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Ken Mistler

Theater owner promises live comedy and music in lieu of movies at The Bowery

By Joanne Beck
Red door at theater, Batavia
The future entrance/exit to The Bowery, a new entertainment venue to open in the fall 2023 in the City of Batavia. Photo by Joanne Beck.

There’s a richly iconic salon in New York City known for being luxurious in nature and set apart by its vivid red door, a symbol of Elizabeth Arden Spas and perfumes.

By no means was the red door being wrangled over Tuesday evening by property owner Ken Mistler and members of the Planning and Development Committee as luxurious in nature, but it will be the signature — of the entrepreneur’s latest venture into the world of entertainment.

This heavy-duty red door will lead the way to The Bowery.

“That’s the oldest street in Manhattan. It’s light industrial, New York City when the shanties were all downtown, in the mid-1800s,” Mistler said after the meeting.

His vision for this gritty, edgy shanty town climate will serve up a host of eclectic live musical artists and comedy acts in the movie theater-turned-Bowery,.

Mistler, and his engineer, Andy Schmieder, landed before the committee due to their request for a handicap-accessible ramp leading up to what are now double doors to be converted into one large, wide entry/exit doorway on Alva Place.

Ken Mistler and engineer Andy Schmieder
Ken Mistler, left, and Andy Schmieder, his engineer, answer questions Tuesday during the city's Planning and Development Committee meeting. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Members David Beatty, Ed Flynn and Duane Preston were less than impressed with the thick steel fire door being the main entrance to a business.

“My only criticism is that it’s a rather mundane entry for a dining/pizza shop. Is there going to be any other entrance?” Beatty said.

Flynn added that it looks like a utility room.

“There will be a marquee over it,” Mistler said, answering Flynn’s question about it not having a window. “There’s a door without a window now.”

Beatty wanted to confirm if the space would eventually be a functional theater. 


“It will eventually be a comedy club and music venue,” Mistler said.

They circled back to the door. Is it to be the final and permanent door to the establishment? Yes. With no windows? That’s right.

Beatty joked that it was going to be a speakeasy, some clandestine spot that served illicit liquor back in the days of prohibition.

“We have a problem with the look of the door,” he said.

Code Enforcement Officer Doug Randall asked if Mistler would consider some type of artwork on the door, and Mistler said sure, he was open to suggestions.

The three members approved the request for a ramp, and encouraged Mistler to return with another door design when he begins his future facade work.

As for the dining/pizza shop, there won’t be any actual indoor dining, Mistler said. The pizza shop will have two purposes: one will be for a one-size pizza take-out service from a walk-up window, and the food will also be used at The Bowery for patrons. He has no intentions of competing with local restaurateurs.

“You want fancy-style pizza, go to Roman’s. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes in the food business because that’s not what I want to do. I love to work with the restaurants in Batavia so that we could do dinner and a show again, like I did with the movie theater,” he said. “My first idea was to cater to seniors, there’s not a lot of things for seniors to do in the day, let’s give it to the seniors … a three-piece brass band, a motivational speaker, a pianist, we’ll have a piano there.”

He has connections with promoters at both ends of Batavia — in Buffalo and Rochester -- and plans to bring in comedic and musical acts from in and out of state. There will be a dance floor in front of the stage, a full bar and some edibles, per State Liquor Authority, which “requires us to have a substantial menu.”

“For once, I want to do a business that’s fun,” he said. “I’ve got contractors ready to go. Inside is completely empty. Okay, so I don't have any demolition to deal with, demolition is already done. All I have to do is put it back together, and it's a lot easier to put them together than to take it apart. Yeah. A lot easier. So I want to get it open within six months.”

He will be meeting with Randall to go over the interior design and obtain a building permit. The city has been “really easy to work with,” he said, and although people see the bad stuff, Batavia is becoming more business-friendly, he said, “which is great.”

City manager: Owner of former C.L. Carr's department store building is contemplating course of action

By Mike Pettinella

While there has been much activity in the City of Batavia, especially with Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Main Street Grant projects, the same can’t be said about the renovation of the former C.L. Carr department store at 101-107 Main St.

According to the “project tracking” chart generated by the Batavia Development Corp., a $1 million DRI award (of the $5.25 million total investment) was allocated to the Carr’s rehabilitation.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, at this morning’s Batavia Development Corp. board meeting, said building owner Ken Mistler has met with representatives of Urban Vantage of Buffalo, a consulting firm, as he seeks the best course of action to repurpose the space.

“I’ve had several meetings with Mr. Mistler and he would like to move the project forward,” Tabelski said. “The next steps are to see if they want to go after an historic designation for the building – whether it’s worth that and the tax credits – and assuring that they can get architecture, engineering and design on the building done because you can’t do construction until you get that done.”

She said her discussions with Mistler have focused on keeping the bottom floor as commercial space, with the possibility of multiple stores there, and turning the upper floors into residential space.

“We talked about potentially doing furnished corporate loft-type space for some of the companies we have here,” she said. “We’re always getting requests for furnished space.”

The building has one section with three floors and another with two floors.

