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Co-owner of Latina Market location says group actively trying to sell property

By Howard B. Owens

It's a big question that figures into any conversation people have about business in Downtown Batavia -- what's the future of Latina's Market?

The empty hulk on Jackson and Ellicott sits like a concrete elephant that obscures any notion of increasing Downtown's business vibrancy.

And conventional wisdom around town is that a trio of lawyers in Buffalo owns it and has no intention of doing anything with it -- they're happy to just let it sit.

"That's (bunk)," said co-owner Vito Gautieri during an interview today. 

Local business man Gautieri is a co-owner and broker of the building that has served as a location for Montgomery Ward, Super Duper and Jubilee as well as Latina's over the past 20 years.

Gautieri said he's trying to lease or sell the 40,000 square foot building (which also has 11,000 square feet of office space above the retail floor).

"We've been spending tons of money trying to find a buyer," Gautieri said. "We've showed it 10 or 12 times in the past year. "

Gautieri's partners are indeed a group of lawyers in Buffalo, but he said they are just as anxious as anybody else to see the building sold or leased.

Don Burkle, director of the Batavia Improvement District, said it's good news if the owners are indeed trying to sell the building, but he's been unaware of any effort to sell or lease the building and that there's never been any response from the current ownership whenever the BID has referred potential buyers.

The BID is very interested in seeing a grocery store go into the location, or maybe it could serve as a retail business incubator, or perhaps a hotel and convention center could be built on the location -- anything that would help downtown would interest the BID, Burkle said.

"(The building) has a lot of potential and any grocery store in that location would certainly enhance downtown," Burkle said.

Gauiteri said the asking price on the location is $1.8 million.

In 2008, the property was assessed at $700,000.

One obvious potential buyer is Ken Mistler, who just opened a new gym and a coffee shop at the corner of Main and Jackson and has a history of buying downtown buildings -- he owns 10 now -- and renovating them.

Both Gauiteri and Mistler confirmed they've talked about the building, but it doesn't sound like there are any ongoing negotiations.

Mistler said he's both concerned about the vacant building and, now that his gym is open, wonders what will happen to parking if anything is opened in that location.

"That's a big vacancy and any possible business that might want to come Downtown looks at that big vacant building and starts asking why?" Mislter said in between signing up new gym memberships this afternoon. "We know it has a negative impact on Downtown when it's such a massive location and it's empty. But I also think, what if it is filled? What is the city going to do about parking? Did you see the parking lot last night -- people were parking down by South Beach and we (the gym) opened only four days ago."

Mardell Lamb

Didn't Wegmans look at purchasing Eastown a few years back? If I remember correctly, they were looking at all of the stores & then purchasing houses & property surrounding the area. Yes, really big area. Not sure why it never went through. I like Weggies & travel to Geneseo now & then to go there. Their bagels are great (esp. if they're warm!) Carry out cafe is delicious too.

Yes, it would be great to see life again in the old "Monkey Wards" building. (I remember going school clothes shopping there in the very early 70's.) Great memories indeed. It was also nice having a grocery store there too after they closed.

Jubilee had great meat & a wonderful selection. I would love having something on the East side (much closer traveling from Pavilion.)

Jan 5, 2010, 6:02pm Permalink
bud prevost

anyone familiar with Pricecutters? There are a couple in Rochester. Similiar to Sav A Lot, but much nicer. The produce selection at the Jefferson Rd location is as good as Tops or Wegmans, with most items about HALF the cost!

Jan 5, 2010, 6:18pm Permalink
Beth Kinsley

Bud - do you mean Price Rite? There's a few of them in Rochester. Nice clean stores and really good prices. I miss Jubilee. I know that near the end they were getting a little run down but they were so convenient and cheap.

Jan 5, 2010, 7:34pm Permalink
Bob Price

Yep-Price Rite-Buffalo area has a few of them also I believe.I haven't been in one myself,but anyplace that has quality items at a reaonable price would be a welcome addition to Batavia.I just hope there would be enough parking for it though......

Jan 5, 2010, 8:52pm Permalink
Steve Ognibene

My suggestion is to make it into a local attraction for genesee county, something that would serve the public especially kids. A children's museum of genesee county. featuring rides, a game center, small roller coaster, 4H petting zoo, local history with lots of hands on for kids to do. Some place kids and parents can visit focus on a various wide range of age groups. Charge admission, group and yearly memberships.

Jan 6, 2010, 12:38am Permalink
Bea McManis

A year round farmers' market co-op would be a Genesee County attraction and a permanent place for our local products to be showcased.
If organized and run well, it would not only be profitable for our local farmers and crafts people, but could be THE place to visit on a daily basis.
Add a food court and the place would be hopping every day.

Jan 6, 2010, 7:34am Permalink
bud prevost

Bud - do you mean Price Rite?

Yes Beth, thanks for the correction. It may be a touch too small, but I would hope it would be considered. I would shop there.

Jan 6, 2010, 8:14am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Of course, before anything can happen, there needs to be a willing buyer and a willing seller. And who the buyer is will determine what actually goes in.

I'd mainly just like to see it become a productive piece of property again. Downtown needs it.

Jan 6, 2010, 9:05am Permalink
George Richardson

I worked in the warehouse on the second floor when it was Montgomery Wards. When the Attica Prison riot happened they had me and another guy move all of the guns and ammunition off of the main floor and we locked them in a room upstairs. I thought that was kind of weird. I couldn't imagine the prisoners breaking out in Attica and making a beeline for Montgomery Wards in Batavia, but obviously some local or district manager type could envision such a scenerio. It was my first job after high school and $2.00 an hour paid the bills, and then some.

Jan 6, 2010, 9:35am Permalink
Jason Juliano

They're obviously not THAT "serious" about selling the building with an asking price of $1.8MM.

I realize that city assesments are rarely an accurate picture of property values, but their asking price is unrealistic for any business to come in and spend the money nessecary to get that building back into shape. It's sat vacant for so long!

Jan 7, 2010, 11:04pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Keep mind I quoted the 2008 assessment, but I doubt it has changed that much.

And I'm curious why the significant difference in asking price and assessed value?

Jan 7, 2010, 11:30pm Permalink
Greg Siedlecki

My feeling is that we don't need another supermarket in Batavia. The fact that both Super Duper (Jubilee) & Latinas failed makes me think that the location itself is just bad for that venture.
I like the idea of an inside "broadway market" style marketplace. But they should seriously think about dropping the price to under a million dollars to get any bites at all .... or the building will sit there vacant.

Feb 7, 2010, 9:01am Permalink

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