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September 21, 2022 - 11:00pm

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Shannon Maute is not a middle-of-the-road kind of person.

To the contrary, she readily admits that her thought process is all or nothing.

What’s this got to do with the upcoming Business Improvement District’s annual Wine Walk? Everything. Maute, BID executive director,  had already scheduled a scarecrow contest to align with the wine walk for ample decorations along downtown streets. Then someone asked Maute about pink pumpkins. Would it be possible to also dot the landscape with pink pumpkins for Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

“I’m usually like, go big or go home. I'm either doing nothing, or I'm doing way too much at once. So I decided that fall is pretty fantastic, so we needed to do a lot of stuff in the fall,’ she said Wednesday. “We were planning our scarecrows, and I had a neighbor of mine reach out to me, and she asked if she could do a pumpkin that had to do with breast cancer. And I said, of course, and she said, do you think that maybe downtown wanted to participate and do something for it? And I said, if you do a scarecrow that has to do with breast cancer awareness, I will paint downtown pink with pumpkins.”

And so you now have wine, scarecrows and pink pumpkin activities downtown, with the grand kick-off being the walk from 4 to 8 p.m. (VIPs) and 5 to 8 p.m. (general) Oct. 1.

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Much of the fun leading up the Dead Celebrity-themed wine tasting has already begun with the scarecrow contest. Entries are due Friday, and individuals, families, organizations and businesses may participate. Rumor has it that Jackson Primary School will be pitching a scarecrow, and Maute said it would be great to get other schools involved.

The entry fee is $20, and registration can be made online at downtownbataviany.com, emailed to [email protected], our mailed to the BID office at 200 East Main St., Suite 12, Batavia, NY, 14020. For more information, call (585) 344-0900.

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Participants can pick up scarecrow supplies from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday in Jackson Square. Supplies include wooden posts, straw and twine for the beginnings of your scarecrow. They may be put up the week of Sept. 25, and no later than Oct 1. They can remain up until Nov. 4.

Cash prizes will be given to first, second and third-place winners. Your creations will be prominently displayed for shoppers, visitors, and especially by Wine Walk attendees on Oct. 1. The public will be asked to vote for the Best Scarecrow and Most Creative HERE.  

Participants are welcome to go all-out pink with Maute when she hosts paint night from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Lambert Park on Verona Avenue, Batavia. Mele Garlic Farms of Holley has generously donated 30 pumpkins to the cause, she said. Painting supplies will be provided, however, nothing, especially more paint, will be turned away.

“This will be a fun event where people can get together, show their creativity and bring awareness to our amazing downtown,” Maute said. “Any donations of pink paints are welcomed and appreciated.”

Not only has the pink pumpkin task put another angle on decorations, but it has motivated Maute to learn more about the topic, she said.

“I just started reading a lot about that, and knowing how breast cancer and just cancer, in general, affects pretty much everybody, I thought that would be a great way to bring the community together and do something fun, and make downtown look fantastic,” she said. “By October 1, I will have them all decorated downtown. So when everyone comes out for the wine walk, or who's driving down Main Street, they'll see all the pink, and the awareness will be spread for breast cancer.”

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The finale, so to speak, is when several hundred dead celebrities gather to sample 24 wines and ciders at tasting stations throughout downtown. Glass Roots on Center Street will be hosting a Sober Station for designated drivers with pizza and other non-alcoholic refreshments.

This event is nearly sold out, but you can check with Maute to find out if any are available for purchase. For more information about any of these events, go to downtownbataviany.com, email [email protected], or call (585) 344-0900.

Top Photo: BID Executive Director Shannon Maute shows a pumpkin that she decorated for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photo by Joanne Beck. File Photos of past scarecrow entries and the 2021 Wine Walk.

September 14, 2022 - 3:29pm
posted by Press Release in BID, wine walk, downtown, batavia, news.

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Press release:

The B.I.D. Wine Walk Committee announces this year’s event which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022.

Only 600 tickets are available for this year’s event.

Tickets may be purchased online, YN Godess, Adam Miller & Empire Hemp.

General Admission tickets are $30, VIP $40 and DD tickets for $10.

All VIP ticket holders get into the event one hour early at 4 p.m., a special gift, raffle tickets and more!

All ticket holders will enjoy a tasting of several Wines and Ciders at over 23 local businesses throughout our Downtown.

This year’s theme is Dead Celebrity!

Photo: File photo from 2014 by Howard Owens

September 13, 2022 - 5:50pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, downtown, Carr's Reborn, notify.

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When David Ciurzynski was a kid, he and his brother would shop for school items and take the elevator at C.L. Carr’s department store, watching as the operator pulled the little stick to close the zig-zag accordion-like gate before they ascended to a higher floor. And then down again.

There were floors for the billing department, a bridal shop and other specific types of merchandise, and the basement had housewares while first floor catered to men’s and women’s clothing, children’s items, jewelry, makeup and greeting cards. There were clear tubes that shuttled payments from downstairs up to billing.

 "And I just think about those memories that we had way back when ... and now the new memories that we make at the JJ Newberry's building that's now Eli Fish," Ciurzynski said during a presentation of downtown projects, including the former Carr’s building, Tuesday at City Hall. "That's what this project is all about. Right? Taking our history, taking our memories, and turning it into something that people can make new memories with, including ourselves. "

The project consultant is not alone with his recollections of Carr’s days of grandeur. Anyone who grew up in Batavia is familiar with the high-end department store, with free gift-wrapping service, seasonal visits from Santa Claus, sidewalk sales and an ice cream cart, and the personalized services of salesmen and women, especially those experienced ladies behind the jewelry counter.

Getting a gift from Carr’s was kind of special — it meant quality and style. And so very neatly and precisely wrapped with a coordinated bow. There are still offerings like that downtown, such as Valle Jewelers and Charles Men’s Shop, as those places have continued to bob and weave to miss the knock-out punches of big box stores and economic shifts.

