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Snow is here, December is coming, it must be time for Christmas in the City

By Joanne Beck
Santa in Batavia Centre
December 2022 File Photo of Christmas in the City
Photo by Howard Owens

Christmas in the City — an annual festive tradition that happens the first weekend in December — will be bringing the usual favorites of Santa Claus, hot cocoa, a parade down Main Street and cheery carolers, along with some new additions of a three-set train display and Serendipity Swing at the new Main St. 56 Theater, Pat Burk says.

Of course, the main event at Batavia City Centre runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and will offer gift-giving shoppers plenty of options with 42 vendors and 64 tables so far throughout the concourse, Burk said. (Vendors may register up to Saturday. For more information, go to bataviaplayers.)

“We have more than last year,” he said. “There will be Christmas decorations, wood designs candles, a lot of handmade stuff and Christmas-themed items. I think people are looking for places to exhibit their things, and I think people are realizing December starts this Friday.”

The Great Lakes and Attica Regional Railroad model train club will be joining the action this year. The club will have three train boards set up with various displays, including a Christmas village and town theme. 

At one end of the concourse, near Hawley’s Insurance, there will be a jolly fellow awaiting visits from kids to whisper their Christmas wishes in his ear. Yes, Santa will be there from 1 to 5 p.m.

Two groups of Batavia Players will be singing holiday favorites at downtown shops and along the streets from 1 to 5 p.m. as well, Burk said. 

That’s not all that will be happening in Downtown Batavia on Saturday. Beginning at 2 p.m., there are several activities scheduled, including: portraits and ornament crafts at Iburi Photography, cookie decorating at Eden Cafe, a Kids Zone at Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union, face painting at The Spa at Artemis, a live nativity, hot cocoa and doughnuts at EverPresent Church, letters to Santa at The Coffee Press, chili tasting at Adam Miller Toys & Bicycles, T-shirt coloring at T-Shirts Etc., sleigh rides at 6 Center St., adult tastings at The Yngodess Shop, cookies and cocoa at Releve Dancewear Boutique, Grinch at GO Art!, brass band and photo booth at Center Street Smoke House, tree lighting at Crossroads House, a scavenger hunt bingo that begins at Iburi Photography and ends at GO Art!, champagne and kisses at My Cut.

Several of the downtown shops will also have holiday specials from 2 to 6 p.m. when the parade is set to begin. 

The Business Improvement District has also borrowed an outdoor ice skating rink from Genesee County for use at the parking lot near Alva Place. Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn said that a rink can be made with just a couple of inches of water, but the temperature needs to be at least 32 degrees, so here's hoping this wintry weather will stick around for some old-fashioned outside skating.

There will also be plenty to do indoors, which he looks forward to, Burk said. 

"For us, it’s a tremendous event, the theater will be open for tours — they’ll have to enter from Main Street for theater tours. We like to see the support, we like to see people come in. I love to have all the kids here, the kids make my day. It’s a nice community event, and we have a tremendous amount of crafters and vendors that participate and help support the theater,” Burk said. “I mean, that’s the big thing. Right now, every single cent we can make is supporting our new facility and improvements we have to make here. We’re fortunate that every single show that we’ve done since we’ve ben in the new theater has been either sold out or close to it. Extremely well received, but what people don’t realize is shows cost money, so everything we can do to make sure we can solidify our season for next year, including the fundraising events and everything that happens over Christmas, is a big plus for Downtown Batavia with our theater.”

He likes the idea of having the Buffalo-based “little big band” Serendipity Swing at the outermost edges of the evening to cap off and “stretch out” a full day of festivities. The show goes on at 7:30 p.m. in Main St. 56 Theater.

Serendipity Swing is an eight-musician dance ensemble plus a female vocalist that reflects “a musical style from an era of famous dance halls, glamorous ballrooms, classy supper clubs, hot jazz joints and the most elegant of private parties,” the group’s website states.

“Our music is from the Golden Age of the American Songbook through more current favorites. Our music library, with over 400 titles, contains selections that explore and mirror the beauty of the music elements: melody, harmony and rhythm,” the site states. “It is music that is artful, fun, graceful, whimsical, listenable, danceable and enjoyable to hear. The melodies are memorable. The harmonies are soothing and rich in texture. The tempos, and rhythms, are danceable and toe-tapping.

Tickets are $20 at Batavia Players or at the door.

After the feast, get ready to 'shop small' and support Small Business Saturday

By Joanne Beck
Valle Jewlers on Jackson Street, Batavia.
Valle Jewelers on Jackson Street, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens 

It’s that time of year when most everyone knows the drill by now: it’s feast day on Thanksgiving, followed by Black Friday deals online and at bigger box and department stores, and then there’s the day that not only supports your local community but allows for shoppers to get that personalized touch from smaller, quality businesses.

Yes, Small Business Saturday is right around the corner, and it’s such a great time of year, that Valle’s Jewelers devotes an entire week to it, Carrie Lawrence says.

“We always celebrate Small Business Saturday one week prior by doing eight giveaways and several in-store special sales,” the shop’s co-owner said. “It’s our favorite week of the year to thank our customers for shopping with us all year long.”

Lawrence said that you don't want to miss the eight giveaways this year, as “we do have some really fantastic giveaways.”

“You can just come on in, and each lady gets a ticket, and they can enter in to win all the fabulous giveaways,” she said, adding that shopping local is also important to her as a consumer. “My brother and I, and all of our staff, feel that it's incredibly important to give back to the community that has given so much to us by shopping at all of the local stores. And we kind of feed off of each other at this exciting time before the December rush by sending our customers to the other local establishments as well.”

