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June 28, 2013 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, UMMC.

UMMC welcomed a group of new residents to their team today. All six are training as doctors of osteopathic medicine. They are, from left, Tobin Carson, Adia Taylor, Cedric McKinney, Imeh Sampson Jr., J. Francis Asuquo and Mithun Daniel.

June 26, 2013 - 2:43pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, business, Alpina Foods.

Press release:

In direct response to exploding consumer demand for Greek yogurt as well as the company’s continued commitment to expansion in the U.S. market, Alpina Foods is introducing a brand new Greek yogurt, and will be changing the name of its entire portfolio of Greek products to create a more cohesive brand identity.

Alpina Foods’ Alpina Greek, an all-natural, authentically strained Greek yogurt, is made entirely from natural ingredients and uses no artificial thickeners or flavoring. Alpina Greek will be introduced later this month available in six flavors: blueberry, strawberry, vanilla bean, mango, peach, and black cherry.

In addition to introducing its new yogurt, Alpina will rename its Alpina Revive Greek yogurt as Alpina Greek with Artisan Granolas which comes packaged with certified gluten-free granola mix-ins that were created by a health and wellness chef and are prepared by Udi’s Gluten Free. 

Both products are created using an authentic straining process, and are the combination of the simplest ingredients: milk, active bacteria cultures, and fruit.

Alpina Greek with Artisan Granolas will be available in seven flavors: blueberry with almond berry granola, strawberry with almond berry granola, vanilla bean with chai spices granola, honey with chai spices granola, mango with tropical chia granola, peach with tropical chia granola, and plain with superfoods granola.

“We made the decision to change the brand architecture of Alpina yogurts to increase the presence of our products on store shelves and simplify our portfolio,” said Gustavo Badino, Alpina Foods’ general manager. “We believe this expansion will be received well in the marketplace as consumers are continually searching for unique and exciting Greek yogurt options that are delicious and healthy.”

Alpina brand yogurts are currently available in a wide variety of retailers throughout the U.S., including Wegmans Food Markets; Ahold USA brand stores: Stop & Shop, Giant Landover and Giant Carlisle; Delhaize Group stores Hannaford and Sweetbay; Tops Friendly Markets; Duane Reade; and other national and regional food retailers. For a full list of retailers, visit

Alpina Greek yogurts will be available in late June with Alpina Greek with Artisan Granolas following in late July. Retailers interested in carrying Alpina yogurts can contact Alpina Foods at [email protected].

About Alpina Foods

Alpina Foods is the U.S. arm of Alpina, which was established in 1945 by two Swiss entrepreneurs and visionaries who brought their families’ traditions and cultural expertise to South America. The company markets a wide range of artisan dairy products to the American Hispanic market, as well as mainstream brands Alpina Greek and Alpina Greek with Artisan Granola yogurts, Alpina Bon Yurt low-fat yogurt, and Juan Valdez Café Latte.

Alpina is proud to be a consumer-centric and environmentally friendly company that embraces the philosophy of collective prosperity, or encouraging success within the company, in its neighboring communities, and in the world.

June 25, 2013 - 7:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Molasses Hill Bulk Foods.

The state's red "SEIZED" signs are out of the windows at Molasses Hill Bulk Foods on Ellicott Street in Batavia and a new sign is taped to the front door: "Closed til 9:00 AM Wed 6/26."

Previously: Molasses Hill closed, seized by state

June 25, 2013 - 5:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, economy, jobs.

Genesee County's unemployment rate for May 2013 is the lowest it's been in 57 months, according to data released today by the NYS Department of Labor.

At 6.2 percent, it hasn't been lower since Dec. 2008, when the rate was 5.6 percent.

The previous month, April, Genesee County's rate was reported at 7.1 and a year ago May it was reported at 7.4 percent.

In the prior 18 months, the county's unemployment rate dipped below 7 percent only once.

The lowest rate for the county since the turn of the century was 3.2 percent in October 2000.

The state's unemployment rate is said to be 7.4 percent, down from a year ago but up 1/10th of a percent since April 2013.

The nation's rate is 7.3 percent.

Orleans County is 8.4 percent, Wyoming 7.1 and Livingston 7.1.