Carr’s was the only store, however, to consume so much footprint -- more than 11,000 square feet -- along Main and Jackson streets. It was exciting to step aboard the elevator and be whisked up to look at fancy women’s dresses and accessories.

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Ciurzynski’s description of the site’s future — renovating the upper two floors for apartments, installing arched windows in the front overlooking Main Street, preparing the lower levels for other commercial space by removing asbestos and making them more enticing for prospective businesses — also included a vision. The project has been titled Carr's Reborn.

“We can restore the former landmark to its former glory,” he said.

People will be able to go to a restaurant or brewery, catch a play, movie or live music, or visit the future Healthy Living campus with its new exercise and classroom space, kitchen and complete wellness center, he said.

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The project would take $1 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant funding and $4 million from property owner Ken Mistler. Possible uses for the main floor have not been determined, and it’s about “what does downtown Batavia need?” Ciurzynski said.

“I could see a small department store for women’s clothing to complement the men’s clothing shop we have,” he said. “The harder part right now is getting people to commit with labor; there’s been a shortage.”

Steve Hyde of the county’s Economic Development Center said that studies have found that Batavia needs more housing — some 4,500 units over the next several years.

“People are commuting here, working and collecting paychecks, but they don’t live here,” he said.

Adding 14 to 16 market rate — higher scale — apartments would “tie a bow around us,” he said.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that older people have mentioned that they might like to live in a downtown apartment, but “the only drawback is a long staircase.” Those possibly semi-retired folks wish there was an elevator as well, he said.

So yes, that relic of Carr’s will be resurrected and working once again, albeit, probably not with a personal attendant.

The DRI Committee members approved a motion to move forward with the project. They were:   Eugene Jankowski,  Steve Hyde, Dr. James Sunser,  Craig Yunker, Tammy Hathaway,  Erik Fix, Tom Turnbull, Susie Ott, Paul Battaglia, Marty Macdonald and Nathan Varland.

The remaining committee members who were absent include Pier Cipollone, Patrick Burk, Marianne Clattenburg, John McKenna, Julia Garver, John Riter, Peter Casey, Matt Gray, Mary Valle, John Bookmiller and Dan Ireland.

Ciurzynski, of Ciurzynski Consulting, LLC, gave Mistler a nod and thumb’s up. Mistler said he appreciated the support, but wanted to hold off with any further comment until the project gets moving. Now that the committee approved the grant funding, minutes from the meeting will be sent to Empire State Development for state approval.

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Top photo: City Council President Eugene Jankowski talks about a proposed project Tuesday morning to renovate the former Carr's building in downtown Batavia. David Ciurzynski reviews the project, dubbed 'Carr's Reborn,' with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative Committee at City Hall; Committee members Nathan Varland, Tammy Hathaway, Eugene Jankowski, Susie Ott, Dr. James Sunser, Steve Hyde and Erik Fix. Photos courtesy of Jim Krencik. Rendering of Carr's Reborn from Batavia Development Corporation. 

September 7, 2022 - 7:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Hunt Real Estate, news, business, downtown, batavia.

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Genesee County is growing and Peter F. Hunt, CEO of Hunt Real Estate, wants his company to capitalize on that growth.

"We began some investigation in the marketplace and realized that it's a good place to be," Hunt told The Batavian following a ribbon cutting for his firm's new office at Main and Jackson in the heart of Batavia. "I was quite impressed with the local chamber, the industrial development agency, people who really have a great interest in seeing this become a better, a much better town."

Hunt purchased the former Genesee Bank Building (in recent years it has been a financial firm's office and a couple of different locally owned retail stores) and invested in a complete remodel of the interior to make it suitable for Hunt agents to have office space and meeting rooms.

"We were lucky that it was available," Hunt said. "When we found out it was available, it was, unfortunately, a long series of negotiations. We could have made it faster but we had too many people involved. Finally, when I just said, what's going on? And they said, Well, we're kind of stalled. I called Michelle (Schlossel) and I said, 'let's close it today.' I hadn't been inside and when I got inside, I realized we were going to do a lot of work in this place. But I think we made the right investment. I think it's a great location. It's a beautiful building. Great bones. And we want to make it really something special."

Previously: Real estate company to move into historic downtown Batavia property

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August 12, 2022 - 8:16am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, GLOW YMCA, downtown, Restore NY, notify.

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Rochester Regional Health and United Memorial Medical Center officials would like Genesee County on board to assist with a $2 million grant for the Healthy Living project in downtown Batavia.

Working through Ed Flynn of LaBella Associates, hospital officials plan to apply for the grant and, if approved, funding would “flow through the county,” County Manager Matt Landers said Wednesday.

“There would be no county match, and no county cost,” he said to legislators during their Ways & Means committee meeting at the Old Courthouse.

Restore NY grant
The grant is to go toward some of the demolition costs of the GLOW YMCA site between Wiard and Bank streets, he said. The county can charge up to $10,000 for administrative costs, “which should be more than enough for us to cover our costs,” Landers said.

“I would liken this similar to a (Community Development Block Grant) project where the (county’s Economic Development Center) usually comes to us and has a private business out there that wants to secure funds for a project for economic development and their job creation,” he said. “And then we basically utilize grant ministries, grant administration services … So this will be a very similar arrangement, but less intensive. According to Ed Flynn, the CDBG project is a little more intensive. This is less intensive. So I don't see a drawback.”

The unusual part, he said, was that this request is to approve an intent to apply before actually applying for the grant. That letter of intent was due Thursday, and the next step would be to get the Legislature’s blessings on the actual grant application, he said.

“So if there are reservations around, they can still be raised,” he said. “So it's a little nontraditional process where I'm coming to you with the intent to apply. And then we'll be voting on formal permission to apply, within the attached resolutions, that will come forward probably in September.”