The opportunity for giveaways will be going on through Saturday, with hours of 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 21 Jackson St., Batavia. 

A walk through the alley between Jackson and Center streets would get you to Adam Miller Toys & Bicycles at 8 Center St., which is loaded with kids’ toys, games, bikes, and accessories. One thing’s for sure, store owner John Roche said, “Small Business Saturday is for us, and not Black Friday.”

“That's totally changed to something different,” he said. “So Small Business Saturday, obviously, is for small business and is very important. It kicks off the holiday season for us.”

The store will begin its expanded holiday hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offer some special promotions, he said, including a buy two, get one free for the large jigsaw puzzles and buy one, get half off plastic model kits.

There will also be a holiday gift basket that shoppers can enter to win. Everyone will get one entry form, and then the more you purchase, the more entries you will receive. The shop also has a holiday gift certificate every year that’s priced as the year. So this year, you can purchase a $30 gift certificate for $20.23. 

Just down the street on the corner is Charles Men’s Shop at 200 E. Main St. A longtime familiar face and part owner, Don Brown, is a proponent not only of customers frequenting the men’s shop but of the bigger picture as to how keeping it local works. When you spend your money in your own community, it tends to remain right here and get reinvested, boosting the local workforce, the businesses that those people support, and the overall local economy. 

“Small Business Saturday aims to create awareness about the impact shoppers have when they buy from locally owned stores and companies year-round,” Brown said. “At least two-thirds of every dollar spent at small businesses stays within the local area, creating returns for the entire community. We encourage people to make a big impact by shopping small on Small Business Saturday.”

Brown is also an owner of Batavia Bootery at 210 E. Main St., which sells an assortment of men’s and women’s boots, slippers, shoes, sandals and other footwear accessories. The men’s shop and bootery will be selling a $100 gift certificate for $20 off as a special this weekend. 

Brown wants customers to know that Charles Men’s Shop has a tailor shop on the premises, free gift wrapping and free parking behind the store. That’s another perk of shopping in a smaller downtown such as Batavia — free parking lots, no paid garages, and accessible spots close to shops. 

He understands that people may go online to shop for certain goods such as supplements or batteries, but when it comes to specialty items, that’s where the small, customized business shines, Brown said. He is also a big believer in shopping local himself.

“I am a big fan of shopping local, and creating relationships,” he said.

Charles Men’s Shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and The Bootery from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Senator George Borrello will be doing his part in forging those relationships with business owners and constituents on what has become a yearly trek in Downtown Batavia followed by a trip to Wyoming County for some small business shopping. 

Borrello plans to hit up six shops in the city, browsing everything from handmade chocolates and fine jewelry to men’s clothing, comfy footwear and children’s games. Businesses are the “heart and soul of our communities,” he said, which is why he advocates for them in Albany and is a staunch supporter of them locally as much as possible.

“Independently owned businesses make our downtowns more vibrant, spur additional growth, employ our neighbors and contribute to our tax base,” Borrello said to The Batavian. “In addition, every dollar spent at a small business has a greater multiplier effect. Many local shops rely on local suppliers and services and also contribute to local charities and community organizations."

When it comes time to buy gifts for family and friends, he and his wife always shop at small businesses, he said. After all, it takes one to know — and appreciate — one.

“We are small business owners ourselves, and we want to support other entrepreneurs,” Borrello said. “But we also ‘shop small’ because that is where we are most likely to find truly unique, high-quality items that will be enjoyed long after the holidays. Big Box stores typically don’t have those one-of-a-kind gifts."

And should you feel like a bite once out and about,  there are several individually owned restaurants to choose from in Genesee County, including Eli Fish Brewing Co., 109 Main St., and T.F. Brown’s, 214 E. Main St., Batavia. 

Jewelers carrie lawrence
Carrie Lawrence, co-owner of Valle Jewelers.
Photo by Howard Owens
Valle Jewlers on Jackson Street, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens
Valle Jewlers on Jackson Street, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Adam Miller Toys and Bicycles on Center Street Batavia
Adam Miller Toys and Bicycles on Center Street, Batavia
Photo by Howard Owens.
Adam Miller Toys and Bicycles on Center Street Batavia
John Roche, owner of Adam Miller Toys and Bicycles, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Adam Miller Toys and Bicycles on Center Street Batavia
Photo by Howard Owens.
Adam Miller Toys and Bicycles on Center Street Batavia
Photo by Howard Owens.
Charles Mens Shop Batavia NY
Charles Men's Shop on East Main Street, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Charles Mens Shop Batavia NY
Orion Hiler, shop assistant at Charles Men's Shop.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Charles Mens Shop Batavia NY
Charles Mens Shop Batavia NY
Batavia Bootery Batavia NY
Don Brown and Kevin Stone, Batavia Bootery on East Main Street, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Taking walkability to the street: finding ways to make crosswalks safer

By Joanne Beck
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
A pop-up demonstration Friday in downtown Batavia showed pedestrians and motorists alike ways to slow traffic and make crosswalks safer. 
Photo by Howard Owens

Ann Falco made a special trip to visit downtown Batavia Friday afternoon to share her many thoughts about sections of Bank Street being safe to cross -- or not.

Members of a county health committee had set up displays of potential future curbing, lights and artistic license to demonstrate ways to help slow down traffic and make crosswalks a more viable way to cross over from the east and west sides of Bank Street at three points between Main Street and Washington Avenue. 

“I came just for this,” Falco said as organizers were wrapping up their survey stations. “It’s a joy to drive down Park Road. I want to see that replicated here.”

