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Harvester Center

Enter your 'ulti-mutt cutie' to be top dog in 2024 Pooch Playoffs fundraiser

By Joanne Beck
Ashley Bringenberg lab photo
Photo by Ashley Bringenberg

So, you’ve got a pretty adorable, or goofy, or otherwise photogenic pooch, eh?

Well now is your chance to see where all of that cuteness can take you by entering your faithful companion in the 2024 Pooch Playoffs, “a competition for the ulti-mutt cutie.”

Ashley Bringenberg, owner of the photography studio of the same name, is hosting the competition as a fundraiser for Western New York Heroes, which offers eight different programs that serve veterans in 14 surrounding counties, including Genesee. 

Bringenberg’s focus is the Pawsitive for Heroes program, which assists veterans struggling with post traumatic stress, anxiety, MST, suicidal thoughts or hyper vigilance who may be eligible to enter this program for training of the veteran and his or her dog. In the event that the veteran needs a dog, one may be paired up with the veteran based on disposition.

“Last year, I photographed 16 dogs at a $99 entry fee and raised $1,584 for the program. This year, my goal is to photograph 32 dogs at the $125 entry fee.  That, combined with sponsorships from local individuals and business owners, is how I plan to reach my goal this year of $5,000,” she said. “Five thousand is the cost to fully fund the 18-month long training process for one dog and help change the life of a local veteran.”

She has been booking appointments for the competition and has some spots left. She will take the photo for a $125 entry fee, and your pooch then competes for exciting prizes, including to be top dog.

Portrait sessions will be at Ashley Bringenberg Photography at 56 Harvester Ave. in Batavia, where she moved into this January. Each round will match two dogs at a time for voting until that Ulti-Mutt Cutie is selected.

Winners of the final four will receive gifts from local pet-friendly businesses, Bringenberg said, and all entrants will receive an acrylic photo keychain and goodie bag of fun items. 

For more information or to book your appointment, go to Pooch Playoffs 2024.

Ashley Bringenberg dog photo
Photo by Ashley Bringenberg

Owning a business can be done, but 'never underestimate the work' Batavia entrepreneur says

By Joanne Beck
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Entrepreneur and ramen chef Rob Credi gets busy in the kitchen of his latest venture, Xavmen Ramen at 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia, which is a complement to his Pub Coffee Hub just down the street. 
Photo by Howard Owens

Twenty years ago, Rob Credi set out to blaze a trail of business ownership with a couple of other like-minded entrepreneurs, and they established a coffee shop in the middle of downtown Batavia on Main Street, hence its name Main Street Coffee. 

That was in December 2003, ending on New Year’s Eve in 2008. Fast forward to August 2020, when Credi opened Pub Coffee Hub on the other side of town, Harvester Avenue, with a bit more experience, business acumen, and hard-won lessons under his belt. 

“It was more of a learning lesson than a success,” he now says of those earlier days, though he wouldn’t exactly label them a failure either. “It does feel good to know it existed in its timeframe and served its purpose. It was obvious we didn’t know what we were doing. 

“Twenty years later, I opened Pub Hub. That was more of an immediate success,” Credi said.

Take his words with a grain of salt. Credi is also starkly honest about his professional journey so far: “I feel like I’m 75,” said the 40-year-old, who’s been married just under two years and celebrated the birth of his child this July. 

Although he felt that he knew what he was getting into — at least somewhat — running his own business was an eye-opener, especially the addition of  The Crapshoot Kitchen & Commissary just down the street from his Pub Coffee Hub Shop. 

The commissary is a large space where half of it houses Windy Brew, and the other side accommodates Linda Borinqueña, a Puerto Rican takeout, and Xavmen Ramen, Credi’s second foray into the culinary world with a takeout ramen restaurant. (See related article)

He couldn’t help himself but give it a go by renovating the place and making it amenable for caterers, bakers, restaurateurs, food truck operators and the like to have a space to prepare their dishes and sell them, he said.