The Rochester area's rate is reported at 7.0 and Buffalo at 7.3.

June 25, 2013 - 11:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Molasses Hill Bulk Foods.

Molasses Hill Bulk Foods on Ellicott Street, Batavia, is closed after the store was seized by an agent of NYS Taxation and Finance this morning.

Neal Harder, husband of owner Shannon Harder, said he and his wife are trying to negotiate with Taxation and Finance to be able to reopen today with an agreement to pay taxes owed by July 15.

He said he felt the sudden closure was the result of a disagreement between his wife and the agent.

June 25, 2013 - 9:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, steve hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) recently lamented the loss of 174 jobs through the announced closure of the Bernz-O-Matic manufacturing plant in Medina. Worthington Industries, owners of Bernz-O-Matic, indicated that local employees would have the opportunity to transfer to the company’s plant in Wisconsin, which served as little consolation for proud local residents, Hawley noted. The assemblyman has reached out to Worthington Industries Chairman and CEO John McConnell to discuss the best ways to mitigate the economic damage in Medina.

“The news of Bernz-O-Matic’s closure is heartbreaking for the people employed at the plant, their families and all of us across Orleans County,” Hawley said. “Our immediate priority must be to help those affected find new work here in our community as quickly as humanly possible. I offer my deepest regrets to all of Bernz-O-Matic’s employees and pledge my full support in working through this difficult time.”

Coming on the heels of Chase Bank’s call center closure, Hawley lamented the job-killing policies forced on Western New York by out-of-touch lawmakers at the Capitol.

“How many more local jobs must be lost; how many more local families have to suffer before the Capitol lawmakers see the destruction that New York’s anti-business climate causes?” Hawley asked. “Runaway taxes, overregulation and regressive policies have run countless job creators out of our community, yet legislative leaders continue to repeat the mistakes of old that have left our hardworking families out in the cold. It’s time to open our eyes and change our courses before Western New York’s families are forced to watch another company take their jobs across state lines.”

June 24, 2013 - 5:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, Carr's.

Steve Carr, a popular local businessman who managed the C.L. Carr store in its final years, passed away Friday after suffering a heart attack while swimming at Stafford Country Club.

Carr was 66.

Funeral arrangements are pending, but will be handled by H.E. Turner.

His death comes as a shock to many people who remember him as a warm and fun person.

Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian remembers that Carr helped her get reestablished in Batavia after she returned to her native city 40 years ago.

"He was a generous person," Christian said.

Peter Mumford, Carr's cousin, said they were both born in 1947 and grew up together and remained close.

"He was always trying to help people out," Mumford said. "I always considered him a bon vivant. He liked to travel. He liked people a lot. He liked music, especially blues."

Carr was the grandson of C.L. Carr who opened a retail store in Batavia in 1917. That store would become one of the mainstays in the city until about 2001, but changes in the local market made it difficult for the family to keep the large department store open.

Carr was the majority shareholder, but members of the Carr, Minor and Mumford families also held shares, Mumford said.

A member of Rotary, Carr remained active in the community after the store closed.

June 24, 2013 - 2:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Sponsored Post, advertisement.

The winner of our recently completed Facebook Like contest sponsored by Council Opticians of Batavia is Cara Grosshans.

Cara wins a Coach handbag.

If you would like to get more fans for your business page on Facebook, contact Lisa Ace at (585) 250-4118 to find out more.

June 22, 2013 - 11:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Pok-A-Dot.

Batavia's legendary landmark diner the Pok-A-Dot turned 60 today with a few hundred people turning out for the celebration.

Above, owners Joe Marone and Phil Pastore are congratulated by one of the regular customers, James Pero, on the anniversary.

June 21, 2013 - 9:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCC, GCEDC.

Press release:

Through financial support provided by National Fuel and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the first class of 25 graduates received certificates as part of a workforce development program targeting the food processing industry.

Certificates were awarded to the graduates in Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt through RIT, basic dairy science and sanitation through Cornell University, as well as team building and OSHA training in a manufacturing environment through The BEST Center at Genesee Community College.

“This program is just another example of the high level of collaboration in our region between the public and private sectors and in this instance, our centers of higher education and food processing companies,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center. “If we are going to create a world-class industry cluster in the food processing industry, then we need to make sure our workforce is highly trained and educated.”

