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Despite difficulties, couple opens new diner on Jackson Street in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
May 21, 2020, 6:46pm

The middle of an economic lockdown may not seem like the ideal time to open a new restaurant but when it's something you were planning and dreaming about before a global pandemic was announced, that's what you do as soon as you can.

Gilliana's Diner, on Jackson Street, in the former location of Sylvania's, opened yesterday.

"We're super excited," said Jill Antinore, who owns the new eatery with her husband Mark.

Jill said they purchased the restaurant Feb. 1 then the global health emergency hit and the County Health Department wasn't issuing health permits. They had to wait until the Health Department was able to give them the OK to open.

Opened for breakfast and lunch -- except on Friday when they offer a dinner menu -- Jill described the diner as "a breakfast place with Italian specialties."

Available for takeout now are typical breakfast items, such as bacon and eggs, and items such as "The Godfather," which is egg, provolone, Italian sausage, sweet or hot peppers; and "Italian eggs in Purgatory," which is two eggs poached in homemade tomato sauce, with cannellini beans, peppers and onions.

The lunch menu includes tripe, homemade meatballs, agrodolce, and parmesan chicken wings.

Hours are Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Friday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. The diner is closed on Wednesdays.

The phone number is (585) 201-7772.

Photos: Tree removal on Jackson Street

By Howard B. Owens
Oct 31, 2018, 4:02pm

Crews have been working on removing a large tree from the front of 113 Jackson St. for a couple of days. Today, they had a crane out to help as the tree was cut into sections and lowered to the ground.

Utility pole on Jackson breaks for no apparent reason

By Howard B. Owens
Aug 15, 2018, 9:46pm

It's not clear how a utility pole on Jackson Street broke -- there is no indication it was struck -- but sparks flew according to a witness when it did break.

There isn't even much of a breeze tonight.

The call originally came in as a blown transformer but there is no transformer on the pole.

With wires down and a broken pole, Jackson is being closed between Ellicott Street and Central Avenue.

The Kwik Fill is closed after losing power.

National Grid is responding.

Police checking on loud noises in Jackson Street area, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Sep 26, 2016, 8:02pm

There have been two loud explosive sounds in the area of Jackson Street, with reports putting it near Central Avenue or more to the south.

Dispatchers have received several calls with a dispatcher noting, "several callers said it didn't sound like gunshots, but they weren't sure what it was."

The calls are coming in from multiple streets in that area.

UPDATE 8:07 p.m.: It was fireworks. One of our neighbors actually saw the fireworks over some houses in the Central Avenue area.

Photos: Serious about the game

By Howard B. Owens
Sep 22, 2015, 10:17pm

I took Rocky out for a nightime walk and came across Alex Asselin and Brian Wowk having a catch on Jackson Street.

"Can you even see the ball?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah," Brian said.

Alex asked if I had ever seen them out before. Only during the day, I replied.

"We're out here nearly every night," he said.

The two young men are freshmen at GCC and part of the baseball program. Asselin is a third baseman and catcher from Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, and Wowk is a shortstop and second baseman from Toronto.

The night catches have "definitely helped my eye-hand coordination," Asselin said.

Alex Asselin

Brian Wowk

Police end standoff with possibly armed suspect peacefully

By Howard B. Owens
May 11, 2015, 12:10am

Ferguson. Los Angeles. Chicago. Cleveland. Brooklyn. Baltimore. The national media has reported several examples of aggressive police conduct in these cities in the past few months that ended in violence.

In those same months. Batavia PD has dealt with at least three incidents, including one today, that easily could have gotten bloody but ended quietly.

Chief Shawn Heubusch said it's by design.

"Our number-one goal is to resolve every situation we run into as peacefully as possible," Heubusch said. "We want to use as little force as possible."

Today's incident began with a report of a man at 102 Jackson threatening to shoot children in the head for causing a ruckus near his residence.

Police weren't certain he had a gun, but it was a distinct possibility, so they proceeded with caution -- calling in extra back-up, eventually deploying the Emergency Response Team and even positioning two State Police sharpshooters on the roof of the Salvation Army with a clear line of sight into the man's second-floor window.

They also interrupted the relaxing Mother's Day that Officer James DeFreze was enjoying with his family.