Tabelski also mentioned the need for corporate rentals and boutique hotel space in Batavia.

“When they look at their return on investment, they’re not just going to look at residential, they’re going to see if some of these mixes could work there,” she offered, mentioning The Shirt Factory Café in Medina as a prime example of mixed-use success.

There, the first floor houses a coffee shop, hair stylist and mead works, while the second floor has an attorney’s office and boutique hotel room in the loft space, and the third floor features boutique hotel rooms.

“In a way, the business model could be very similar to Carr’s. A very different building, very historically-significant -- The Newell Shirt Factory in Medina – but the mix of tenancy could be a great example for them to look at and follow.”

She said some preliminary work was done on the Carr’s site before COVID-19 hit “and now they’re getting back to it.”

“It’s nice to see it get moving along because when looking at all of the projects, that is the one that needed to advance through the necessary stages,” she said.

Contacted this afternoon, Mistler said that he has not contracted with Urban Vantage at this point and any information on what the renovation ultimately will look like is speculation.

Photo by Mike Pettinella

Next Level Fitness to close, downtown building sold to local investor

By Howard B. Owens

After 31 years in the fitness business, owning and operating gyms in Staten Island and Batavia, Ken Mistler says it's time for him to retire for that line of work.

He's sold the building that has been home to Next Level Fitness for 10 years at 85 Main St., Batavia, and the gym will close Feb. 27.

Mistler said he's reached an agreement to sell the massive three-story, 20,000-square-foot building (which includes a 6,800-square-foot basement) to a local investor. He can't disclose who the buyer is or what the buyer plans to do with the building but the new owner will not operate a gym at that location.

"I'm not sure what they're going to do," Mistler said. "I'm not sure if they're going to use the whole building for themselves or cut the building, subdivide the building."

Mistler started in the gym business in Staten Island and then opened Powerhouse Gym on East Main Street in 1997. He still owns that building and all the equipment currently at Next Level. He would like to see somebody open a gym using the existing equipment at the Powerhouse location or see another locally owned gym use this as an opportunity to grow.

"I'm trying to encourage a local small gym in the area to go into that facility so," Mister said, "they will have more options. My customers have said they're looking for options. They're coming to me the last couple of days and asking what else can we do? What do we have available? They're looking for smaller facilities because they aren't a fan of the larger places and they want to keep it local."

Mistler said the closure of Next Level isn't the result of a chain competitor opening in town. He could have competed with a chain if he had wished to make the changes necessary but he didn't want to make those changes after 31 years running gyms, and the real estate offer was attractive and worth taking at this time.

Mister, who owns several downtown properties, and is owner and operator of Ken's Charcoal Pits on Main Street and the local movie theater, Batavia Showtime, said he's grateful for the years of community support for his gym businesses.

"The support has been unbelievable," Mistler said. "If I had to do it over again I would. That's how good the community has been to that facility, especially since I started Next Level, but 31 years in the business is enough."

Tompkins acquiring building at Main and Center to expand customer service center

By Howard B. Owens

It seems hard to believe, but Tompkins Insurance has outgrown its space in the Bank of Castile building at 90 Main St., Batavia, according to Executive VP David Boyce.

Boyce confirmed this afternoon that Tompkins is in the process of acquiring the two-story commercial building at the corner of Main and Center streets with the intention of expanding its call center in that location.

"We have had great success in the bank building across the street, but I didn't think we would outgrow it in nine years," Boyce said. "I guess that was a little short-sighted on my part and Jim Fulmer's, but we've had great success hiring great people from the area."

The call center, Boyce said, is a "care center" in Tompkins vernacular. It's where customer service reps field incoming phone calls from the company's 36,000 private insurance clients.

Tompkins is acquiring the building from Ken Mistler, who owns as many as 10 Downtown properties. Its primary tenants are both on the first floor -- WBTA AM-1490 and Optique Optical.

Boyce said he would defer for the time being in sharing the purchase price but said the company will be making a significant investment in renovating the second floor of the structure.

The property at 113 Main St., is assessed at $325,000.

Boyce said the company is likely to apply to Genesee County Economic Development Center for a sales tax exemption on the building renovations and a PILOT on any increase in accessed value.

Photo: MTV "Real World" reality star 'CT' at City Slickers

By Timothy Walton

MTV reality star Chris "CT" Tamburello (left) was at City Slickers Friday night making a guest appearance. He is pictured with City Slickers owner Ken Mistler. CT is known for his role on several MTV television shows including Real World: Paris, The Challenge, Road Rules, and the most current, Rivals, which is currently running on MTV. 

Mistlers to donate downtown window display winnings to nominated families

By Timothy Walton

'Tis the time of giving and Ken Mistler and his wife Andrea are in the spirit. The Mistlers' recently won $200 for winning the downtown window display contest. The display, located inside the former Carr's building was sponsored by both Next Level Fitness and City Slickers Bar & Grill.

"I want to thank the downtown (improvement) district and all the judges for choosing our window." Ken Mistler said. "We know there are families out there having a hard time and we want to be able to give back to them and give them a little something extra this holiday season."