Cornell University’s Department of Food Science and Cornell Cooperative Extension has been a long-term resource to the food growing and dairy processing industry in Western NY.

“Workforce development is now a key to the growing industry and we are continuously developing and improving our training programs and accessibility to meet industry needs and to support economic development," said Tristan Zuber, Dairy Foods Processing Extension associate with Cornell University.

The first graduating class of 25 individuals was from a pool of 78 applications. Sixteen graduates were from Genesee County; three from Livingston County; two from Orleans and Monroe counties; and, one from Wyoming and Cattaraugus counties.

One graduate has been hired while 18 graduates will visit and tour Yancey’s Fancy, an artisan cheese maker in Corfu, as part of a job application project at the company. Alpina and Muller Quaker Dairy are also interviewing and considering the graduates at their yogurt manufacturing facility in the Genesee Agri-Business Park.

“This is just the first step in a process to ensure that as the food processing industry grows there is an ample supply of labor to fill jobs,” said John Jakubowski a workforce consultant hired by GCEDC. “The certificate program provides a short-term solution to fill a gap, but we need to continue working on a longer term plan so that people who want a career in food processing have the skills and training to be successful.”

As part of this process, Genesee Community College has asked the New York State Education Department to approve a two year Food Processing Technology associates degree. The program has already been approved by the GCC Board of Trustees and is now under review by the State University of New York as well as SED.

“While anticipating the implementation of GCC’s full credit Food Processing Technology program, The BEST Center will be offering three more sessions of the two-week, intensive certificate program,” said Lina LaMattina, director of Business Skills Training at The BEST Center. “We are also reaching out to numerous companies within all segments of the food industry to expand employment opportunities for the program participants. After a very successful first class, we are looking forward to the next session which starts September 23, 2013.”

Those interested in applying to be part of next training cohort should contact the Genesee County Career Center (One Stop) in the Eastown Plaza, 587 E. Main St., Suite 100, Batavia, (585) 344-2042. Applicants take ability tests in math and reading. If needed, assistance with these skills is available.

May 2013 GCEDC Food Processing Training Program Graduates (all of New York):

Craig Barnes – Le Roy
Dawn Czaja – Oakfield
Victor DiGregorio – Byron
Mark Ebersole – Mt. Morris
Mary Fulkerson – Rochester  
Jeffery German – Batavia
Laurie Gerstenslager – Delevan
Donna Heininger – Batavia  
Elizabeth Horner – Darien Center
Jeanne Jansch – Dansville
Kevin Jones – Batavia  
Sharon Joyce – Batavia 
Jake Kent III – Henrietta
Steven Lindsley – Warsaw
Donald Lowe – Batavia  
Catherine MacConnell – Bergen   
Jacob MacConnell – Bergen
David Minervino – Medina
Thomas Misisco – Pavilion  
John Mosher – Bergen
Rachel Neilans – Alexander
Elise Prevost – Leicester
Daniel Sobczak – Batavia
Paul Stack – Elba
Jamie Unger – Kent

June 21, 2013 - 9:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business, Western Regional OTB.

Press release:

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTBC), owner/operator of Batavia Downs has pledged its support of the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act and the referendum that will be put to the citizens of New York State in November.

“This legislation keeps Batavia Downs Gaming as a vital partner to state and local governments,” said Michael Kane, president and CEO of WROTBC and Batavia Downs Gaming. “This act will allow us to continue providing good paying jobs and generating significant funding for schools and our municipalities. Governor Cuomo and the legislature recognize the significant contributions made by racetrack casinos in Western New York to state education funding and job creation.”

June 20, 2013 - 2:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, NY-27, chris collins.

Press release:

“Today’s unfortunate defeat of the House Farm Bill speaks to the dysfunction in Washington that continues to stand in the way of solving real problems for real Americans.

Agriculture is a critical industry in New York’s 27th Congressional District, impacting our local residents far beyond those directly doing the hard work of farming. Our farmers and growers deserve a Congress that can come together and pass a long-term Farm Bill. It is essential to help our agricultural industry plan and prepare.

As  a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I remain committed to the work ahead to see a Farm Bill become law.” 