Defreze is a trained negotiator. ERT members tossed a special, wired phone into the man's apartment. DeFreze and the man talked.

"The broad procedure we try to follow is to build rapport and be empathetic and try to understand what people are going through," DeFreze said. "We try to get them to open up and then see what we can do to help them. They're really just looking for help."

The negotiation took 30 to 45 minutes, Defreze said. The entire time, police officers, troopers and deputies remained in positions with long guns trained at the suspect's second-story window.

In the end, no shots were fired. The man walked out of his apartment and surrendered to a police officer.

Officer Marc Lawrence said the investigation is ongoing, but charges likely against the suspect, whose name has not yet been released.

There were high fives among a couple of the officers, pats on the back for DeFreze and a crowded gathered at Central and Jackson applauded the effort by police to resolve the potentially deadly situation peacefully.

"I did hear them applauding," DeFreze said. "It was nice. At first it seemed like they weren't paying attention, having a little bit of fun over there, but it was nice that they appreciated us and our work in the end."

About a month ago, DeFreze and a deputy who is also trained in negotiation helped talk a woman into surrendering and in March, a knife-wielding man on Central Avenue came at officers and threatened them, but the officers involved were able to defuse the situation and take the man into custody without incident.

"Our number-one goal is to make sure everybody goes home safe, the suspect included," Heubusch said.

Some passersby yelled out suggestions for police, of the type that veered toward a more violent, quick-resolution response.  

"Let me have a gun," one man said. "I'll end this."

Others wanted to see tear gas lobbed into the building and ERT members swarm the apartment.

Unless it's a hostage situation, the best response is a slow, methodical approach, Heubusch said.  The suspect isn't going anywhere, is a minimal threat and can probably be talked out of any drastic actions.

"We would rather take the time to ensure that everybody involved is safe and avoid anything that could cause harm to anybody, including the suspect himself," Heubusch said. "There's nothing wrong with slowing it down."

Heubusch said a good rapport with the community helps officers take their time to resolve conflicts.

He said he can't speak for what goes on in other communities. Of course, he and his officers pay attention to news accounts of violent confrontations involving other police officers, but since he isn't involved and doesn't have all the facts, he doesn't want to compare what happens in Batavia with what happens elsewhere.

"We're constantly evaluating and constantly changing tactics as needed," Heubusch said. "Back in the '80s or '90s, for example, if the SWAT Team showed up for a call out, guess what, they were going in the door. We have new techniques now. If there's no danger, we've learned it's better to sit and wait."

Today's incident lasted more than four hours, but in the end, the patience of trained and skilled police officers proved the perfect response.

Officer James DeFreze on the right.


Photo: Biking on Jackson in the cold and snow

By Howard B. Owens
Jan 6, 2015, 10:53pm

It was 14 degrees and lake effect snow was falling, but Thomas Gilbert, who was riding home on Jackson Street, still said, "this is great weather for a bike ride."

There is a lake effect snow advisory in effect until 4 a.m. and a wind chill advisory in effect until 10 a.m.

Forecasters are calling for four to eight inches of snow with winds from the west at 15 to 25 mph.

Photo: Ghost Asylum crew and cast spotted on Jackson Street, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Dec 6, 2014, 8:07pm


Two cast members of the SyFy Channel's Ghost Hunters "Ghost Asylum," a new show from Destination America, ham it up after filming a take for a segment of the show that will include Batavia.

Crew members couldn't discuss the details of the episode. At least one scene will be from Sweet Pea's Cupcakery Cafe on Jackson Street. I'm under the impression there are other scenes being taped at other locations in the county.

Investigators still trying to determine how Batavia woman died Sunday evening

By Howard B. Owens
Jul 15, 2014, 6:24pm

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of death of Summer Ogden, the 38-year-old Batavia woman who was found unresponsive Sunday evening on the steps of 131 Jackson St.

Batavia detectives attended an autopsy today at the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office, but Det. Eric Hill said, with tests still pending, there is nothing to report from the autopsy yet.

Hill said investigators have not determined exactly how much time elapsed from the moment Odgen collapsed until police were called, but they do not believe it was a long interval.

"It was a relative short time between the time a couple of witnesses saw her awake and OK and when they got back and saw her passed out," Hill said.

The call for an unresponsive female came in at about 7:19 p.m., Sunday.