“I’ve done enough, and I'm happy with what I've done; I don't need to keep going. The kitchen kind of fell into our laps where it's too good of an idea not to," he said. "I really want to do something that was focused on the community and not different than what my friends at Eli Fish did with their Fresh Lab, you know, giving someone who doesn't have the means to produce their own facility an option. That's exactly what I want to see here. I said (to Vee Echevarria, owner of Linda Borinqueña) my goal is for you to be so busy that you can't work here anymore, that you have to go find your own place.” 

There is still enough room for more behind-the-scenes businesses to operate and prepare their products there, but as for the two restaurants that sell directly to customers, that’s plenty for now, he said. 

Another venture that Credi has taken on is to have an employee who has baking experience begin to make baked goods there — muffins, danishes,  cookies, scones, chocolate-filled croissants, and a cinnamon roll with hot oozy icing, for the coffee shop.

So what would Credi advise someone like his younger self wanting to become a business owner?

"My number one advice would be to talk to someone who's done it. And there's so much like, behind-the-scenes stuff like everyone thinks that this is what I want to do. Okay, that's great. That's about five percent of what your business is actually going to be, you know, selling coffee is five percent of my business. And 95 percent is everything else I have to do to get to the point of selling coffee," he said. "And that's really something, I mean, for a young person, you can't sit down and think that through. You just don't have that experience or knowledge. So you really need to talk to someone. 

“Never underestimate how much work it is. You can do it but don’t underestimate how much work and stress is involved. Talk to someone who has done it," he said. "I’ve talked to a handful of people, it’s really valuable to get that firsthand knowledge."

He worked with a Small Business Development agency to write his business plan, which is invaluable and usually quite necessary, especially when obtaining loans. And then, of course, there's the part when you must just get busy operating your business, he said. 

He likes to regularly check in on local business owners to see what they're doing through their advertisements and promotions and by talking to them, he said. 

He also recommends checking in with customers and listening to them for reasonable feedback to know when to change what or how you’re doing something.  

“Being able to adapt and learn from the feedback,” he said. 

Credi decided to buy the space down the street also at Harvester Center that was formerly One World Goods -- a cavernous space that needed renovating and cleaning up to make it Health Department worthy. 

One section is occupied by Windy Brew, a tavern restaurant and tasting room, and the other side, known as The Crapshoot Kitchen & Commissary, has a kitchen with coolers and cooking and baking equipment for two restaurants and other future enterprises.

Xavmen Ramen was a stop-gap to fully utilize the space and try out an idea that he had while cooking with his wife Karie at home, he said. 

He has learned to carve out his time, with 15 hours a week at the coffee shop and the remaining time at the commissary, preparing and serving the food and checking in on customer feedback. 

Early on, he had a food truck for the Pub Hub and then sold that to The Harvester Center, which uses it on-site for Harvester events.

There isn’t an ending to this story yet, as Credi is planning for new offerings at the coffee shop — he learned that locals like their breakfast and he's gone from two to 11 morning items, including a new egg soufflé sandwich that will debut Wednesday and an egg, bleu cheese and hash brown wrap on Thursday — both of which are making good use of the commissary’s larger oven and space.

And Credi admits he dreams about having a second location with a drive-through even though his more reasonable side knows it’s not practical given his stress overload at the moment. 

Credi, who credits his success and existence to being “comprised of 30 different people” of family and friends who are a huge support system for him, has learned to scale back a smidge.

"I worked 20 hours a day; even in my sleep, I was still thinking about it," he said. "Now, for about five hours a day, I'm not thinking about it."

Harvester Avenue bustles with culinary activity and international flavor

By Joanne Beck

 

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Customers line up for authentic Puerto Rican fare at Linda Borinquena at 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens

Ask Vianiliz Vee Echevarria Rivera what surprised her most about opening her own culinary business, and her answer is not about the long hours, tough customers or hard work.

It’s much more humble.