June 20, 2013 - 2:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, public market.

The Downtown Public Market opened today at the corner of Center and Ellicott.

Above, Eliza Schwab of Schwab Farms, Gasport.

Tiffany Ivison, Usborne Books.

Salters Alston, Alston's BBQ sauce. (Stop by for some pulled pork!)

June 20, 2013 - 11:01am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, chamber of commerce.

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce has reviewed Governor Cuomo's economic agenda for "Tax-Free Communities" in and around specified college and university campuses. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce welcomes any environment that will facilitate the establishment of new long-term businesses and create more jobs while ensuring that existing businesses and jobs are likewise encouraged to thrive. This legislation has the potential to bring in businesses that otherwise might not have recognized all that Genesee County has to offer.

This endorsement is based solely on the above understanding of the legislation's purpose. Care must be taken that its actual implementation does not involve provisions, policies, or procedures that are counter to the spirit of the Bill. Not only must New York State taxpayers not be adversely affected by such legislation, but red tape, forced spending, and bureaucratic decisions would force extra costs onto the new businesses and cause them to lose the benefits that they supposedly received. Given that the Bill is designed to help startup companies begin their ventures, it is imperative that future tax savings not be offset by startup costs that would be much greater than those the company would incur in the private sector. We look forward to the time when companies can see that all of New York is open for business.


June 18, 2013 - 12:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, BID, farmers market.

Press release:

BRING YOUR FEET DOWNTOWN AND MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES! The Batavia Business Improvement District announces the opening of the Downtown Batavia Public Market on Thursday, June 20 and runs through Sept. 26. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., every Thursday and is located at the corner of Center & Ellicott (Rte 63) streets in Downtown Batavia.

Conveniently located in the center of our city, visit our market before you do your regular shopping to be sure your food is the freshest and that your dollars remain local. Now entering its eighth year, the public market has grown and changed to become a staple of the Downtown.

The market this season will have the following vendors providing fresh baked goods, a wide variety of produce and fruits herbs, flowers, maple syrup, dip mixes, dog treats, BBQ sauce, handmade quilts and other items. Plus, pulled pork sandwiches, Italian sausage, hot dogs and hamburgers for lunchtime at the market. Look for the colorful umbrellas.

Vendors include: Alston’s BBQ Sauce; Athena’s Bakery & Dog Treats; Crazy Quilts; Irene’s Variety; Karen’s Yarn Paper & Scissors; Nice Farms; Stymus Farms; and Schwab Farms.

If you would like to know more about how to participate in the Downtown Public Market, please contact Don Burkel at the BID at 585-344-0900 or email [email protected] for local food, fun, and familiar faces!

June 17, 2013 - 4:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, NY-27, chris collins.

Press release:

To mark National Small Business Week, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) is asking small business owners in his district to complete an online survey about the economy and other issues impacting the small business sector. Starting today, Collins will be e-mailing the survey to small business owners across the eight counties of New York’s 27th Congressional District. Small business owners not a part of the Congressman’s e-mail list are encouraged to complete the survey on the Congressman’s Web site.

The survey asks local small business owners to weigh in on such topics as federal regulations, taxes, and the new employer mandate which is part of the President’s healthcare law. Collins is also asking small business owners to report on recent hiring activity, reasons why owners are or are not hiring, and what programs they would like to see the federal government pursue to spur small business growth and development.

“As a small business owner myself, I understand firsthand the challenges and hurdles business owners face on a day-to-day basis,” Collins said. “As a member of Congress, one of my top goals is to continue to push hard for common-sense polices that create the right kind of economic environment for small business entrepreneurs to expand their company or start a new business, and hire more people. While I will continue to visit directly with small business owners all across NY-27, this survey is a great opportunity to hear from a wide array of small business owners so I can best represent their interests in Washington.”

Collins is a member of the House Small Business Committee and chairman of its Subcommittee on Health and Technology. National Small Business Week runs from June 17 through June 21. On June 21, Collins will host a roundtable meeting, talking with small business owners directly about the issues addressed in the survey.

The survey can be found online at

June 14, 2013 - 1:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Pok-A-Dot.

The Pok-A-Dot turns 60 years old this month and co-owner Phil Pastore couldn't be happier.