Foul play has not been ruled out, but it's not considered a likely scenario, Hill said.

"We're certainly not closing that door, because we don't know what happened," Hill said. "It's something we're still keeping open, but it's not really an active aspect that we're definitively pursuing."

Ogden was well known to veteran police officers who had numerous encounters with her while intoxicated, Hill confirmed, but it's unclear what role, if any, alcohol may have had in Ogden's death.

"That's why we're sending everything out for tox," Hill said.

Ogden's boyfriend, Eric Duda, is one of the residents at 131 Jackson St. Hill said it's unknown if Ogden had been visiting or intended on visiting Duda on Sunday evening.

The couple have had mutual orders of protection in place and both had been previously charged with violating the orders.

Hill said the investigation is continuing and Ogden's death is receiving a full and complete investigation in an attempt to determine exactly what happened.

"Anybody who is in this situation is a victim," Hill said. "It doesn't matter if we've had contact with you in the past or we've had no contact with you. Ultimately, it comes down to the same level of service we offer to everyone. You could be suspect yesterday and a victim today. You still get he same level of service."

Local woman found dead on steps of residence on Jackson Street

By Howard B. Owens
Jul 14, 2014, 1:20pm

Batavia PD is investigating the unattended death of a local woman who was found unresponsive of the porch steps of 131 Jackson St., Batavia.

The body of Summer Ogden, 38, was taken to the Monroe County Examiners Office for an autopsy.

Batavia PD released no information regarding any potential cause of death.

Ogden's name has come up frequently in arrest reports over the past four years, most often on charges of criminal contempt for violating stay away orders involving her boyfriend, Eric Duda.

Duda has faced the same charges for contacting Ogden.

Twice in 2011, both Ogden and Duda were arrested in Stafford when they were found together.

The Batavian's first encounter with Ogden and Duda was right before Christmas in 2010. Duda was manager of the Batavia Motel, 3768 W. Main St. Road, when he and the other residents were kicked out on 24-hours notice after the motel was condemned. The couple had a 10-month-old infant at the time.

Photos: New utility pole off Jackson Street

By Howard B. Owens
May 20, 2014, 6:36pm

National Grid crews had Jackson Street closed off late this afternoon for the installation of a new utility pole behind the old Bank of Genesee building. The pole is one of two put up today to replace one in Jackson Square. The old pole interferred with the third story reconstruction of the former Carr's warehouse. The old warehouse is being converted into apartment units.

Photo: Yellow magnolia at Doty Mansion

By Howard B. Owens
May 10, 2014, 11:58pm

This time of year when I drive down Jackson Street, I always enjoy the yellow magnolia tree with the Doty Mansion as a backdrop.

Restoration work was in progress, landlord says, when city condemned apartment building on Jackson

By Howard B. Owens
Apr 5, 2014, 8:47am

The four-unit apartment building at 113 Jackson Street has been condemned by city officials and its residents relocated, but the owner says things sound a lot worse than they really are.

The most notable problem is the south wall, according to Guy Pellegrino, which is clearly bowed out, but Pellegrino said it was that way when he purchased the building 15 years ago and was in that condition years before he bought it.

It's never been an issue with city officials until now, he said, and it may not even be necessary to repair. He will need to hire a structural engineer to make that determination and present findings to the city.

The 4,000-square-foot building is 180 years old. The property is assessed at $115,000.

City Manager Jason Molino said 113 Jackson was closed for electrical, mechanical and structural code violations.

Molino said the Red Cross assisted, at least for the first day, the two tenants living in the complex after the building was condemned.

City officials only acted on the property after there was a report of a possible fire in one of the apartments Tuesday, Molino said. Firefighters found suspected code violations and a code enforcement officer was called to the scene.

According to Molino, tenants at the apartment were living in "deplorable conditions." The building was condemned, he said, because it was unfit for human occupancy.

Pellegrino has a different version of what city inspectors found at the complex.

First, the second-story apartments have been vacant since the Fall and are currently undergoing a complete restoration. The apartments have been gutted. The floors have been removed, the walls are being repainted and all the junk left by previous tenants thrown out.

"My plan has been once Spring rolls around is to finish the apartments and turn them into better quality units," Pellegrino said.