The committee approved his request, and Genesee County will be submitting a Restore NY round six grant to support the development of the Healthy Living Campus. United Memorial Medical Center – Rochester Regional Health (UMMC-RRH), and GLOW YMCA have partnered to develop a $33.5 million, two-story 78,000 square-foot regional health and wellness facility, which will integrate a new YMCA facility with state-of-the-art medical space for the Healthy Living program.

New versus old YMCA
Restore NY funds will be used by the development team to demolish the old 40,000 square-foot YMCA, and an 8,500 square-foot obsolete boiler house owned by UMMC-RRH, which will provide space to accommodate a new downtown park and parking lot. The project was selected as a priority Downtown Revitalization Initiative project and is also supported by the Batavia Brownfield Opportunity Area plan. UMMC/RRH will lead the development team.

Demolition of YMCA won’t be for a while, as the new building site at the former Cary Hall and Elks Lodge needs to be in place for the facility’s members to use, said Rob Walker, CEO of GLOW YMCA. There shouldn’t be any downtime for members, as they will transition over to the freshly completed site while the older YM building is taken down, he said.

“And continue operations without hurting the community and our services to the community — that was important to us, both from a mission standpoint and service standpoint, but also fiscally being responsible as well,” Walker said Thursday to The Batavian. “So the demolition is all dependent on completion of, and a certificate of occupancy for, the new YMCA UMMC building.”

The facility has previously been outlined — a pool, updated exercise equipment, and brand new amenities alongside Healthy Living’s teaching kitchen, classrooms and offices — and Walker described the outside space being “a nice streetscape park area” with benches, trees, lighting and an open grassy area for some outdoor activities, plus additional parking space.

“That's the beauty of what we're doing. There'll be additional parking there that kind of complements the site. There's two main entrances to the facility, one is on the northwest section, and then one is on the south section, that both enter into and through a nice corridor to the welcome desk, where a member services representative will direct them to where they need to go.”

He also emphasized that the nonprofit’s board and volunteers have talked about this eventual move for the last four or five years, and the county’s Senior Center was always part of the vision.

“Our true hope is that we can add on to the YM space where the current one is to include the Senior Center. It’s really important to volunteers and board members,” he said. “It’s our hope that the Genesee County Senior Center would join the Healthy Living campus.”

The former Cary Hall and Elks buildings have been razed, and new construction is to begin this fall. It was important to YMCA leaders not to disrupt the many services offered, including childcare, swimming lessons and exercise classes and offerings to varied age groups, he said.

“We want to be able to continue to do those services and keep the momentum that we have with those programs as well. They're all doing really well, there's a lot of wait lists, and we're going to be able to serve more people in the new facility. So that's going to help. Our capacities are pretty much limited in the existing YMCA,” he said. “It takes a little while to line up these contractors. We'll have a better idea this fall, or even late summer, on the timing of that lineup. Obviously, there's a lot of labor shortages, supply issues, that are affecting all these contractors.”

Construction plans
As has been said early on, the plan remains for completion to be in late 2023, or early 2024, depending on the labor and supply availability. A project such as this typically takes 16 to 18 months, and that’s if “everything flows under the construction timeline,” he said. But it’s a fluid timeline, he added.

Walker is grateful for the local support of municipalities and donors. Project costs are about $23 million for YMCA and $10 million for the RRH-UMMC portion.

“We appreciate the county and the city support on earmarking, this. Our escalation costs have been tremendous in the last two years. So we've had to dig deeper than we already have. We've raised over $14 million on our side, on the Y side, so we've got to keep going,” he said. “And we will, but we've got 95 percent of what we need. So we're confident that in the next four months we'll be able to close the small gap.”

Top photo: 2022 File Photo of demolition for the new Healthy Living Campus in downtown Batavia. The next phase to knock down YMCA is set for this fall, and officials are in the process of applying for a $2 million Restore NY grant to help with costs. Photo by Howard Owens.

August 7, 2022 - 8:10am

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2018 File Photo: Eli Fish Brewing Company shows a definite sign during its initial phase of development, and now owners are planning a two-level back patio adjacent to Jackson Square. Photo by Howard Owens.

Recession? What recession?

Despite global doomsday predictions to go along with inflationary prices, there appear to be signs of definite life in downtown Batavia. Three Main Street businesses have each applied for a $20,000 grant for planned site expansions.

City Council is expected to discuss the applications during its conference meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers, City Hall.

Matt Gray, as AGRV Properties, Inc., is looking backward for his project — a patio adjacent to Jackson Square. With an investment of $140,000, the additional grant would support the cost of building an outdoor patio for Eli Fish Brewing Company at 109 Main St. Aid from grant funding will allow the applicant to replace the rear, exterior stairs and doors and assist in the cost of adding a large two-level patio attached to the rear of the building, according to the application to Batavia Development Corporation.

BDC’s board approved the request, according to a memo from Director Tammy Hathaway, and has forwarded it to council for final approval. The money is from BDC’s Revolving Loan Fund, which has a total of $120,097, Hathaway said. Specifically, the City of Batavia Revolving Loan Fund Grant Policy seeks to have private building owners make lasting building, public and/or façade improvements within the City.

Down the street are two more projects to be reviewed by council. Applicant Peter Casey, as 73 on rotary, LLC, has asked for $20,000 grants each, for 73 Main St., and an adjacent site at 79-81 Main St.

That block of the building apparently has some growing pains as well, with upgrades for YNGodess — by increasing usable space in the shop, and updating a breakroom and bathroom facility. An investment of $80,000 would be augmented with the grant money for the upgrades. The BDC Board approved the request and it now rests with the council for final approval.

Casey’s other project is to renovate the former Alberty’s Drug Store property at 79-81 and move the law office of DelPlato Casey into that space. Capital investment for this project is pegged at $820,000. Work includes handicap access to the firm's office and provides more room for the growing legal practice, according to the application.

Growth is expected immediately, with the addition of one staff member and the potential for two more hired soon afterward.