“Not expecting to be sold out four days in a row,” she said Monday after her debut opening week of Linda Borinqueña. “We were giving out little samples, and people were falling in love with our food. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We’re taking it day by day.”

The Puerto Rican takeout restaurant had some delays due to typical project snags and is now fully up and running, with a five-day weekly schedule. 

She’s hopeful about offering hours that go until 7 p.m., and that she, her mom Elizabeth and brother Adrian are working diligently to prep enough food to last them each of Tuesday through Saturday for local patrons’ obvious appetites.

Her take-out restaurant, under the roof of The Crapshoot Kitchen & Commissary, owned by Rob Credi, will begin with white rice, two types of yellow rice, roasted pork and roasted chicken, empanadas, beans and a dessert of vanilla flan, an egg custard with a caramel glaze. 

“A lot of people were not expecting it to be such a flavorful food,” she said. “Everybody’s liking everything. We want to make sure that what we have is something they enjoy. We’re making the flan every morning, so it’s very fresh.”

She took two weeks off from her regular job to make sure the restaurant took off smoothly and plans to work in the early morning and after work once she returns, she said. 

Her mom enjoys the challenge so far, though “you go through so many emotions,” Vee said. 

“She’s trying to make it as fast as she can,” Vee said. “I feel we’re giving good portions too. This is our first week, so we’ll see where it leads.”

Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. To view the menu and order, go HERE or call (716) 220-2880.

Entrepreneur and cooking enthusiast Rob Credi got involved in the ramen business as a hobby with his wife Karie, as they would each create different varieties of ramen for dinner. 

And then the prospect of The Crapshoot Kitchen & Commissary came to life, and Credi began to envision some space for his very own culinary dream come true, he said. 

And Xavmen Ramen was born.

“It's kind of like a fun concept that's new for Batavia. And it's not traditional ramen, which might scare people. It's more Americanized, like Thai with peanuts is probably going to be the more traditional one. The other ones are mimicked after, like a Big Mac. We have a garbage plate style, one of my favorites of these is the everything bagel. It's incredible,” he said. There’s the Tabouleh, a Middle Eastern salad. And a play off of Buffalo chicken, oh, fun things that people are familiar with around here.”

The Thai ramen has a Thai peanut sauce that “packs a little heat” and is garnished with chopped peanuts and green onion, whereas the tabouleh is a parsley salad of lemon juice, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, diced tomatoes, and green onion served cold. 

There’s a Buffalo ramen with a buttery hot sauce with baked chicken, crumbly blue cheese and diced celery, and several other versions to choose from.

The storage-turned-culinary space has taken quite a turn since, as Credi puts it: “it wasn’t retail friendly. It wasn’t really human-friendly, to say the least.”

“So just to get everything cleaned up and kosher with the health department in the city, you know, codes and all that was an undertaking, so I think we started just over a year ago this March of 2022,” he said. “The process, obviously, took much longer than I thought it would take to do, but we've reached it here and so far so good. They've been doing great. Linda Borinqueña has been doing great, they sold out the past two nights since they opened. Windy Brew is cranking now that they have their full menu and they use our kitchen. Of course, they are all doing good things. Hopefully, people appreciate it. 

"We all think it's a great idea," he said. "It's just a matter of, you know, will the general public agree with our vision.”

Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 

To view the menu or place an order, go to https://www.xavmen.com

Windy Brew opened its second location — it's first in Batavia — in August and has now added several varieties of pizza to its menu, such as a supremely loaded with cheese, pepperoni, bacon, onion, peppers and black olives. 

Patrons may order whole pizzas to go or to eat on-site. They also offer quesadillas, nachos, pretzels and other appetizers, plus many craft beers.

Hours are 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. 

For more information, go to https://windybrews.com

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Linda Borinquena
Photo by Howard Owens
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Windy Brew
Photo by Howard Owens

Enter Through the Coffee Shop opens tonight at The Harve

By Howard B. Owens
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve

The creators of Enter Through the Coffee Shop @ The Harve, a unique, June-only art gallery at the Harvester Center, 56 Harvester Avenue, Batavia, held an invite-only pre-opening on Friday evening.