Pellegrino believes that it was the former upstairs tenants who have been the source of suspected criminal activity in and around the apartment building. After there was an armed robbery of a pizza delivery driver reported at that location, Pellegrino evicted both tenants, having them physically removed from the property.

A lifelong Batavia resident with a large family locally and other business interests, Pellegrino said the reports of criminal activity at the address, especially the suspected armed robbery, were a real embarrassment.

"That's not who I am," Pellegrino said. "I don't want people to have that impression of me. Once I thought they had something to do with it, I got rid of the tenants."

What Pellegrino didn't know, he said, was that one of his downstairs tenants was a hoarder and was stealing electricity from a neighboring apartment.

"The only person living in deplorable conditions was the hoarder," Pellegrino said.

The woman who lived in the other apartment kept her place clean and there was no problem with that unit, Pellegrino said.

The man had lived in the apartment for 10 years, according to Pellegrino.

"His rent was $600 a month and he paid it like clockwork," Pellegrino said. "I had no reason to believe he was a problem and I had no cause to go into his apartment."

The resident, Pellegrino said, created the alleged electrical code violations by removing electrical panels so he could tap into the power lines of another apartment, and running extension cords into his apartment.

Each apartment has its own electric meter and tenants are responsible for their own utilities, so Pellegrino doesn't get the electric bills and had no idea the tenant no longer had his own electric service to his apartment, he said.

One thing people don't understand, Pellegrino said, is that when a landlord rents to Section 8, HUD or any other social services tenant, the apartments are inspected by the government before the tenants move in. There's never been a problem with his apartments, Pellegrino said.

Other than the issue with the south wall, everything the city says is a code violation will be easy to fix, Pellegrino said. If a structural engineer clears the long-standing bowed south wall, then it will no longer be an issue, Pellegrino said.

There's a dumpster behind the apartment that's half filled with junk and garbage bags. The dumpster was originally brought in to help with the gutting of the two upstairs apartments. It's also being filled with the decades-long accumulation of junk left in the basement by former tenants, and, Pellegrino said, the hoarder has already started cleaning out his apartment and throwing stuff in it.

After 15 years in the residential rental business, Pellegrino is ready to get out. All of his properties are going up for sale, he said.

He was leaning in that direction before 113 Jackson was condemned, he said, but he's been "just sick" about what happened with the property and he's had enough. He thinks a lot has changed about the kind of tenants a landlord has to deal with in Batavia over the past 15 years. It's just not a good business to be in, he said, especially for someone who values his reputation in the community.

Photo: Short, heavy snowfall hits Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Mar 26, 2014, 1:33pm

Batavia got hit by a short but heavy snowstorm about midday that left about a quarter inch of snow on the ground.

View on Jackson Street.

Perhaps, this is the last winter storm.

Walton plans new restaurant and bar for Jackson Street

By Howard B. Owens
Oct 29, 2013, 9:54am

Press release:

Batavia has one less vacant building and a new business coming soon! Local entrepreneur Tim Walton has plans to open a cold kitchen eatery and bar at 35 Jackson Street. Crazy Cal's, will add a fun atmosphere for everyone to hang out, eat or have a drink.

"We want to be able to give something that isn't really here in Batavia." Walton says. "If you're hungry, we are going have a fast service cold kitchen, which is Specialty sandwiches, soups, salads and a few other food items as well. If you're thirsty, we have a bar to get enjoy a beverage from the unique drink menu and if you just want to hang out, we will have music, TVs to watch the sports games, pool tables and other games to play as well."

Just where did the name come from? "Cal is short for California. I wanted to open a place that you would expect to see along a boardwalk at the beach. It's not beach-themed, but you go on vacation and see these fun places to hang out and have fun, and that's the atmosphere of what I wanted to bring here."

Walton is no stranger to the bar and restaurant business. The last two years he has been able to gain management experience at several bars and clubs in Buffalo including Bayou, LUX, and Privato Lounge.

"The experience allowed me to learn event management, promotions, liquor laws, staffing management and everything else that is needed to run and manage a bar," he said.

Most recently, Walton has also been able to gain restaurant and food management skills from The Lodge, a high end restaurant in Buffalo. He has also done local shows and events at City Slickers, T.F. Brown's and Center Street Smokehouse and the list of shows includes The Zac Brown Tribute Band, Buffalo Bills, MTV and more.