Council is also expected to discuss funding for the purchase of a new fire engine. A final funding pack includes a 20-year loan for $665,000 at 2.5 percent, and a $100,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant, with an upfront contribution of $36,681 from the city’s fire reserves.

This fire engine is to replace Engine 12, which, at 20 years old, is showing signs of “extreme corrosion,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said in a memo to council. The new vehicle would include a custom cab with seating for six fire personnel, a 1,500 per minute fire pump with foam capacity, a 750-gallon water tank, latest safety features, and full LED emergency and scene lights for maximum safety for personnel, and she recommends the purchase.

August 4, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, mall, city centre, notify, downtown.

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Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series about what's happening in the city of Batavia

A recent photo published with a mall-related story caught the attention of a couple of merchants.

It prominently featured a decorated bucket on the floor, and was a file photo from some time ago. Business owners Bob Chiarmonte, the unofficial president of the Mall Merchants Association, and Craig Jackson, co-owner of Batavia Stagecoach Florist, wanted to set the record straight that improvements are being made to Batavia City Centre.

“I think the city has put a lot of money into downtown revitalization, and the mall is right in the center of it. So to ignore it doesn't make sense to me, because it's right in the center of downtown. So I think they're making the right decision to try and improve the building,“ said Chiarmonte, who owns Classic Optical. “Personally, what I'd like to see is, there are properties that the city owns, and I'd like to see them sell the properties and get taxpayers and businesses back in here. The city owns a bunch of these properties that are vacant, and they're not doing anything.”

Several former businesses ended up in foreclosure and the sites ended up in the possession of the city. According to online assessment data, those sites include parcels 2, 11, formerly Valle’s, 17-20, formerly Gentleman Jim’s, Palace of Sweets and The Hiding Place, and 35 and 39, formerly Advanced Imaging. Other vacant spots, not owned by the city according to assessment data, are the former Sunny's restaurant, Escapeology, Miracle Ear, and JC Penney. (The Batavian reached out to city officials for comments late Wednesday afternoon, and will publish an update later this week.)

Aside from those empty parcels, Chiarmonte and Jackson were pleased with the new roof that’s been installed throughout the concourse area. The place no longer leaks, they agreed, and there hasn’t been a bucket to be seen in months. The city has expressed interest in renting out that space for events, and that’s something that both business owners would like to see.

They credited building maintenance manager Tom Phelps for doing “an excellent” job with making sure the concourse is clean, repaired as necessary, shoveled outside and seasonally decorated. Phelps even brought in some decorations for the place to be extra festive. This will be his fourth year putting up a Christmas tree, he said.

Phelps and two other city employees work in the Centre as part of a legal settlement between the merchants and municipality. That has been a plus, Jackson and Chiarmonte said, and Phelps is currently in the process of removing all of those ceiling tiles for a different look.

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Current concourse ceiling

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Concourse ceiling with tiles beginning to be removed

Chiarmonte believes there may be another option for mall management in the future.

“I think the city might be interested in getting one entity to come in and take over the facility. And I can't blame them for that, because I know that the city doesn't want to own them all. We've talked about it. And, personally, I think it would be an easier sell if the spaces were full. I don’t think they’re marketing it at all.”

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There didn’t appear to be any type of visual signage promoting those properties for sale. Each one sat there empty and quiet, with windows either boarded or papered, or otherwise obviously unoccupied. Jackson remembers when they had the draw of those stores, including J.C. Penney, with its name still on the wall over the interior doors.

Despite the lack of regular traffic, both businesses had customers in the hour or so The Batavian was there in the afternoon. And both said they have been doing well and would not have made a different choice if they could go back in time. Chiarmonte, and Jackson and his partner, Loretta DelPriore, own their properties outright, which means no rent to worry about. They each took advantage of what they felt were good deals — and cheaper than other space downtown or elsewhere in Batavia, they said.

COVID’s arrival hurt businesses in general, and mall merchants were no exception. Chiarmonte saw decreased business, and said there wasn’t a compromise to offer, as his optical shop is a hands-on enterprise. Jackson said revenues remained strong for his combination florist-tuxedo-collectibles shop. When COVID hit, the partners depended on delivery service and wire and online ordering through their website.

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He also referred to another bonus, a craft fair hosted by a local nonprofit in the concourse. With some 90 vendors,  the place was busy and a lot of people milled about, stopping into the shop, Jackson said.

“This place is available for events, and you don’t have water dripping on you,” Jackson said. “I think they should push kiosks, they used to have those, and people could try it out and work toward renting (a property).”

They’re both for anything that can draw people to City Centre, including special events on the concourse, the Healthy Living project that’s now underway for a 2023 completion, more merchants and, ideally for Chiarmonte, another department store to replace Penney’s.

The Association has dwindled to about two or three active members, including Chiarmonte and Jackson’s business partner Loretta DelPriore.

“We keep a handle on things,” Chiarmonte said. “I’ve been here 38 years, and I’ve had success. I think any business, any business that comes into the facility is going to help … and is going to create traffic. So the more foot traffic, there is more business. It just kind of goes to (common sense). I think (Penney’s) was a huge help for me because of the location, and I guess COVID put the nail in their coffin, unfortunately. That was a good store.”

The new owner, a developer in California, has a Rochester realtor who in the past has said he was working to show and sell the property. Potential concepts have included an event center and boutique-style hotel. Chiarmonte is on board with a mixed-use place, as long as those parcels are filled, he said.

He and Jackson agree with the city’s plan to pursue new designs for the four entryways to the Centre. That plan is in the design phase, city officials said. Other work is to include painting the floor and walls, and the tiles  — initially to be cleaned up and improved — are being taken down to expose the natural underpinnings of steel and wires. Some downtown apartments have been constructed in a similar industrial style.

Jackson wants the floor to be addressed soon, as he thinks the mismatched tile colors don’t do anything positive for the concourse appearance.

“To kind of bring this back to life,” he said. “This is a lot of open property right in the center of town.”