Falco said that she didn’t want to use the crosswalk leading closest to the Senior Center, and therefore she spoke to The Batavian as organizers were on the opposite side of the street moments before it began to rain.

She had given the matter careful time and consideration, writing down a page's worth of notes about what’s been done on Park Road at the crosswalk in front of Batavia Downs Gaming. Falco appreciates the small, young trees every five to six feet along the road, the speed bumps before and after the crosswalk, yellow warning cones with reminders to “stop” when pedestrians are in the walk — three of them at the Downs — and decorative street lamps and flags, she said. 

In similar fashion, why can’t Bank Street have speed bumps, more warnings to motorists, and decorative embellishments, she wondered. She hopes that her suggestions will be taken.

Emily, who asked that her last name not be used, was pleased with the new look on Friday. She takes that crosswalk all the time to YMCA, and she liked the new, albeit temporary, setup.

“It definitely made me go slower when driving and definitely alerted me of the crosswalk,” she said. “I work at the Y, and one of the worst parts is crossing the street. Anything they can do to make it safer is a good thing.”

She was one of the 94 people that gave positive feedback during the nearly four hours the Genesee Orleans Health Department staff surveyed walkers.

GO Health workers
GO Health staff Meghan Sheridan, Emily Nojeim and Cora Young.
Photo by Joanne Beck

“Everyone loved the set-up. They said the greenery was really pretty,” Emily Nojeim said. “They want safer places to walk.”

She had ticked off 93 people by about 1:45 p.m. after beginning at 10 a.m. She and fellow staff members also asked why people chose that crosswalk over another makeshift one set up several feet north, and most people said because they parked directly across from it in the lot. 

Parked on the sidewalk at the other crosswalk, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari had tallied up 70 pedestrians. 

“They said it was more functional, and it’s a pretty artistic crosswalk. With the bump-outs, it’s a shorter distance to walk, they said. ‘It’s about time’ we had this, and ‘this is where I used to jay-walk,’” Oltramari said. 

There were two people that said his group members were wasting their time and that people will cross wherever they want to, he said. A delivery driver suggested that they reconsider the turf with straw curbing directly across from the Senior Center, as it makes a convenient place to park the truck for deliveries, and a grassy area may not be optimal for that, he said. 

bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Felipe Oltramari, left, works the other side of Bank Street during the pop-up demonstration Friday. Pudgie's Lawn & Garden donated the use of more than 250 plants to help out with the beautification effort.
Photo by Howard Owens

So how did this all begin?
“We had a 10-week course that was funded through the Health Department. And it's to help with reducing instances of chronic disease. So the health department received this grant, it's actually funded originally from the CDC, and it goes through this not-for-profit organization. Five of us took this 10-week online course to learn how to promote walkability in our communities,” he said. “And this is kind of like our final project, we're required to do a popup demonstration somewhere. So we took an existing site design that the city had proposed for this road. And we decided to implement that with temporary materials like we got turf donated from Batavia Turf, and we got straw wattle, that's got straw inside to kind of show where the curbs are. And we got lighting, to show where the new street lighting would be, and planters, to sort of present where some of the things like trees might be, and the new curb extensions. It helps promote walkability but makes it safer to walk across Bank Street and more enjoyable, also, to walk down on the sidewalk.

“So hopefully, some of the comments and the feedback that we get as a result of doing this pop-up will inform the decision makers at the city that will finalize the design for the street when it gets finally redone in a year or two.”

There’s an expected surge in traffic on Bank Street with the impending new police facility right on Bank and Alva in the next year or two, and the Healthy Living campus on the opposite side behind where the current YMCA is now to be completed by the end of 2024. City officials have an infrastructure project planned to coincide with the developments, at which time there would also be upgrades to the streetscape layout. 

Given that this was a county-led project, why was it only implemented on Bank Street?
“We needed to come up with this because walkable places are usually located in villages or cities. The county really doesn't have jurisdiction over those roads. We don't have anything as a county that we could implement on a road like this. So it was just an opportunity that we had,” he said. “So if the village or another village or hamlet or something like that wants to do something like this before they finalize their final street design, we can sort of roll this up and do it in a different community. So that's part of the process; the grant setup was basically to create a committee that could serve to be as kind of informed decision makers along in other parts of the county that might have designed something that will have other communities to kind of take advantage of their knowledge.”

So what’s the next step?
“So we have to create a report. We'll present that to the city as well, just as a document for them to review. And then, hopefully, they'll take that into consideration as to the design of this road,” he said. “And then, like I said, hopefully, other communities take advantage of the knowledge that our team has gained through going through this process, and maybe we can implement this somewhere else in the county.”

bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Aerial photo courtesy Genesee County.
bank street walkability demonstration 2023
Aerial photo courtesy Genesee County.

Six-week countdown until the first BID Cider Walk kicks off summer

By Joanne Beck
febrewary 2023
File photo of the 2023 Febrewary beer walk by Steve Ognibene.

Somewhere between February’s beer walk and October’s assortment of wines, the Business Improvement District skipped right over a summer beverage for Batavia’s downtown walking events.

That’s now been resolved, says Shannon Maute, BID executive director, with the first-ever Cider Walk.

“It’s from 4 to 8 p.m. June 17, and 18 downtown businesses are participating,” Maute said. “Only 300 tickets are being sold. Top cideries will be pouring.”

Similar to Febrewary’s beer walk and the Fall Wine Walk, this one will feature 18 hard cider tastings at different stops throughout downtown locations.

New York State cideries will be featured, Maute said, and participants can sample “an amazing assortment of ciders, snacks and specials” during the four-hour event.