Crazy Cal's which is aiming to be open by the holidays, and will be open at least five days per week, has already attracted much interested from the public.

"It's getting a lot of excitement," Walton said. "I've already spoken to a few teams and church groups that are interested in doing fundraisers here once it opens, too, so it's definitely exciting. It's something that will be good for the city and can benefit everyone."

The business is expected to create a minimum of five to 10 new jobs as well.

For more information, and to track the progress of Crazy Cal's, you can follow them on Facebook,

'Karen's Yarn Paper Scissors' opens in downtown Batavia, grand opening Tuesday

By Daniel Crofts
Sep 24, 2012, 12:36pm

Karen Crittenden, of Pavilion, has opened a new arts and crafts store in Downtown Batavia. It is called "Karen's Yarn Paper Scissors" and is located at 39 Jackson St., a few doors down from the recently opened "Sweet Pea's Cupcakery Café."

Store hours are 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

A grand opening with door prizes will be held on Tuesday.

Crittenden said this store features yarn and paper products that are not available at other stores, in addition to having an atmosphere of personal service.

"I will talk with you to find out what you like," she said. "And if I don't have it, I'll order it."

If customers are not sure of how to use certain items, she is happy to help them out. And it doesn't matter if someone bought the items at "Karen's Yarn Paper Scissors" or at another store. Crittenden is happy to help anyone who asks.

"It's all part of service with a smile," she said.

In fact, in response to customer comments, Crittenden is offering classes at the store next month, including beginner's crocheting and beginner's scrapbooking. She also plans to offer a craft group.

People can provide their email addresses to receive a message at the beginning of each month informing them of upcoming events and offerings at "Karen's Yarn Paper Scissors."

"I won't bombard people," Crittenden said. "The only other time I would email them is if something changes (in the monthly schedule, etc)."

For more information, call the store at 219-4480 or email [email protected]

More pictures (click on headline):

While some like it hot, Salsa & Curry offers cuisine suitable to those who walk on the milder side

By Howard B. Owens
Sep 12, 2012, 6:09pm

A year or so ago when the Rathod family opened Salsa & Curry on Jackson Street, Downtown Batavia, they offered only a few Indian dishes along with a full menu of Mexican food items.

With no Indian restaurants in Genesee County, the Rathods weren't sure how the unique cuisine would be received.

It turns out, it was received very well.

After closing for a few weeks while the family traveled to India for a wedding and then did some minor remodeling, Salsa & Curry reopened a week ago with a daily buffet of Indian food, more Indian food items on the printed menu and slightly fewer Mexican food items.

While Indian food has a reputation for being spicy -- and WNYers have a reputation for not liking spicy food -- not all Indian dishes are spicy, or need to be prepared with a hot flavor.

The buffet features only mild items.

What the Rathods have learned, however, is some kick has its place.

"We were actually surprised -- a majority of people like it spicy," said Sonny Rathod, who is managing the restaurant with his brothers Raveen, Nick, sister Anupa Hirani and her husband Peter.

Customers who don't want to partake of the milder buffet can order spicy alternatives prepared immediately in the kitchen and over the past week that's exactly what a lot of customers have requested, Sonny said.

Meanwhile, in a couple of weeks the restaurant will have a liquor license and will be able to serve domestic, Mexican and Indian beer as well as margaritas.

The restaurant is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday until 10 p.m. and Sunday, Noon to 7 p.m.

City firefighters respond to reported oven fire on Jackson Street

By Howard B. Owens
Aug 28, 2012, 7:31pm

Batavia Fire Department has responded to 104 Jackson St., lower, for a possible oven fire.

The apartment is full of smoke.

The resident states he just moved in and it's the first time he used the stove.

UPDATE 7:33 p.m.: Burnt food. City fire ventilating the apartment.

UPDATE 7:45 p.m.: The food is out of the stove, the stove is out of the house and City fire is back in service.

Photo: Jackson Street closed to vehicle traffic, businesses still open

By Howard B. Owens
Oct 5, 2011, 4:58pm

The sign may say "Road Closed," but businesses on Jackson Street remain open.

Jackson Street closed at 7 a.m. today, but should reopen at 7 p.m., and then close again tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for road repairs.

On the same schedule are Grandview Terrace and River Street.

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