It may seem daunting to not only buy property there but also tack on property taxes and business improvement district and mall user fees to the total. However, they both said it was still less expensive than other city property.

“I don't know about rent, but I would guess that rent is reasonable because the cost of property is pretty reasonable, so if somebody's looking to start a business or open a business, this would be great, because you're in the middle of downtown and it's an expensive place to attain property,” Chiarmonte said.

To those people that have spouted off about tearing down the mall, it’s just not that easy, he said. He said the city would have to buy out each individual property owner and pay fair market value.

And to those that say the mall is dead?

“I wouldn’t say it’s dead,” Chiarmonte said. “But I would say it’s sleeping.”

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For prior coverage about City Centre’s ongoing transition, see article "Moving forward?" and "Making the best ..."

Top photo: Craig Jackson, co-owner of Batavia Stagecoach Florist at 26 Batavia City Centre; the mall concourse ceiling, both currently and as it begins to shed its tiles; Bob Chiarmonte of Classic Optical at 44 Batavia City Centre, and a section of concourse. Photos by Joanne Beck.

June 9, 2022 - 7:30pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, downtown, notify.

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Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series about city updates and visions from city officials. 

If you ever have opportunity to shop Rodeo Drive, be prepared for personal attention, the feeling of luxury, and some mighty big pricetags.

While strolling down the ritzy commercial zone in Beverly Hills may seem an obscure comparison, it is something worth considering right here in Batavia, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

A shopping experience can happen anywhere, she says.

"So here, the retailers like, I think of the bicycle shop, or Charles Men's Shop, they make it an experience for the person shopping there. I do think we'd have what it takes, and will continue to be more and more attractive as these new investments come online. With the building rehabs (and expansion of the YMCA), all of that starts to build more momentum for people to be downtown,” Tabelski said during an interview with The Batavian. “And when you have people, then having the retail offerings comes naturally. So I do feel that we will succeed in bringing more retail back into our downtown, whether it's a large department store or in places like Saratoga Springs, where they have small shops that are like the Gap and Banana Republic. I would love to see that here someday, like specialty shops, specialty brands.”

As for why some of the more exclusive-type shops make it while others do not, she thinks it may be about timing. Pollyanna and Dot, for example, was a successful boutiquey shop with a hint of vintage, but “they hit the market before we were quite ready,” she said.

“But you know, they were on the front end of the momentum building,” she said. “I think as we continue, there's definitely going to be more opportunities for retail offerings. And then the other side of that is online ordering.”

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She pointed to some retailers that seem to do a good job at those personal experiences, such as Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle shop, Charles Men's Shop and Valle Jewelers.

“They become successful because, it's not just ‘I’m running to get a suit,’ it’s ‘I’m going to see Dave and I'm going to talk to everyone there and I'm going to, you know, get measured for this and that and the other thing, and get dry cleaned all at the same time,” she said. “Or they're going to have nights where — Valle Jewelers is really good at this —  I think they have nights where you can come in and they have hors d'oeuvres, and then everyone stands around and chats, and you can do your shopping for your birthdays for the next few months there. Like I said, it makes it more of an experience than just a ‘I get to run in and get something at Wal-Mart.’ So I think that's the key to these retailers is finding niches of buyers; they need to operate online, but in person they need to offer these experiences for their customers. And I think a lot of them here do that. And those are the ones that have been successful.”

While we’re downtown, what’s happening with the new police station plans?
"Right now, the police station is under design. And we are just getting our first look at what's called a schematic design and potential pricing of the police station. So internally, we'll be reviewing that, we'll be looking to determine the affordability of all the elements, they kind of give all the elements you want in a building, and then they put it together and they give you a price and you're like, okay, well, now we'll move forward with that internally,” she said. “So we are looking forward to continuing the process with the architect and engineering firm we selected, which is Ashley McGraw out of Syracuse. And then they move once we've kind of settled on this, what they call final schematic design.”

From that point, the process moves into design-draft documents of the station. City officials hope that the project can be finalized and go out for bids on construction by the next calendar year, she said. Tabelski predicts that city police staff won’t be moving into new digs until summer of 2024, with an allotted 18-month construction period.

“So overall, I think the process is moving along. And we're getting through the design elements of the facility,” she said.

As for financing, a “level debt” payment plan that is paid into reserves, and a potential $2.5 million “direct spending request” submitted to senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Chris Jacobs are to assist with capital costs of the new facility, she said.

There is also a City Fire and Public Works departments project that will resume after being stalled during — you guessed it — COVID-19. City staff has “picked that back up” to finally get some work done that, up to now, has only been talked about “for many, many years,” she said.

A $1.1 million project focuses on the Bureau of Maintenance garage, which is to get a new air filtration system to ensure a safe space inside where gasoline-fueled vehicles operate. The fire station is slated for a new generator and boiler, handicap accessibility to the front of the building and parking bay apron and some improvements to the restrooms and locker rooms, she said.

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On the other side of town, the new David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena was officially named, per a 10-year lease agreement with Guy Pellegrino for the naming rights. With the end of Firland Management’s involvement (the company announced previously it was not renewing its contract in June), the city has put out a request for proposals to find a new management company for the Evans Street site.

RFPs are to be into the city by Friday. What if a company wants to put its own name on the arena in addition to managing operations?

“If there was anyone that wanted to come in and rename the rink, it would have to be a renegotiation of that contract. I do not see us changing that in any way, shape, or form,” she said. “So I would consider the naming rights stable.”

The RFPs specify that the contract would be for the McCarthy arena, so a managing company would know up front that the name is in place, she said. As of Thursday, there have been five RFP "respondents" seeking additional information, she said. Some of them have contacted her for more details and/or requested tours of the ice rink.