Tickets are $30 each, and there will be a discounted price of $10 for designated drivers. All participants must be at least 21 years of age.

“This walk will not disappoint,” she said.

As with each of these walks, she encourages folks to buy their tickets early as they tend to sell out before the event date. 

To get yours, go to BID Cider Walk.

Tickets still available for Febrewary this Saturday

By Joanne Beck


There are still some tickets remaining for the 2023 Febrewary beer walk Saturday in downtown Batavia, so grab your coat and gloves and head out for a cold one. 

General admission tickets are $30 and include a collectible snifter glass, snacks along the way, raffles and giveaways, and tastings from 5 to 8 p.m. VIP tickets are $40 and include all of the regular features plus an extra hour, from 4 to 8 p.m., an exclusive tasting and a food station.

Designated drivers will be able to partake of the specials, raffles, snacks and non-alcoholic tastings for $10.

Tickets may be purchased at Event Brite, and there will be a limited number of paper tickets available at Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle shop on Center Street and Yngodess on Main Street, Batavia. They will also be available for purchase on Saturday. For more information, go to BID Febrewary

City's P&DC approves market rate apartments, exterior improvements for downtown Batavia

By Joanne Beck


There was nary a peep of concern or complaint from the public about plans for upper-level apartments at 97 Main St. in downtown Batavia during a public hearing Tuesday evening at City Hall.

That didn’t really surprise applicants Victor Gautieri of VJ Gautieri Constructors and Stephen Fitzmaurice of Hunt Property Solutions. After all, the plan falls in line with what other business owners have done already to transform their properties lining Main and Jackson streets — operating shops, restaurants, breweries and the like downstairs while renovating upper floors for living space.

Members of the city’s Planning and Development Committee, however, had a few questions and areas of concern.

Member Ed Flynn asked for clarification about a window that looked on a site plan to be the size of a door. It wasn’t a door but, in fact, a window, Gautieri said.

Plans were to replace some of the windows with double-hung versions so that they could open for better ventilation; to add a terrace at roof level with a 42-inch-high railing leading to that terrace; an exterior dumbwaiter to haul up groceries or similar bulky items from the alley; and a tote enclosure for trash and recycling storage, he said.

All materials used would be in keeping with existing colors and aesthetics, he said. Chairman Duane Preston asked if anyone could access the dumbwaiter, and there will be a lock on it solely for tenants’ use, Gautieri said.

“It’s very small … for a few grocery bags. There’s a lockable door,” he said.

Members liked the look of the rooftop terrace, but had concerns about the area’s wind: would furniture be weighted down or otherwise secured? It would most likely be secured, Gautieri said, as he and Fitzmaurice then suggested that perhaps tenants could bring their own chairs up there with them and then bring them back downstairs.

They also discussed whether the terrace could be seen from street level, and Gautieri said not from Jackson or Main streets, though probably from a distance as people were farther away. Other questions confirmed that the units would be one-bedroom each, the remaining windows would be left intact, a replacement side door would be a dark bronze and augmented with an awning, and the integrity of the historic architecture would stand.

Member Rebecca Cohen was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough totes — two for trash and two for recycling — for four apartments.

“I feel like with tenants in four units, you're gonna end up with garbage bags sitting in front of it on garbage night,” she said.

Gautieri conducted his own informal study, he said, and feels confident in his conclusion.

“We have 10 apartments, three two-bedroom and seven one-bedroom apartments. And we have a very small, the smallest you can get, Dumpster. And that is filled to a quarter or a third. We're not counting people who throw stuff in there from outside the apartments, but we're lucky the only time that ever got any more than that was really around Christmas time. So that was my recommendation with Steve, and I tried to give him some information on what was happening with our property,” Gautieri said, as Fitzmaurice shared his perspective. “Among other properties that we manage, we just took over a condominium on the west side of Buffalo. And we went through the same thing. We got everybody a full-size trash bin and a recycling bin. And after about two months of that, people said, can you get rid of half of them? Because they were just empty and bulky and so on and so forth. So that's what we did. So my experience is the same as Victor’s. The apartments just don't seem to generate a whole lot of trash."

Fitzmaurice added that they can always add more totes later if necessary.

“I hate to see the city get a problem of pest control, now that we're building apartments downtown,” Cohen said.

Concerns aside, all members — Cohen, Preston, Flynn, David Beatty and Derek Geib — approved the request for a special use permit. That was needed to change the current status of Commercial zone C-3 to Residential R-2. A start date was listed on the application as Feb. 1; however, Gautieri said that a beginning and ending date will depend on when final pricing comes in and when National Grid and National Fuel can be arranged for setup.

“Let’s say we begin on March 1, then count five months from then,” he said.

The apartments will be set at market rate, which would be approximately $1,500 per month, but that’s not set in stone at this point, he and Fitzmaurice said.


In other committee action, a project by owner Brad Trzecieski to make exterior alterations to a mixed-use building at 327 Ellicott St., Batavia, was also approved. The property has a commercial use in the front and residential in the rear of the site.

Top Photo of Victor Gautieri, left, and Stephen Fitzmaurice representing an apartment project at 97 Main St., Batavia, during a city Planning and Development Committee meeting Tuesday at City Hall, by Joanne Beck. Photo above, 327 Ellicott St., Batavia, gets approval for exterior renovations during the committee meeting. Photo by Howard Owens.

Christmas in the City brings holiday cheer to downtown Batavia

By Joanne Beck


Carter Ianiro, 2, shares some special time with Santa Claus Saturday at Santa's Village in Batavia City Centre. 