The public opening is tonight, Saturday, at 7 p.m., with the band FlashBamPow providing musical entertainment. 

The cost is $5 at the door.

Previously: Enter through the coffee shop for art and music @ The Harve

enter through the coffeeshop at the harve
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve
enter through the coffeeshop at the harve

Puerto Rican restaurant to serve up 'a nice little change' in Batavia

By Joanne Beck

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Friends. Family. And coming together.

The only thing missing is the delicious food, but Vianiliz “Vee” Echevarria Rivera and her mother, Elizabeth, have that covered. And the Puerto Rican natives plan to bring it to Linda Borinqueña, which means “a beautiful Puerto Rico.” The takeout restaurant will be housed in a new venture expected to open in June at 56 Harvester Ave., The Harvester Center, Batavia.

“My mom was the one who made all the meals. She made really beautiful breakfasts, and lunches and dinners. Over there, a lot of the foods are basically a lot of the rice, beans, yams, a lot of the meats over there are fresh, so that’s what we ate. She has an amazing hand for cooking,” Vee said Friday to The Batavian. “I watched since I was little, and the first time I actually made up white rice with beans on the side, I was 11 years old, and I was very proud of it.”

Likewise, Elizabeth learned from her mom, and the generational tradition was for the young girls to be kicked out of the kitchen by the adults until they were old enough to be helpful. Both mom and daughter admitted to getting the boot at 10, but once allowed back in, they never stopped making toothsome cuisine.

Dishes in Puerto Rico aren't so much about being spicy, Vee said, as it is about adding flavor. Sofrito is “a whole bunch of herbs and garlic, onion and peppers,” that are blended together and added to the food. It may also include cilantro and oregano, and — well, she wasn’t going to give away all the secrets, she said.

Just accept that heating up a can of black beans on the stove is not what beans and rice is. Even the rice is made differently depending on who makes it, she said. Her mom’s version doesn’t taste the same as Vee’s. Much of the secret is in the types of flavors used.

Or changing the type of rice.

“If you’re making a bean stew and use yellow rice, that gives it a nice flavor to it,” she said.

There’s nothing wrong with the culinary staples of this area, but for some diversity for what the Riveras offer, diners have to drive to Rochester or Buffalo, she said.

“There are a lot of Puerto Rican people in Batavia. This is a nice little change for the city,” she said. “As Hispanics, everything revolves around food. If I made a big pot of something, I’d bring it into work; it’s for everybody. It’s about family and friends coming together.”

The food style also blows the way of the Caribbean — can you smell the cilantro, coriander and bell peppers? — which also caters to the tastes of Dominicans and Jamaicans, she said, and hopefully to new customers trying it out for the first time.

Her take-out restaurant, under the roof of The Crapshoot Kitchen & Commissary, owned by Rob Credi, will begin with white rice, two types of yellow rice, roasted pork and roasted chicken, empanadas, beans and a dessert of vanilla flan, an egg custard with a caramel glaze.

“I’m very nervous, this is brand new for us, it’s a huge learning experience. Rob has truly been my mentor,” Vee said. “It’s to bring something new to Batavia. It will be family-run, with my mom and my sister Adrian. I will stay at the hospital during the day and work there at night.”

Her day job is to educate the public about cancer at United Memorial Medical Center. The 36-year-old more recently discovered her entrepreneurial side and has decided to bring her culinary passion forward as well. She has learned a lot about herself during the preparation experience, she said.

“To be happy with the process. Everything that you’re learning, allow other people to help you, and enjoy the process completely,” she said. “It makes (me) happy, it’s a happy feeling feeding other people and seeing their faces about what they tried. It brings you joy.”

Vee and her family plan “to stay faithful” to their business and to Credi’s, having signed up for monthly rent with intentions to be there for an extended time period to build up a customer base.

Linda Borinqueña will be serving lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. More details about the restaurant opening will be publicized closer to June.