“So there's definitely been an interest in operating at the rink. And I'm excited to see what those proposals look like. They’ll be scored internally. And then the recommendation will be brought to council. And we hope to have everything set by the July 11 meeting,” she said. “I’m very excited to see the interest in operating the rink. I think whoever comes in next is going to have the passion to maybe bring new things to the rink, and continue to operate it and work with the city. The city is responsible for the building and the capital improvements and needs to work hand in hand with the operator. And the operator needs to work hand in hand with GAHA (Genesee Amateur Hockey Association).”

Other groups that use the rink regularly include Batavia City Schools, Notre Dame’s hockey team and a local men’s league.

Overall, she is looking for an entity that would not only have great financial planning capability and business sense, but would also have “a great ability to communicate with all parties to make sure that the ring is being utilized as much as possible, and being put to use in our community,” she said.

“And there's a return on that to our businesses in the community because the more people we draw into our city for different things like hockey tournaments and hockey games, the more spin-off economic impact we have in our restaurants and our retail and other areas,” she said. “So there's definitely an economic impact to the rink, and the respondents are going to really need to highlight how they see themselves running this … and make it a lively and vibrant place similar to what Robbie Nichols Did with Dwyer Stadium. He has done phenomenal ever since, and promotions and involving the KMS dance team, involving Little League, involving the high school baseball team. He's really brought the community together at the stadium for a lot of different things.”

Next up is about city sidewalk and street repairs, with a map of sidewalk projects to date.

Top Photo: City Manager Rachael Tabelski in her office at City Hall. 2016 File Photo: Gov. Kathy Hochul during a prior visit with downtown retailers, including Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle on Center Street. 2022 File Photo: A crowd celebrates the official naming of the David M. McCarthy Ice Arena, which has great potential to be a booming ice complex, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says. Photos by Howard Owens.

May 11, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, downtown, BID, music, notify.

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There’s so much happening in downtown Batavia, Shannon Maute says, that she needs to start her own podcast to discuss it all.

Maute, the Business Improvement District’s executive director, is eager to share ideas she and the BID Promotions Committee have been kicking around lately. She wants to provide a venue for them to mull suggestions and figure some things out for downtown’s ongoing success.

“We hope to have it ready to go by mid-June. We are open to anyone coming on. We want to hear from everyone who has an idea, or a thought, and I’ll even take suggestions,” she said to The Batavian. “We will discuss our events, our plans for downtown and promote businesses as well as individuals. We want to have fun with it and get Batavia involved. If we can solve some issues along the way that would be fantastic.”

She teased that the group has some ideas “ready to go,” but you will have to “listen to find out what they are.” Maute plans to promote the podcast in the near future.

Extra nights of music ...
One idea will be implemented beginning in July. Since concerts on Friday nights have had such a positive result, BID members have decided to bring on some Thursday nights as well.  Concerts on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. are scheduled for June 30, July 28 and August 25 at Jackson Square. Musical groups are yet to be announced for those.

The Downtown Batavia Friday Night Concert Series is to kick off with Old Hippies on July 1, Skycats on July 8, Don Newcomb Band on July 15, Ohmes Band July 22, Creek Bend July 29, Ghost Riders on Aug. 5, The Bluesway Band on August 12 and capped off with Mitty and The Followers on Aug. 26. These concerts are all free and are set for 7 to 9 p.m.

An inaugural Italian Fest has been scheduled for August 6, complete with a strolling accordion player, pasta, cannoli and other Italian treats, decorations and a Mediterranean vibe, Maute said.

New faces on BID board ...
She is excited about a resurgence in community gatherings and about some new faces on the BID Board. Derek Geib has been elected president of the board, with fellow businessman John Roche as vice president; and Carrie Lawrence and Shelly Wolanske are new board members.

Maute recently shared how the intrusion of COVID-19 changed her priorities.

“Two years to reflect is a long time, but I learned what is important, and what is important to me is my family, friends and my community,” she said during the annual BID breakfast. “I am so proud to live in this cute little city with a very big heart.”

Awards were given to “the amazing” Gavin Townsend for Volunteer of the Year, and Business of the Year went to “the outstanding Islands Hawaiian Grill.”

“They earned those awards with all their hard work, commitment, and positive attitude, as well as their great love for our community,” Maute said.

Special awards were given to Beth Kemp and Leanna DiRisio for Volunteer of the Decade.

With incoming president Derek Geib, former president Don Brown was acknowledged for his sage and consistent advice and for being a great help to Maute, she said.

“I am pretty lucky to work with such a great board. Each and every one of them brings something great to the table,” she said.

Top photos: Shannon Maute, executive director of Batavia Business Improvement District; and new BID President Derek Geib, left, and Vice President John Roche.

Photos by Howard Owens. 

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Award recipients Gavin Townsend for Volunteer of the Year

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Kourtney Kunichika, owner of Islands Hawaiian Grill for Business of the Year.

 

April 10, 2022 - 7:01pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, JC Penney, notify, batavia, downtown, city centre.

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As the former JC Penney’s site, tucked on the northeast side of Batavia City Centre, has rested from its 44-year existence, a West Coast businessman purchased the building in February 2021. 

JC Penney closed its doors locally in the fall of 2020, in an onslaught of closings due to corporate bankruptcy proceedings. Batavia’s site then sat quietly as local shoppers mourned the loss of another department store. 

Meanwhile, Yong Guang Ye of San Jose, Calif., purchased the 38,524 square-foot site. According to Genesee County assessment records, Ye bought the building for $500,000 on Feb. 2, 2021. The property has been assessed at $400,000. 

Ye was contacted Sunday for comment by The Batavian. A representative of Ye’s from California returned the call inquiring if The Batavian was interested in purchasing the property, and it was explained that the call was for comment about the purchase. Ye has a local realtor whose name was to be provided to The Batavian but was not provided by the time of publication. 
 
JC Penney was built in 1978 along Alva Place and remained a strong anchor for the former Genesee Country Mall-turned-Batavia City Centre until its doors were permanently closed in late 2020.