Downtown Batavia was bustling with visitors and shoppers during the annual Christmas in the City Saturday at Batavia City Centre and along downtown streets. Hosted by the Business Improvement District, this year's indoor activities featured Santa's Village, with a workshop, carolers, dancers, and the jolly ol' elf himself, Santa Claus.

As with any successful event, planning and hands-on help make it happen. And Christmas in the City is no exception.

“We spent a week here decorating and setting up the chairs for people,” BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said. “And there’s face painting, cookie decorating, ornament making, and we’re trying to get people to the horse and buggy from 3 to 6, and then it will swing by and pick up Santa and me for the parade.”

Morning long rain slowed down by the afternoon, which should make for a drier horse and buggy ride up to 6 p.m. That will take off from Center Street Smokehouse on Center Street, and tickets may be purchased at Adam Miller Toy & Bike shop.

Batavia City Centre was filled with kids playing games, people shopping the many vendor items, eating and drinking, and, of course, some whispering in Santa’s ear.

“I am very excited about the turnout. I thought it would be busy but didn’t know it was going to be this busy,” said Maute, aka Santa’s elf. “Most of the kids are saying they just want to have a happy Christmas, they’re not even asking for gifts. This is great, it’s not great weather out, so I’m glad we had a backup. Hopefully, the wind calms down for the parade. It has been a really nice turnout, with lots to do, we have a kid's zone where kids could play with the toys.

“And having it in this space really brings everyone together, and they’re having a really great time,” she said.

The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. and runs from Jefferson Avenue to Summit Street along Main Street.


BID Executive Director Shannon Maute, aka Santa's elf.










Christmas in the City draws plenty of visitors to Batavia City Centre Saturday for some shopping, games, face painting, woodwork crafts, musical entertainment, a live nativity and Santa Claus. The vendor fair goes to 8 p.m. Photos by Howard Owens.

This year's BID Wine Walk brings the 'dead' to life

By Press Release

Press Release

The BID Wine Walk Committee announces this year’s event which will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 1, 2022. Only 600 tickets are available for this year’s event. Tickets may be purchased online, or at YN Godess, Adam Miller and Empire Hemp.

General Admission tickets are $30, VIP $40 and DD tickets for $10. 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 Wines and Ciders at over 23 local businesses throughout our Downtown. This year’s theme is Dead Celebrity!

For more information contact the Batavia Business Improvement District at 585-344-0900 or Shannon Maute at

Mangia! was the theme of Italian Fest, with food, shopping, fun offerings

By Joanne Beck


You could say that Don Antinore took his job seriously Saturday on School Street in Batavia.

He was one of three volunteer judges for the first-ever Italian Fest sauce contest. Antinore, Jay Steinbrenner and Paul Figlow carefully tasted, observed, and dripped each sauce off the spoon during their deliberations of the top three winners.

After they reviewed each type and style of sauce, the judges were ready with their selections. That is after they conferred with one another for several minutes. The Batavian remarked how soberly they were approaching the task.

Antinore, whose business card lists him as an American Academy of Chef's Culinary Hall of Famer, and an educator and coach for Hospitality Solutions, said they were giving the job due diligence for the eight contestants.


“We're doing this because these people took the time to make these sauces,” he said.

The contestants were mostly made up of home chefs with family recipes. The contest was a first for Stephanee Surabian of Batavia. She didn’t exactly have a choice in entering, she said.

“My kids decided to push me toward it,” she said, watching her three pots of varied sauces. “They think mom’s is the best.”

She had a pesto alla trapanese, made with tomatoes and freshly ground almonds; fra diavolo, whose name translates to the devil’s mouth, and includes a spicy concoction with red pepper and red chili flakes; and a parma rosa, featuring a creamy base of tomatoes with melted cheese.

Lucie Griffis of Le Roy entered her Nanny’s Italian sauce, made with canned tomatoes, sausage, pork, homemade meatballs and fresh basil. The secret to a good sauce? “Not burning your garlic and onion at the start,” she said, “is key.”

To her left was Ken Kline from Oakfield. His recipe is cooked down from fresh roma tomatoes for three days on low heat, he said. He uses fresh parsley, oregano, basil, Italian sausage, homemade meatballs, stew beef and hard-boiled eggs.

“It’s thick and not runny,” he said. “You gotta love the sauce, you gotta love the family recipe.”

The recipe comes out during special occasions and, at times, just when the mood strikes him and his family, Kline said. Handed down from great-grandma from Palermo, Sicily, it’s a favorite that depends heavily on fresh roma tomatoes, he said.

Home chef, but with a background of working in the family restaurant in Denver, Colo., Sam Prinzi of Batavia believed in slow-cooking his ingredients, many of which are home-grown in his Batavia yard.

“Slow cooking, good seasoning and cooking it down,” are keys to a winning sauce, he said. He spent 90 minutes preparing everything, and then letting it cook on low for three to four hours.

He had a display of fresh ingredients on his table: green peppers, tomatoes and garlic, with some potential accompaniments of crunchy breadsticks, a small loaf of bread and pasta.

The recipe came from his grandparents in Sicily, both who have passed away, leaving their grandson to take up the spoon and continue on with the family tradition.

Prinzi liked the event, and plans to come back next year, he said.

“They’ve got great potential if they just keep adding to it,” he said. “I think this is great for the community.”

The contest was put on a brief hold as former county manager Jay Gsell was making his way downtown with his big pot of sauce from yet another family recipe.