Submitted Photo of Elizabeth Rivera, Adrian Rivera and Vianiliz Echevarria.

Photo: Peace sign at Harvester

By Howard B. Owens

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A peace sign that was drawn on a window from inside a business space at the Harvester Center on Harvester Avenue in Batavia.

Photo by Howard Owens.

Windy Brew to blow into town soon

By Joanne Beck

Bill and Michelle Snyder, owners of Windy Brew in Strykersville, are one step closer to opening a tavern and bar at 56 Harvester Center in Batavia.

City Council gave the business owners a nod of approval for a liquor license during this week’s conference session. Batavia Police had no objections, according to the city clerk-treasurer.

That being said, their plans are still on hold due to the permit process, and they are waiting to hear back from the city, Michelle said Wednesday.

Plans are to include live music and a tasting room for brews, including Windy Brew, made in Strykersville.

Harvester Center businessman 'pleased' with informative response from police chief, more discussion to follow

By Joanne Beck

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Even though all of business owner Rob Credi’s scrutinies have not been quelled, he feels that portions of city management have given him what he wanted: informative communication.

After sending emails to city leaders and talking publicly at this week’s City Council meeting, Credi has gotten answers and a prospective meeting to further discuss his issues.

He has served as a representative of his Pub Coffee Hub and for other entrepreneurs in Harvester Center, which houses 75 businesses.

During Monday’s council meeting, Credi wanted to express his frustration and know why “no parking” signs were re-installed on the east side of Harvester Avenue, where he operates his coffee shop.

City Police Chief Shawn Heubusch informed Credi Wednesday that the signs “were never intended to be removed” permanently, Credi said. They were taken down temporarily as part of the Harvester road construction project and were to be returned upon completion of work.

Credi said he wasn’t surprised that it took quite awhile to return the signs, or that there was “no communication with us whatsoever.” He was, however, disappointed to find out, after believing that his street was going to reap some extra parking spots for customers, that it was just a matter of delayed action to re-install the "no parking" signs.

He also learned that similar signs on the west side of Harvester do not fall within City Code and cannot, therefore, be enforced by city police. To clarify, approving the City Code falls within the authority of City Council and not the police department.

“(Heubusch) has no explanation as to when or how they got there,” Credi said. “We are working to schedule a meeting for mid-January to look into the best way to address parking on both sides.”

Credi said he is “very pleased with the communication” from the police chief. He has, though, tallied another tick mark in “the disappointment column from the construction debacle,” he said.

For prior coverage, go to: 

Harvester Avenue businessman presses city for answers

Harvester Avenue road construction a slow-moving hindrance

File Photo of Rob Credi when he opened Pub Coffee Hub in July 2020 at Harvester Center, Batavia, by Howard Owens.

Harvester Avenue businessman presses city for answers, communication

By Joanne Beck

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Rob Credi doesn’t really want to be that guy. You know, the relentlessly squeaky wheel who continuously complains about issues, in this case issues he believes have been created by city officials.

After sending emails to management and City Council previously during the Harvester Avenue road construction project, Credi tried again recently with another issue related to parking.

“My problem isn’t that we don’t have a lot of parking on Harvester, I know we don’t have a lot of parking,” he said Monday night. “It’s that they gave us more parking and then took it away.”

Only one councilman replied to Credi’s latest email, and suggested that he attend a council meeting.

On Monday evening, Credi addressed all city leaders explaining his and other business owners’ plight.

After more than two months of trying to operate a business while beholden to construction crews, torn up pavement and road closures that happened without any forewarning, Credi thought he saw a reprieve. After finally getting a new smooth road, he also noticed that the no parking signs had been taken down on the east side of Harvester Avenue, providing more parking spots for customers.

“I thought it was a nice little consolation prize,” he said during the conference session at City Hall. “The issue at hand is that we’re back to no parking. It’s the inconsistency of what’s being afforded my customers. Two times in the past three months the damage has already been done. My ask is what can we do to implement a structure beforehand so we can prepare for it and our customers can prepare for it?”