Top photo: File photo of JC Penney during its going-out-of-business sale in late 2020. Photo by Howard Owens.

March 4, 2022 - 5:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in The Yngodess Shop, batavia, downtown, business.

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When Chris Crocker first took over a liquor store location at 73 Main St., Batavia, she had a vision.

She didn't see the nearly bare shelves. She envisioned shelves stocked with some of the best wine and spirits available in the community.

Ten years later, she feels she's achieved that dream, she said, thanks to a great staff and the support of the community.

Crocker and her staff will celebrate The YNGodess Shop's 10th anniversary tomorrow (Saturday) from 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow and the public is invited.

"It's been a lot of work a lot, a lot of passion," Crocker said. "I have a great staff. And I've been doing it all for my son, my life. It's not always been easy. We've overcome a lot of challenges and we just keep going. Let's all put our best foot forward and we'll keep being the best that we can be."

Crocker is grateful for the community support and it's always been her goal to give back to the community.  

When the pandemic hit, in those first initial weeks, home delivery of wine and spirits became a big part of the liquor business but rather than pocket those extra profits from home delivery, Crocker set the money aside to give back to the community.

"We just gave $250 to a young lady that lost her daughter," Crocker said. "We've done the lunch thing with different (police and fire) departments around. I donated 911 flags back on 911 with the victims' names on them to the various departments around. We helped buy a motorized wheelchair for a woman in Le Roy.  We figure it has come close to $20,000 that we've raised and put back into the community."

Top photo: Chris Crocker, middle, and staff members Valeria Antonetty and Jodi Fisher.

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The YNGodess Shop is expressing its support for the people of Ukraine with a window display.

March 2, 2022 - 3:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Ukraine, downtown, batavia, news.

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The front display windows of Charles Men's Shop in Downtown Batavia are now draped and dabbed in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Co-owner Don Brown said the display is about supporting freedom and backing the Ukrainian people. It's not necessarily about supporting the Ukrainian government, he said.

"We're on the side of those willing to fight for their freedom," Brown said.

March 1, 2022 - 10:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in FeBREWary, downtown, batavia, news.

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It was a bit FeBRRRary and a lot FeBREWary in Downtown Batavia on Saturday as throngs of beer lovers descended on local businesses to sample a variety of beers from regional breweries.

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January 31, 2022 - 10:38am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, business, batavia, downtown.

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Peter Hunt, chief executive officer of Hunt Real Estate

A much-coveted piece of downtown property will soon be home to Hunt Real Estate, Chief Executive Officer Peter Hunt says.

The company has purchased 97 Main St., Batavia, at the corner of Main and Jackson streets. Give them a few months, and his blossoming staff  — of about 16 people and growing — will be operating out of the site. 

Company leaders chose to add a branch in Batavia because it provides an integral connection between two of the company's major markets, Hunt said.

“First, it provides a very powerful link for us between Rochester and Buffalo. We've watched the market closely and believe that there's stability there and that there's a seeming energy and a renewed spirit of investment, particularly along Main Street, that we weren't a part of,” he said, addressing the company’s impending move. “We’re very excited about it.”

Peter Hunt lives in Buffalo, and he was pretty familiar with this area as a hockey coach, and that athletic role brought him to Batavia whenever his team played at the ice rink. Hunt Real Estate has been in temporary digs at 5 Jackson St. for the past year. The new space will have room — an estimated couple of thousand square feet on each of three floors — for growth of personnel and offices, and an apartment on each of the second and third floors, he said.

“And also we see the way the real estate market has changed, particularly since the pandemic descended on us. We see that communities like Batavia have a great opportunity for both improvement of the quality of life and also growth because it's becoming increasingly desirable to be in small to midsize cities and communities that have the kind of natural beauty that Batavia has all around it,” he said. “And we think that being part of that renewed excitement about communities like Batavia will be very important to us.”

Hunt followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and joined the family business right out of college. His son Charlie Hunt has done the same, and the chief operating officer has 10 years in at this point. The company has 58 branches from Boston, MA to upstate New York and in Phoenix, AZ. The company deals in mortgage, titles, insurance, residential/commercial sales. It is poised to provide services that no one else offers in Batavia, Peter Hunt said.

“Our vision very simply is ‘always there for you,’ which means that we are an integrated real estate and homeownership services organization, which we are the only one of currently serving Batavia,” he said. “So we're excited about adding value to the relationships that our sales professionals have with our customers and clients.”

With an eye toward growth, another sales professional was recently added to the Batavia branch, and 97 Main will eventually include two apartments to be renovation projects on the upper floors of the building. 

“Which really, I think, are going to be very cool units. You may know that they are in a  beautiful space in terms of high ceilings and beautiful windows, and so it's going to be a great spot,” he said. “We intend to grow; that's always our goal. As far as I'm concerned, growth is the name of the game in any business.”

Real estate sales were at a record high in 2021 — the best in sales during the company’s entire 110-year existence, he said. There’s a balancing act of supply and demand, and Hunt believes “there’s way, way less supply than there is demand,” which will keep pushing the market upward.

“So in order for that market to really cool down, there'd have to be a huge influx of inventory, more homes for sale. Percentage-wise, there has been huge growth, or there'd have to be a huge lessening of demand. Interest rates have moved up just very little over the last two months, and that will move affordability to make things less affordable. And we think that will affect demand a little bit, but not a real lot, because there's still a lot of pent-up demand for a nice house, a decent place to live,” he said. “We are four generations into the business, and while I guess I didn't wake up at age six or seven and say, ‘gee, I want to be in real estate,’ it's always been, obviously, part of our family culture.”

Batavia’s market includes many older homes, as compared to brand new projects, which make for a great product in the eyes of younger homebuyers, he said.

"It's all of Upstate that has had, really, a shortage of brand new housing for a long time. So the existing housing — you say older homes — really remain in high demand,” he said. “Young people, in particular, will see that as an opportunity to get a very nice home for still a very reasonable price compared to other parts of the country, and also the opportunity to improve that house and make it more valuable.”