His wife Ann Marie and her mother, Fannie Varone, are die-hard Italians with a recipe to be proud of, he said. So proud, in fact, that his mom-in-law threatened to put the “evil eye” on him if he didn’t learn the concoction before moving with his wife out of state.

“It’s a staple, in a big pot,” he said. “We have it for one or two meals, and then freeze the rest. We call it gravy, not sauce.”

After all of the tastings and whispering amongst the three judges, it was time for the big announcement. But first, Antinore offered some tips for authentic Italian sauce: oregano doesn’t belong in an Italian kitchen, he said, suggesting instead to use rosemary; don’t use too much spice as to take away from the overall taste; and consider how much oil you use, and its source (cooking meat in the sauce, for example); and herbs are not spices, he said.

Third place went to Griffis, second to Gsell and first prize of $100 and an engraved wooden spoon went to Prinzi.

Photos by Howard Owens





Meanwhile, The Formula entertained with classic Italian songs to a mixed audience of standing and seated spectators, while others gravitated to the beer and wine tent or shopped vendors along Jackson Street.

The event was hosted by Batavia's Business Improvement District. BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said that, despite some competition from other events on the same day, "I felt it went pretty well." It drew more than 1,000 people, she said, and vendors "were happy and said they would love to come back next year."

Maute stressed the short lead time of having about four months to plan and pull this event together, when it typically takes a year to organize one. She was thankful to have the support that she had for the festival, she said.

"Events are a huge undertaking, and I am grateful for all the help and support from City Council, the city manager, my board, committee members and volunteers," she said. "I was very excited to bring this event to downtown. It was the first year, and we have some adjusting to do, and hope to grow it every year." 






Top photo: Judges Don Antinore, left, Jay Steinbrenner and Paul Figlow make their way through eight sauces to find the top three winners at Saturday's Italian Fest in downtown Batavia; Sam Prinzi won first place and the commemorative wooden spoon; Jay Gsell, second place, congratulates third and first place winners, Lucie Griffis and Sam Prinzi; visitors to the event on School, Center and Jackson streets.

Giving Italian Fest a little 'jerk'

By Joanne Beck


Danielle Lumpkin was pleased with her booth on Jackson Street at Saturday’s Italian Festival in downtown Batavia.

Known as Mama Dee’z Kitchen, her family-run catering business sold out a few times of the featured rasta pasta, she said. Made with a flavorful spice-laced jerk chicken and a creamy, white Alfredo sauce, it seemed to be a hit at the Italian-themed event downtown.

Lumpkin has been catering for the last three years, and hopes to move into some space at Eli Fish Brewing Company on Main Street. The smaller “incubator-style” space would help the Batavia chef to move her company forward until she finds a larger spot, she said.

She is known for her sauces, she said, especially her chicken wings with homemade sauce. Lumpkin plans to also participate in a south side block party next month.  Her specialties are soul food and Caribbean flavors. She boasts “the best mac ’n’ cheese in town,” and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner items, from sauce-glazed barbecued chicken and ribs, pulled pork and taco dip, to jerk chicken, fish frys, glazed salmon, potato salad and seafood Alfredo sauce with pasta.


“I’ve been cooking for more than 10 years,” she said. “And I’ve had the LLC for three years. This is something that Batavia needs; there’s no home-cooked, southern comfort food that you can find like at Mama Dee’z.”

She thought this first-time event was a good first experience, with a nice turnout, she said.

“I look forward to it being bigger next year,” she said.

She encouraged folks to check out her Facebook site for catering options. Mama Dee’z was one of several food and craft vendors selling their wares. Many people walked around checking out items such as cigars, jewelry, artwork, assorted pastas and pizza, and sweet dessert treats.

The beer and wine tent had opened at 5 p.m. and was drawing an increasing crowd in Jackson Square as kids continued to play various games on School and Center streets and in the Square.

Photos: Danielle Lumpkin, owner of Mama Dee'z Kitchen, serves up some rasta pasta during Saturday's Italian Festival in Batavia. Photos by Joanne Beck. 

Dinner, dancing ... and an overnight stay may be in downtown Batavia's future

By Joanne Beck


If Yong Guang Ye gets his wish, the California businessman will more than double his investment at 40 Batavia City Centre.

Better known as the former JC Penney store in downtown Batavia, the property was purchased by Ye in February 2021. The price tag was $500,000. He has asked his realtor, Jonathan Maurer of Pyramid Brokerage Co. in Fairport, to list the site for sale at a cool $1.3 million.

Maurer has spoken with Genesee County Chamber of Commerce President Eric Fix and Business Improvement District Executive Director Shannon Maute about prospects for the site.

“I’m trying to understand what the community would want,” Maurer said Monday to The Batavian. “A hotel would be amazing … we’re pursuing a hotel; we don’t have any strong leads yet, it’s too soon to tell. The priority is to find the best use for the space.”

The selling price is not out of range given the open floor space, “which I think is a value, given the size of the building,” he said, plus a roof repair in progress.

The buyer is a commercial real estate developer, and does not own any other property in New York State, Maurer said.

Based on his talks with the county and downtown representatives, the first goal would be to renovate it for an event space, with the second goal being a downtown hotel. It has been “difficult to find the right user” so far, he said, due to the site’s limited visibility and entrance/exit set-up.

BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said she could easily see a boutiquey micro-hotel situated within the 38,584 square-foot building. This area is lacking a venue for conferences and special events, she said, and the property is zoned for all of that, including building on two additional floors.

It has often been said that Batavia is a perfect location for being in between Buffalo and Rochester, and Maute would like to capitalize on that. "If you had family in Buffalo and Rochester, Batavia would be the perfect place to have a wedding or an event," she said.