Credi, owner of The Pub Coffee Hub, sought answers when portions of Harvester were closed off to traffic, and his primary complaint was that he and other Harvester Center merchants weren’t informed of what was going to happen ahead of time so they could make alternative options to still serve their customers.

Now, with having extra parking and then seeing that yanked away, he again is frustrated that no one communicated it before putting no parking signs back up.

Not only does having two-sided parking serve customers better, but it helps to slow down traffic, he said.

Having owned a business in downtown Batavia, Credi compared his experience: there were no communication issues when in the heart of the city versus on the southeast side, he said.

He went to the police station to talk about the issue and was referred to City Council. Council President Eugene Jankowski on Monday pointed him back to the police.

"I think we need to refer you back to the police chief. Maybe we can revisit that," Jankowski said. 

Credi is to meet with Chief Shawn Heubusch, who said he needed to look into the road width and local law for allowing parking on both sides of a city street.

City Code lists all city roadways and their parking limitations if any. Harvester is cited as having “no parking from the west curb line of Harvester Avenue to a point 100 feet westerly therefrom,” and on the “east curb line to a point 50 feet easterly therefrom.”

For what it’s worth, there’s also a line about no parking allowed 25 feet east and west of both driveways in front of Carrols (from the 70s) restaurant, so it may warrant some updating.

Councilman John Canale, who owns a drum studio at Harvester Center, said he had concerns as well.

“I have experienced all the turmoil there, and one and a half weeks ago, before the no parking signs, it really opened things up, and doubled parking,” Canale said. “And then all of a sudden, the signs went back up. I would like to visit the idea of allowing parking on that side.

“I plead with you to do whatever you can to open up parking,” he said.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski, who had suggested that Credi attend the meeting, agreed. Batavia strays from many other small cities that don’t have locally owned businesses, he said, and it's important to preserve any locally owned small businesses that exist.

“I just think it’s vital that we do whatever we can,” he said.

Credi feels that he was heard and supported about the parking situation.

“I am now waiting on hearing back from the police chief for more detail on why things happened the way they did, ideally with some clarity on why it was open to parking for six weeks and then removed without notice,” he said. “Additionally, getting a definitive answer on enforcing the parking laws on our side of the street would be great.

“I do feel like my main point of improving communication between the city and business owners in the future before a major disruption occurs — for example, roadwork and the parking situation — was kind of pushed aside by council president Jankowski with no real answer as to what can be done to improve it,” Credi said.

File Photo of Rob Credi, owner of The Pub Coffee Hub on Harvester Avenue, Batavia, by Howard Owens.

No to brew pub but yes to restaurant at Harvester Center, plans are also in the works for a commercial kitchen

By Joanne Beck

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As property manager, Jarrod Clark has really taken the Harvester Center under his wing.

After all, he discovered that his family four generations ago once owned and sold the property to Johnson Harvester, and how rich it has been with successful incubator business start-ups and well-known products, including Massey Harris farm equipment and Melton shirts.

“It’s kind of gone full circle for me,” Clark said after Tuesday’s Planning & Development Committee meeting. “It bleeds history.”

Fairly soon, it might just be brewing beer — as in locally produced brews in a tasting room and an adjacent small restaurant. He was representing Bill and Michelle Snyder, owners of Windy Brew in Strykersville, who want to open a similar site at 56 Harvester Center.

“It’s not going to be a huge facility,” he said. “It probably would seat 20 to 25 at the bar, and another 10 to 15 at tables, and everybody is drinking their beer and eating their pizza and pretzels.”

Originally proposed as a brew pub, the owners had applied for a special use permit. However, they quickly changed course after the committee informed Clark that a pub wasn’t allowed in that zone, but that a restaurant was allowable, and beer could be served there.

Windy Brew produces beer that will be available, along with other New York State brews and possibly wine, at the Batavia location, Clark said. Someone who he won’t identify just yet has also expressed interest in opening a commercial kitchen adjacent to the Snyder’s property.