The timeline is to get moved in and settled at 97 Main St. in the next few months, before focusing on apartment renovations, he said. He expects work to begin on the two apartments at the end of this year or early in 2023. The former Genesee Bank building also housed Thomas & Dwyer shoe store in downtown retail's heydays, and more recently House of K, Foxprowl Collectables, and other varied businesses.

Top and bottom photo by Howard Owens.

Top Photo from front left, Carol Hunt, Branch Manager Michelle Schlossel, Annette Rotondo, Gavin Townsend, Carson Marzolf, and back row left, Stephanie D'Alba, Bob Kwandrans, Marie Scofield, and Office Administrator Lauren Becht. 

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The property at the corner of Main and Jackson streets, Batavia.

 
January 24, 2022 - 5:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, business, news, notify.

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It's been a week and Mark Fanara, owner of High Voltage Tattoo at 110 W. Main St., Batavia, is feeling increasingly frustrated that nobody can park in front of his business because of the massive pile of snow in the very limited space available for parking at his location.

He said he's called the city's maintenance department twice and that his landlord called as well and was told the snow would be removed today.  

Snow removal in front of city businesses is a perennial complaint of local shop owners, especially downtown where businesses often rely on the ability of customers to park along Main and walk into stores.

Dave Howe, Charles Men's Shop, said it is frustrating to have snow piled up or piling up, because it does hurt business, especially when the snowstorm comes on a holiday, as it did a week ago on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

"It's important for retail because bank clerks and school teachers and city workers all have the day off and it can be really busy for us," Howe said. "It's unfortunate because here we are generating tax money for the county, the state, and the city.  But I get it. It's money. It'd budget. It's overtime."

The Batavian spoke with City Manager Racheal Tabelski about the situation at High Voltage Tattoo before checking on the snowbanks downtown.  As for High Voltage, she said, "It's on DPW's list and they will get to it as soon as they can."

She has yet to respond to a text message about the snowbanks along Main Street in the downtown area.

UPDATE 11:15 p.m.: Tabelski said tonight that, yes, snow removal on Main Street in downtown continues to be an issue with every big snow event. "I absolutely sympathize with businesses trying to survive with customer access in the snow.  As you are aware, the crews have been doing the best they can. If it would stop dumping 4-5 inches on us each night, crews could get back to removal and these areas cleaned up sooner. I am hopeful they will get to public parking lanes quickly."

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The snowbanks have been cleared from in front of City Hall.

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Bubba's Landscaping cleared the snow from in front of the YNGodess Shop. Owner Chris Crocker said it took the crew about an hour using a snowblower and shovels.

Crocker said she understands the storm came on a federal holiday, and the city may even be short staff, "but then get on WBTA or The Batavian and explain it," Crocker said. "Tell the community what is going on and the community will come together."

She said her biggest concern is the safety of citizens who are forced to walk in the street to get to not just her business but Alberty's and the bank.  Some of those people are elderly, she noted.

"I don't want anybody to get hurt," she said.

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The snowbank in front of the Masonic Temple building, the location of several businesses, including Charles Men's Shop.

December 27, 2021 - 3:59pm
posted by Press Release in BID, downtown, FeBREWary, news, batavia.

Press release:

The B.I.D. FeBREWary Committee announces this year’s event which will be held on Saturday, February 26th.

Only 600 tickets are available for this year’s event. Tickets may be purchased online. General Admission tickets are $25, VIP $35 and DD tickets for $5. All VIP ticket holders get into event 1 hour early at 4 PM, a special gift, raffle tickets and more! All ticket holders will enjoy a tasting of several NYS Craft Beer and at over 20 local businesses throughout our Downtown.

For more information contact the Batavia Business Improvement District at 585-344-0900 or Shannon Maute at [email protected].

December 21, 2021 - 4:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Ellicott Station, batavia, news, downtown.

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The former Santy's Tires building on Ellicott Street, which along with the former Soccio & Della Penna building, is part of a redevelopment effort downtown known as Ellicott Station, is nearly gone as construction on the $22 million project continues.

The brownfield redevelopment site has been vacant for many years and has been a challenge to redevelop because of environmental contamination.  Grants and tax abatements, about 15 percent of the project's funding, help offset the cost of environmental clean-up.

Savarino Companies of Buffalo is the project developer. It will include 55 apartments, office space, and a restaurant.

December 8, 2021 - 9:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, business, video, My Cut Barbershop.
Video Sponsor

Earlier this year, Zach Watts opened his own barbershop, My Cut, at 202 E Main St, Batavia, and this past week, The Batavian interviewed him at his shop.

December 7, 2021 - 4:39pm
posted by Press Release in Main St. 56 Theater, batavia, news, downtown, Christmas.

Press release:

We're busy gearing up for our 2nd weekend of Our Hometown Christmas at Main St. 56 Theater in Batavia City Centre both Friday, December 10 from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, December 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.! We'll have even MORE great crafters and vendors for your last-minute Christmas shopping: Crafts by Kellie, Tastefully Simple by Rebecca, Whimsy Christine Marie, Crazy Quilts, Chantel's Fun, and Fashionable $5 Jewelry, Build A Buddy, Wells Creations, EverPresent Church Raffle, Autumn's Dream, Cindy's Treasures, Carol's Custom Wreaths, Morning Mist Farms, Color Street by Sarah Wessel, Past, Present & Future Treasures, Laurie Chamberlain, Marlana's Chunky Corner, Serena's Crafts and From the Heart Crafts and Gift Shop, just to name a few!!! Santa will be here for more visits and photos from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec 10, and Mrs. Claus will visit with us Saturday morning for Storytime from 10 a.m. to12:30 p.m.! Lots of great local entertainment both days as well. See you there!

December 5, 2021 - 2:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Christmas in the City, batavia, news, downtown.

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