

Businesses should pay their fair share of taxes, Nesbitt said. They consume the local services, they should pay. He thinks IDA tax breaks give away too much.

"The pot is getting smaller and smaller," he said.

The Webster tax rate is $4.33 per thousand.

"The town tax isn't killing me," he said. "It's the school tax that's eating me up."

A developer in Webster would need to strike a separate deal with the school district since there's no IDA involved. The school tax is $22.90 per thousand.

Nesbitt said he even carries out his everybody-pays-a-fair-share philosophy to nonprofit agencies.

If a nonprofit wants to build in Webster, they need to agree to pay town taxes.

"I sit down with the president or CEO and I tell them, if you're not going to use any police service, any ambulance service or any other service, you don't have to pay a tax," Nesbitt said. "If you're going to use services, you pay the town tax."

Nesbitt said even with his hard line on tax breaks, companies still build in Webster.

As for Batavia Towne Center being a tourist destination, the City of Batavia has recently received a new study by W-ZHA, LLC, that indicates the center does fulfill one of the legal definitions of a "tourist destination." It is bringing in visitors from outside the city and town, but part of the justification for a tourist destination is spin-off spending.

That doesn't seem to be happening, according to the report. Shoppers are not stopping for meals at Batavia's restaurants.

Town and city residents alone should generate about $192 million in retail spending, but sales annually exceed $231 million, a gain of $39 million above what the city and town should generate.

"Both the town and the city are shopping destinations," the report states.

 How much of that $39 million comes from outside the county is unclear.

With the additional visitors for retail, the county's eating and drinking sales potential is $89 million. Local restaurants and bars are getting only about $59 million of that market, according to the report.

Last year, a study released by the consultants for czb found that the city was losing about $12 million in annual restaurant spending to surrounding counties.

The full W-ZHA report will be released at a later date.

April 8, 2013 - 12:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Alabama, STAMP, Project Azalea.

The tech press is abuzz with speculation about "Project Azalea," a  multibillion-dollar computer chip factory that could be built somewhere in the U.S. with state economic directors in New York, Oregon, Washington and Texas trying to find the right package of incentives to woo the company behind the project.

It's all just rumor and speculation, but the company supposedly behind "Project Azalea" is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., a major supplier to Apple Computers.

But here's the headline for Genesee County: Don't count on "Project Azalea" coming to the STAMP project in Alabama.

Mark Masse, senior vice president of operations for Genesee County Economic Development Center said the local IDA hasn't been given any indication from the Empire State Development that STAMP is on the short list of possible locations for "Project Azalea."

STAMP simply isn't ready yet for consideration by the mysterious company behind the project. The planned high-tech park must first become "shovel ready light" so a developer could start digging as soon as the ink dried on any contract for the project.

Business reporter Adam Sichko lists two New York locations as possible sites for the 1,000-plus jobs the project is expected to create: the Marcy NanoCenter, a 430-acre site on the Utica campus of SUNYIT and Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta.

While Texas does pop up as a possible location, The Oregonian says there are three main contenders, with New York still on the list.

The Oregonian also reports that New York is ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to lure the company to Upstate.

Hat tip to reader Joanne Rock for suggesting we look at Project Azalea.




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