Not many restaurants survive 60 years, and fewer still with the same ownership.

"It’s probably one of the greatest things in my life, to own something for 60 years and still be alive to appreciate it," Pastore said.

"We're quite proud," said his wife, Leona, "quite proud."

Pastore said his friend Joe Marone, who ran a concession business, came to him one day while he was working at Masse Harris and suggested they open a hot dog stand at the corner of Ellicott and Liberty streets.

In the 60 years since, the Pok-A-Dot has become a landmark, a throwback to a simpler time of friends and neighbors seeing each other every day and sharing a bite to eat. It was the favorite restaurant of famed author John Gardner and has become a must-visit stop for many politicians on the campaign trail.

It's been featured in international media reports.

And still, it's a place where locals come for coffee and breakfast or a beef-on-weck every day.

"It's the food," Pastore said, explaining the Pok-A-Dot's success. "And it's a very friendly place, a place where you can sit around an eat and talk with people. That's what it's really known for."

The 60th anniversary celebration will be from 5 to 9 p.m., June 22. Musician Bill McDonald and friends will play and many old friends are sure to gather.

Photo: Joe Marone, Joanne Cox, Phil Pastore and Nicole Johnson.

June 14, 2013 - 12:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business.

We're not supposed to call it Batavia Downs Casino anymore, but beyond that, officials are still sorting out what a new compact between New York and the Seneca Nation means for Western Regional OTB.

In exchange for resuming long-overdue payments, at a reduced rate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has granted the Senecas exclusive rights to casino operations in WNY.

Exactly what "exclusivity" means hasn't been entirely spelled out, said Michael Kane, president of the Western Regional OTB.

Dick Siebert said he's worried the governor has given away Rochester to the Senecas after promising that Batavia Downs would be the only gaming facility in the region.

Dropping "casino" from the name isn't too troubling, nor is the requirement to stop calling video terminal games "slots," and even the loss of electronic table games isn't crippling, but there needs to be some compensation to WROTB for the deal cut with the Senecas.

The Senecas had their taxes reduced, Siebert said, so should Batavia Downs.

"They got what they wanted and we’re just looking for a little relief ourselves since they took the table games away from us," he said.

WROTB is lobbying for a 15-percent reduction in the amount of money it sends to New York, Siebert said.

"We need concessions to be able to provide more for our local counties," Siebert said.

Batavia Downs is undergoing a $27-million renovation downstairs and space was being set aside for electronic table games. That space will just now be used for something else, Siebert said.

"We can survive without them (the table games), that's for sure," Siebert said.

Kane agreed.

"We still think our customers will be very happy with the expansion," Kane said.

Related link: The Buffalo News.

June 13, 2013 - 11:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, agriculture, Beer, Ted Hawley, Patricia Hawley.

You can't brew beer without malt, which is something Ted Hawley thinks legislators forgot about when they passed a farm brewing bill last year that will eventually require ales and lagers  labeled "New York Beer" to contain 90 percent locally grown ingredients.

"They just thought they could grow barley in New York," Hawley said. "They didn't know there was another step, which is malting. It has to be malted before you use it in a brew. So it was kind of interesting that they put this huge amount of effort into requiring 90 percent ingredients from New York, but there's no way it can be produced with 90 percent ingredients."

The timing of the bill was fortuitous for Ted and Patricia Hawley, who started planning a year earlier to open a malt house on their farm off Bank Street Road, Batavia.

It will be the only malt house in New York, though the Hawleys are sure others are coming with anticipation of a craft brew boom in the state thanks to the new rules.

The farm beer license created by the bill is modeled after the winery license, which requires local ingredients and allows for tastings, on-site sales, bigger production runs and statewide distribution.

The Hawleys, like the bill's supporters, envision beer trails -- like wine trails -- and a new branch of agri-tourism throughout Central and Western New York, with hopefully the Hawley's malt house, and Batavia, right on the map.

The Hawleys are never afraid to dream big, and asked about the future of craft beer in Batavia, Patty shared a vision of microbreweries being drawn to the area.

"If you look at the larger picture, it would be really great if we could encourage microbrewers to come in, who are largely young, to set down roots, raise their families here, to change the landscape of what Genesee County looks like," Patty said. "It would be very cool to bring in that demographic, who then attract others with that whole artisanal mindset."