“There definitely is a need for that,” she said Monday. “We’re still open to any ideas, but the goal is for (Maurer) to have an idea of what the need is. We try to work closely together, and Eric agreed on what should and should not go in there. The city would have to weigh in on an idea.”

She would not elaborate on what they felt should not go into the site.

Fix was not available for comment. 

Previously: Vacant Penney building purchased by West Coast businessman

Photo by Howard Owens

Ghost Riders continue Friday night series at Jackson Square

By Steve Ognibene


With many music traditions in Batavia, the Ghost Riders continue playing over 30-plus years and highlighted last evening's Jackson Square concert series with a packed crowd. Mild Bill Pitcher and Wild Bill McDonald founded the band decades ago and would play 100 plus concerts from May to August. 

Since COVID-19 came present in 2020, they cut it down to about a dozen gigs in the summer months and traveling back and forth to Florida has increased for some members also. 

For the last eight years, Bill and Kay McDonald continued in the winter months as the "Old Hippies." With some changes, the duo decided this summer to perform a home-to-home concert series. Wild Bill said, they plan two mini jam series on Aug. 8th and Sept. 12th in Jackson Square, and Aug. 22 in Elba.

Photos by Steve Ognibene.










City's design plan to revamp Jackson Square is complete, now moves toward construction

By Press Release

Submitted images and press release:

After public input and multiple stakeholder engagement sessions for the reconfiguration of Jackson Square, and with the preliminary design finished, the final design will now advance to full engineering, permitting and construction in the next few months. The project is expected to be completed next spring.

On Oct. 6, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced eight transformational projects for Downtown Batavia as part of $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Enhancing Jackson Square was one of the eight projects chosen to receive a strategic investment grant of $750,000 to transform public space in a public plaza. 

“The upgraded public plaza will become a lively hub and common space for community interaction, and provide connections to multiple businesses through its unique configuration," said Eugene Jankowski Jr., City of Batavia Council president and DRI cochair.

"As we continue to recover from the pandemic, I am happy to see the City complete this project and be able to offer citizens and visitors a unique experience in Downtown Batavia."

Jackson Square, a public gathering space bordered by historic buildings in the heart of Downtown, will be transformed with decorative pavement upgrades, a professional multipurpose stage, seating, lighting and decorative signage. 

“Jackson Square is a hidden gem in the City of Batavia, currently hosting lively concerts and urban events," said Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center and cochair of the Batavia DRI. "After the project is complete the Square will bring in more opportunities for the community to gather creating a downtown neighborhood."

Architectural Resources is the architectural firm selected to design the reconfiguration project, which is on schedule will go out to bid this winter.

“We received feedback from the residents, the Batavia Business Improvement District (BID), Batavia Development Corporation (BDC), adjoining building owners, and users of the square," said City Manager Rachael Tabelski. "The pavement and lighting elements will give a square a historical feel in a unique urban setting."

The concept integrates many historical layers of Batavia including the Great Bend -- changing the trajectory of the Tonawanda Creek, the Ancient Seneca Footpaths, and the history of “old” downtown Batavia.

“The BID was engaged throughout the entire process including selecting the design firm, reviewing and refining the project," said Beth Kemp, executive director of the BID. "The adjacent building owners were consulted, as well as the multiple users of the square to advance the project. Jackson Square will continue to drive community events and business to Downtown Batavia."

Input received at each of the two public meeting informed the design of Jackson Square. The design of the stage and canopy was revised based on suggestions that were made during the second public meeting.

“I am excited to have been a part of the design committee to advance this project on behalf of the City," said Andrew Maguire, executive director of the BDC. "The BDC intends to seek additional funding for the project by applying for a National Grid Urban Corridor Grant. That funding could provide for furniture and more lighting elements in the Square."

Enhancements of Jackson Square will continue to advance the City of Batavia’s efforts to create a lively and prosperous Downtown. It will provide a gathering space and performance venue for the community and open up new opportunities.

In combination with other DRI projects advancing in the City, Batavia continues to find, new ways revitalize existing buildings and spaces.

Public meeting to review Jackson Square design plans is May 4th in the square -- rain or shine

By Press Release

Press release:

A public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday May 4th at 5 p.m. to receive citizen and user input for the planned improvements at Jackson Square in Downtown Batavia.

The meeting for public input and engagement will be held outdoors in Jackson Square rain or shine. COVID-19 protocols will be followed.

On Oct. 6, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced eight transformational projects for Downtown Batavia as part of $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Enhancing Jackson Square was one of the eight projects chosen to receive a strategic investment grant of $750,000 to transform public space in a public plaza.

Jackson Square, a public gathering space bordered by historic buildings in the heart of downtown will be transformed with decorative pavement upgrades, a multilevel deck/stage, and seating, lighting, decorative signage.

The upgraded public plaza will become a lively hub and common space for community interaction, and provide connections to multiple businesses through its unique alleyway node configuration.

Architectural Resources, the architectural firm selected to design the projects, will be on hand to discuss the design elements and solicit feedback.

After a final design concept is approved the project will advance the development of construction documents and plans for bidding.

Currently, we anticipate the project to start construction this fall and be ready to host entertainment acts by next spring.

Trio plans Sunday afternoon 'Batavia Chalk-Out' starting at 2 at the Peace Garden

By Billie Owens

UPDATE 11:32 a.m., Sunday, June 7: Organizer Ken Morrocco says "due to unforeseen circumstances" the "Batavia Chalk-Out" planned for this afternoon from 2 to 4 has been postponed until next Sunday, June 14.