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“There would be room for multiple different users. So there'll be some lockers and stuff in there. There might be some seating as well. The idea is, we're really lacking a bakery in Batavia. So we're trying to find somebody that would be willing to operate a bakery out of there,” he said. “Primarily, we have a big Italian heritage here, where are you going to buy fresh Italian bread? So you're getting it shipped in from Rochester and dropped off at Southside Deli. So that would be a huge benefit … and cookies, pastries, things like that.”

“I think it’s going to be great for our building,” he said. “We both (the anonymous tenant) want to see it succeed. My goal is to get like-minded people there.”

One of the Center’s best-kept secrets is that it houses 75 business tenants that manufacture and/or sell products and services. The Snyders were “ecstatic that they don’t need a special use permit,” he said, and are shifting plans immediately. He and his other future tenant should be disclosing their plans in the next few weeks.

“For the last eight to 12 months, we’ve been looking for people in an operation or looking to do this,” he said. “There is a need for this. It’s the community driving what’s needed; many people are wanting to open a kitchen.”

Food trucks would be able to use the communal kitchen for food prep before loading up and going on the road to sell items, he said, and there are those types of mobile businesses that would benefit from such as operation.

After all, it’s costly to operate a bakery — early morning work hours, utilities, inventory, finding good recipes and people experienced in baking, plus maintenance of bathrooms. It would hinge on a kitchen set-up, he said.

“So when you have some networking and some people that you're working with, and you have other people coming in that may be visiting some of the other kitchens, you have an outlet of selling your product,” he said. “It’s not all on you. You're not the only one paying the gas bill, you're not the only one paying the electric bill. So the idea would be to get some sort of a house tenant that's a bakery and then possibly add three or four food trucks in there. And there should be enough room where there could be maybe a small Mexican takeout only or an Italian restaurant.”

Admittedly, the building — quite large with many compartments and business ventures, and a bit difficult to navigate  — can be a confusing concept for folks, Clark said.

“So it's not unlike this building to do new and different stuff that nobody's seen or heard of before,” he said, referring to the latest building applicants. “They kind of really fit us well. And we're willing to work with people that kind of look outside of the box.”

File Photo of Harvester Center on the east side of Batavia, and photo of Jarrod Clark from an online site.

Harvester Center haunted house open for visitors this weekend - if you dare

By Joanne Beck

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Cody Harloff was caught clowning around Friday evening at Harvester Center.

Of course, the stark white face with black-rimmed eyes and deep red lips didn’t seem quite so jovial as you might expect from a clown, but that’s because Harloff was part of the haunted house on the first floor of 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia.

“I’m gonna give them the thrill and, kind of keep pushing and make them shake a little bit. It's been a mix of reactions. Some people have no reaction. Some people are screaming and running. We've had a bunch of people run through faster than they should be, going through. But it's been quite fun,” he said. “I feel like there's not enough organizations like this in Batavia that do stuff like this. So I think it's just good for them to come and get out. Whether it's, you know, the thrill of Halloween or just spending some quality time and having fun.”

Walk right up, and wait for the heavy metal door to open. An escort will wave you in by rapping his heavy wooden dowel on the door. Once inside, the door slams shut. It’s a first-time haunted house at Harvester Center sponsored by the Just Kings Social Club. It runs through this weekend.

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Not to give anything away, but a group of girls just ahead screamed their heads off, albeit, not literally. With each flinch and movement of the key house inhabitants, the girls let out a whelp and scream until finally out the other end with some fluttered breathing. The Batavian asked Chloe Cullington, 13, what got to her during the walking tour of gravestones, creepy residents, corpses, and a very loud noise reminiscent of a massacre-esque movie.

“The clowns, they were the worst,” Chloe said while trying to catch her breath. “And the chain saw.”

Her friend Meki’ayla Vazquez, 15, agreed that the clowns were pretty scary, especially in the hazy darkness filled with fog. “I couldn’t see anything.”