The Hawleys have no immediate plans to brew beers themselves, though they imagine selling beer right on their farm that's created by other microbrewers using Hawley malts.

It's almost a matter of coincidence that the Hawleys came into the malting business.

Living local is important to the Hawleys and they also have a strong interest in organic products (Patty Hawley owns Fountain of Youth Organics in Brockport), so two years ago, Ted went to a conference to learn more about growing organic grains for commercial bakeries.

"We were thinking that we were going to grow some organic grains on a little bit of land that we have for the baking industry, which is another kind of booming initiative," Patty said. "At this conference, there was one brief mention, like a sentence or two, if there were any entrepreneurs out there, malt is needed and there are no malt houses. Initially we weren't thinking in that direction."

Ted started researching the idea and saw it as a great opportunity for a new business venture even before the farm bill passed.

Since then, he's been learning everything he can about malting and grains, attending conferences, taking workshops, going to seminars.

"About 100 yeas ago, New York State used to be the largest producer of barley, the largest producer of malt, the largest producer of hops in the whole country," Ted said. "Some fungus came in and kind of knocked it down a little because of the farming practices and repetitive planting and (the state) never recovered after Prohibition."

Hawley just returned from the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Center, where he found himself sitting next to representatives from the largest breweries in the world.

The center, he said, can create any kind of climate in the world. They grow many varieties of barely in different conditions and then malt the barley in small batches and brew beer to test the results.

Not all barley types grow equally well in all climates and since malt varieties of barley haven't been grown in New York in nearly 100 years, Hawley is on a search to find the best barley varieties to grow in Genesee County.

To get their malting operation off the ground, the Hawleys are growing barley on 43 acres in Byron (top photo) and planted a variety that is used commonly for malting. But Ted also has a field in Le Roy where he's growing 23 varieties of barley in cooperation with researchers from Cornell.

"A variety you grow out in the Midwest is not going to grow the same here," Ted said. "We've got to see what grows here and thrives and keeps the proteins down and the enzymes up, which is different than feed-grade barley, which is protein high, enzymes low, and that's what's been planted here the last 100 years."

The Hawley malt house will produce a variety of artisanal malts based on the varieties of barley and other grains they find grow best in Genesee County.

Already, some 50 brewers have expressed an interest in Hawley malts, from some larger craft brewers to guys still brewing private stock in a garage, Ted said.

The passage of the bill also created another opportunity for the Hawleys. They were able to apply for and receive a $117,000 state grant, which allowed them to immediately double the size of their operation.

Eventually, Ted believes the Hawley house will produce 150 tons of malt a year, but he's starting out small -- 1,000 pounds a week (the 43 acres in Byron will yield 43 to 50 tons of malt).

"This is all new, so I need to feel comfortable doing this," Ted said. "It's quite an intricate process."

There is no limit to the kinds of recipes brewers can dream up for beer and the Hawleys think that creative opportunity will help fuel a craft beer boom in New York and that brewers are ready for locally produced malts unique to New York.

"This craft brewing industry is phenomenal," Ted said. "There's no rules. I mean, there could be up to 30 ingredients in brews, from nuts and berries to honey, to apples. There's no rules and there are some great craft brews that are being processed right now in people's garages. This farm brewing bill will offer them an opportunity to open up larger and sell their brews."

June 10, 2013 - 3:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, golf, Stafford, Stafford Country Club.

There's a new energy at Stafford Country Club says club President Marc Staley, with more activities for families and improvements to the golf course that keep it interesting but also make it more playable for those who aren't long hitters.

Stafford is in its 91st year and has had good times and bad times, Staley said, but things seem to be on an upswing these days.

"We try to make sure people come out here and enjoy themselves, that's number one," Staley said. "We have a top-notch course that's playable, a tremendous outdoor pool -- the largest outdoor pool in Genesee County -- a fish pond, bocce ball, tennis, sledding in the winter, dining -- there's a lot of things that are very family friendly about the place."

Stafford, being a private club, has the reputation, of course, of being elitist and stodgy. That might have been true at one time, Staley said, but that was then and this is now. There are more women members and more children around.