A trio of organizers is planning an event Sunday afternoon, June 7, in Downtown Batavia. Lindsay Wrobel, Verneda Peete and Ken Marrocco, are holding the "Batavia Chalk-Out" from 2 to 4 p.m.

It is not affiliated whatsoever with the protest "March for Justice," which is planned roughly from 8 a.m. to noon the same day.

"We believe (the Chalk-Out) has the potential to be an important moment for the community," Wrobel wrote in an email to The Batavian.

It starts at the International Honorary Peace Garden at Batavia, located at 111 Main St. next to the Holland Land Office Museum. It is expected fan out down Main Street from there.

Here's a statement from the organizers:

"The event will allow people to express their feelings of support surrounding recent events relating to police brutality via chalk art while maintaining social distance. We hope to spark conversations among friends and families and to demonstrate that the black community has allies everywhere, including in small towns like ours.

"We ask that people wear masks to the event, and suggest bringing signs and chairs depending on how long individuals plan to stay. Chalk will be provided, but we also encourage people to bring their own."

"We're excited to see what our community can create, and hopeful that you'll find our event interesting."

Downtown businesses, police, and even the city post office brace for Sunday's 'March for Justice'

By Billie Owens

Organizers behind a planned protest in Downtown Batavia on Sunday, June 7th, have distributed posters announcing the "March for Justice" which starts with a gathering in front of Batavia City Hall at 8 a.m.

From that location at 1 Batavia City Centre, the plan is to march PEACEFULLY -- which is in all caps in the black, white and red poster -- starting at 11 a.m. to the City of Batavia Police Headquarters, located a short block away at 10 W. Main St.




Plans for the March here came together after plans for a free BBQ at Williams Park on Pearl Street -- the "BBQ for Equality" -- were nixed by city officials Tuesday. They said that the state would need to OK the event and City Council would need to approve it, too.

Earlier this week City Police Chief Shawn Heubusch expressed concern about outside agitators coming to Batavia to cause trouble if there was a protest Downtown.

Some Downtown business owners say they are apprehensive about the protest because of rioting, looting and brutalities they've seen on media and social media during similar events in cities large and small nationwide. A couple of them even say they plan to board up their storefronts.

The Batavia Post Office, at 2 W. Main St. next door to the police station, isn't taking any chances if things go awry. This afternoon they put up a sign on their front door telling people their lobby will be closed at 5 p.m. on Saturday and won't reopen until 5 a.m. on Monday, June 8.

"We're closing the lobby during those hours out of an abundance of caution," said Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, Western New York. "We apologize for the inconvenience. We just want to be sure the building is kept safe and sound."

The murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis May 25 ignited the latest protests against racial inequality, police brutality, and social injustice in America.

Tompkins Bank of Castile and Tompkins Insurance donates $150K toward Healthy Living Campus

By Billie Owens

Submitted photo and press release:

With the YMCA fundraising underway, Tompkins Bank of Castile and Tompkins Insurance generously donated $150,000 to the Healthy Living Campus Capital Campaign in a check ceremony Thursday (Dec. 12).

Their gift is in celebration of their 150th Anniversary serving the community. The YMCA wishes continued success for Tompkins Bank of Castile and Tompkins Insurance as both of our organizations work together to provide opportunities for the Genesee County area.

The Healthy Living Campus will be transformational for Downtown Batavia and benefit community residents as the new facility will have:

• Accessibility for the handicap;

• State of the art indoor playground;

• Splash pad;

• Teaching kitchen;

• Indoor track;

• Preschool wing;

• Pickup and drop-off for kids;

• Larger gym;

• New programs with the United Memorial Medical Hospital including working with physicians, dietitians, nutritionists, survivor programing to name a few.


Tompkins, one of the largest employers in the City of Batavia, pledged the money this spring.

“This project will be transformational for downtown Batavia and benefit thousands of community residents for many years to come,” said John McKenna, president and CEO of Tompkins Bank of Castile, in March.

“We’re excited to play a pivotal role in a project that is going to bring such positive change to the community,” David Boyce, president and CEO of Tompkins Insurance, added at that time.

The donation will support a $22.5 million land redevelopment project that includes the current YMCA and United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) Cary Hall on Main Street in Batavia. The initiative will have a substantial impact on Main Street, which is home to the headquarters of Tompkins Bank of Castile and Tompkins Insurance Agencies.

This community initiative is expected to boost the regional economy by about $60 million over the course of its first decade, including jobs at the new campus and during construction, according to the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

Top photo, from left: John McKenna, president and CEO of Tompkins Bank of Castile; Rob Walker, GLOW YMCA chief executive officer; and David Boyce, president and CEO of Tompkins Insurance.

Sponsored Post: Downtown Batavia Public Market kicks off June 8th

By Lisa Ace

Downtown Batavia Public Market Opens on Friday, June 8th!

The Public Market located at Bank Street and Alva Place parking lot will welcome back more than 20 vendors again this summer and fall, along with some brand-new vendors. Market hours will continue on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This year’s market will host a special Kids Day on Aug 10th.

If you are interested in being a vendor at the Downtown Batavia Public Market please contact Mike Bakos at or 716.866.4958. Follow “Genesee Country Farmer’s Market” on Facebook for updates on produce and specialty items available.

Sponsored Post: Jackson Square Concert Series kicks off this Friday

By Lisa Ace

Any nonprofit or service agency that would like to host a night and set up to sell drinks or snacks can contact Beth Kemp, executive director at the BID. Any business interested in sponsoring a night/band in the Square can also contact Kemp at 344-0900 or via email at

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