They were in a group of about a half dozen girls, and each one let out a scream during various points throughout the haunted house.

The evening offered up a trunk or treat and hay rides earlier on the street, followed by the Halloween feature inside. Kristyn Thomas greeted visitors as they lined up, estimating toward the end that at least 100 people — youngsters, teens, and adults — came through.

“It’s been steady, with no break. It’s kind of cool because you have people who never had the opportunity to go to a haunted house, other than in Buffalo or Rochester,” she said. “It’s kind of exciting.”

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She’s the wife of Victor Thomas, one of the chief organizers with Just Kings Social Club, a civic group that aims to give voice to the black community and raise money to then spread some kindness and cheer amongst local children. The Kings’ initiatives have included backpacks for school and, for this fundraiser, buying Christmas gifts again this season for kids.

“We’re hoping to raise a bunch more money so we can help a bunch more families. We just wanted to find a way that we could do something that we can raise money to really help out on Christmas,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can, on top of doing what we usually do, by getting toys and donated items and giving that back to the community. Hopefully this year, we'll be able to start a little earlier and have kids actually write to us, and maybe we can grant that one wish. So like, say, if a kid had a specific wish, and he wanted an Xbox, well, this is gonna give us enough money that we can actually grant a wish instead of just donated gifts.”

More details will be publicized, probably after Thanksgiving, he said. Just Kings has a membership of 10 people, all of who work to raise money through activities including barbecues, and now the haunted house. A first-year event, Thomas believes it may be a yearly happening. For the moment, though, he was focused on this weekend.

“Tomorrow is going to be even bigger. There will be live music and different events, the scavenger hunt, so hopefully, it just gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “We really don't have a goal … just to help more kids than we had last year."

The nonprofit assisted nearly two dozen kids and 12 families last Christmas, he said.

He and three fellow members, Ray Williams, Terry Smith and Greg Munroe, worked every night after work to build the haunted house atmosphere. Harvester Center Manager Jared Clark offered the use of the Center, which has a perfect landscape for such a creation — a cemetery across the street and a cavernous building that certainly could stoke one’s imagination.

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“Me and a couple of the other guys have been here every day, busting our butts to get this done. So I know our wives and our girlfriends are happy that this is the final weekend because they'll see a little more of us around the house. The way it's going now, it can definitely generate money for our Christmas drive. So if we can get this to go annually, that'd be awesome,” Thomas said. And bring something back to Batavia for Halloween, because there's really nothing other than trick-or-treating, so it’s a different idea.”

The guys had some fun developing ideas for the house, with a barbershop — just where is he going to use that razor? — and a creepy doll room, to name just two. Local companies stepped up to sponsor, including My Cut Barbershop, WNY Concrete Corporation, and Keith Roth Allstate Insurance.

Rob Credi, owner of Pub Coffee Hub, extended his shop’s hours to correlate with the haunted house, reaping him at least another 15 or more customers for the evening. He will be selling Thriller Pizza on Saturday as part of the spookfest.

Saturday’s line-up happens from 5 to 8 p.m., with hay rides for $2, and a scavenger hunt; and the haunted house goes from 7 to 11 p.m. Festivities on Sunday include a House of Bounce activity, hay rides and penny carnival from noon to 5 p.m., and the haunted house from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission for the haunted house is $12 a person.

“So we're just trying to continue something to give these little kids something to do on a Friday, Saturday night that they usually don't get to do,” Thomas said. “We just had a seven-year-old coming through here and he wasn't scared of anything. So if your parents are watching, if you're watching scary movies at home with your parents, and you're watching them with your little ones or whatever, and they're not scared, bring them on down. It's a good time.”

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Top Photo: Haunted house occupants are waiting for your visit this weekend at Harvester Center, 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia; a group of visitors catch their breath after walking through the spooky exhibit; other creatures look forward to entertaining people on Saturday and Sunday. Photos by Howard Owens.

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