"We're working hard to get the word out as a board that this isn't some stuffy place, not some place over in Stafford where only rich people go and hang out and smoke cigars," Staley said. "I think it had that feel to it for many years, and I think by design. A lot of members liked that persona, but times have changed."

It's hard to dispel the myth, according to Staley, because the club's charter prohibits it from spending money on marketing.

The club also can't advertise its membership fees, which are considerably lower than one might expect and for avid golfers as affordable, at least, as playing open-to-the-public courses on a weekly basis.

"When people contact us, they're typically shocked that there's no initiation fee and that there's a dues structure that's payable over 10 months," Staley said. "For a family that's playing 30 or 40 rounds of golf a summer, whose husband, wife and kids are playing, it is every bit as affordable as playing those rounds on a public course where you're paying greens fees and renting a cart every single time. Every time you go, it's a hundred or hundred and twenty bucks if you take a family."

An annual full family membership with unlimited golf is a bit over $3,000, plus members are obligated to spend at least $600 a year on food and drinks, which helps ensure the club can afford to keep staff on its payroll. 

There are also tiers of membership for people who don't play as much golf, or don't play golf at all. A social membership (you can still pay greens fees for up to three rounds a season) is $600. That gets you unlimited access to the clubhouse, pool, two clay tennis courts and all social events.

In recent years, the number of social memberships dropped off, Staley said, but the board is working at incorporating more social events into the calendar to bring some of those members back.

Staley said his experience is typical of many of the family members -- he joined when he was single and 28. Back then, it was all about golf. Now he's married with two young children. His wife golfs, but the family spends a lot of time at the pool (which is has its own food and beverage service) and participating in family events, such as scavenger hunts and family meals.

Six times a year the Staleys participate in the club's "Nine and Dine" event, which puts two couples in a foursome for a best-ball tournament and then the players enjoy a meal together.

It's a great way, he said, for members to meet each other and get to know each other better.

One of the big social events, Staley said, is the annual bocce ball tournament. It's a packed house with an Italian buffet that night.

The big annual events are the club's invitational golf tournament, in which members must invite a guest, and the fall tournament, in which members can play each other. The tournaments tend to be packed, Staley said, and even attract galleries who follow the play.

The course opened in 1922 and was designed by Walter Travis, a renowned course designer who had already built several beautiful courses in the Northeast, including Orchard Park, Look Out Point and Cherry Hill.

In the middle part of the century, some of the Travis-designed features were lost and the club has been working over the past 15 years to bring those features back and to make other improvements to the course, Staley said.

An example at Stafford is shaving the grass shorter on the aprons of the greens. Most of the greens have slopes and mounds around them that can make hitting a green more challenging, but also give the golfer more creative options for pitching, chipping and putting.

"During times of economic stress, maintenance decisions get made, not just at our course, but other courses, too," Staley said. "If you look at some of the history of the courses in Rochester that have been around for years, they change. You really have to make a concerted effort to put them back to play the way they were designed. Only then can you see the brilliance of the designer."

One of the projects under way at Stafford is to build more forward-placed tee boxes. It's part of the USGA's "Play it Forward" program. With more young golfers, more women and more seniors, golf courses need to become more playable.

"When you come out here you want to enjoy yourself," Staley said. "You don't want to get your butt kicked for four hours."

There have also been trees removed that weren't part of the original Travis design, or because they've become diseased; and there has also been a major renovation of the bunkers.

There's a whole, multi-year master plan for improvements.

"It will take us a lot of years and a lot of money to do it, but we're trying to stay committed as a board to doing something to move it along, move it in the right direction," Staley said.

Staley thinks a lot of people in Genesee County simply aren't aware of what Stafford has to offer or what a unique opportunity Stafford offers to golfers who would enjoy a private club membership. He said board members hope they can start to change the Club's image.

"If you picked Stafford up and dropped it in the middle of Perinton, we have a different story here," Staley said. "You would be paying $15,000 or $20,000 up front just to get in the door, but we not here. That's the beauty of this place. It's sort out in the middle of nowhere, and for people who live in Le Roy or in Batavia, you really have a gem out here, a beauty of a place."

On the Web: Stafford Country Club.




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