If you know someone that is deserving please e-mail with the name of the person and a brief description of why you think they are deserving. Also be sure to include your contact info as well as their's. You can't nominate yourself.

All nominations must be submitted by Dec. 20th. Winnings will be donated in the form of a Save-A-Lot gift card.

"I'm going to review the nominations  and will decide on the most deserving family or families." Mistler said. "I may give one gift card for the full amount or I may give a few."

Photo: Western painting for new downtown restaurant

By Howard B. Owens

Driving down Main Street late this afternoon, I spotted Ken Mistler, left, and Louis Kingsbury and a third person hauling a large painting down the sidewalk. I drove around the block and caught them pulling the painting through the Jackson Street parking lot.

Mistler is installing the painting -- this is one of at least three -- in his new restaurant, City Slickers, the former South Beach.

Mistler plans retractable windows for patio of new restaurant and bar, 'City Slickers'

By Howard B. Owens

A plan for Ken Mistler to remodel the patio of the former South Beach Restaurant on Main Street received glowing reviews and eventual approval from members of the city's Design Review Committee on Tuesday.

The board opened its meeting with a field trip to South Beach were Mistler explained the concept.

Mistler intends to enclose the patio, but use retractable glass panels (something like a garage door made of glass panes) so that he can operate the patio as a bar, dining room and music venue 12 months out of the year.

"We'll close the windows for weather or when it's windy," Mistler said.

The concept has already received a positive recommendation from the Genesee County Planning Board and once the Design Review Committee approves his final plans in 30 days, Mistler will be able to proceed with construction.

Mistler is planning a Southwestern/Western theme with urban flair for the new restaurant and bar. It will be called City Slickers.

While the restaurant continues to cater parties in the basement bar and dining area, Mistler is completely remodeling the inside of the bar and dining area (the new custom-built wooden bars are stunning).

He expects to open City Slickers around the third week of April.

Photo below: Mistler holds a picture of the former Kiwanis Park that was west of South Beach from before Mistler remodeled it to the present patio.

Sign carrying in front of South Beach not in Suzanne Corona's future

By Howard B. Owens

South Beach owner Ken Mistler announced today that he won't require Suzanne Corona to carry a sign in front of the restaurant saying "I stole from South Beach."

"Her sincere apology was restitution enough for me," Mistler said.

Corona, already facing a public lewdness conviction for her part in a sex act at Farrall Park in June, could have been charged with a felony for trashing the South Beach lunch buffet one afternoon last month. To avoid the charge, she signed a contract with Mistler last week admitting her deed and agreeing to carry the sign for four hours.

Mistler said Corona's husband reached out to him through a mutual friend to ask if during the four-hour walk he could be their to protect his wife from public abuse.

"It was at that point that I realized that this affects more than Suzanne," Mistler said. "It affects her whole family. I can't punish her family for something she did."

Reached this afternoon, Corona said she was grateful to Mistler for his decision.

"That is very wonderful of him," Corona said. "I told this to the media before and it got cut out -- he's a very fair man, a nice man and I respect him very much. I can't thank him enough that he's chosen this direction for my family."

After Corona got out of the hospital following an eight-day stay, she immediately came to Mistler ready to sign the contract, Mistler said. He said he figured that was a hard eight days lying in a hospital bed thinking about what she had done and the anticipation of the walk was probably difficult to think about.

He said he didn't feel the need to ask any more of her.

"She never said she wouldn't do the walk," Mistler said.

While Corona is off the hook for the four-hour "walk of shame," Mistler said he is suggesting to her -- only a suggestion -- that she volunteer for four hours with a local agency such as the animal shelter or help with a charity event.

"I've done that before," Corona said. "I've volunteered in soup kitchens. I've volunteered at a hospice. I can certainly do something for him in that regard. I most certainly will."

Cats find basement living just purrrrrfect

By Howard B. Owens

There are five cats that have the basement of the old Carr's building pretty much to themselves.

The cats wound up in the basement after owner Ken Mistler sold his pet store on East Main Street and the new owners wanted to get out of the cat sale business. Mistler's wife, Andrea, set up the cozy basement apartment and she ensures all of their needs are met.

They have plenty of places to climb and lounge. There's even a ramp to a cat gate that allows them outdoor time in a fenced-off area behind the Carr's building.

Andrea takes care of the cats and besides feeding them and keeping the litter boxes clean, she gives them plenty of affection.

For the cats, the living arrangement is probably more like a penthouse than a basement.

Soft opening for new coffee shop on Main and Jackson

By Howard B. Owens

Rob Crede, manager of The Daily Grind on Main and Jackson in Batavia, serves Jim Kujawski on the first day of business for the new coffee shop and juice bar.

Owner Ken Mistler (pictured below) has been preparing for the opening for months, but characterizes this week's opening as "soft" so any kinks can be worked out.  But soft or not, Rob served a steady stream of customers this morning.

Meanwhile, the gym, Next Level, adjacent to the coffee shop, is moving closer to opening in a few weeks.  More pictures follow the jump.

Mistler stands in front of an in-progress mural by Vinny Del Plato at the top of the stairway leading to the lower-level workout area and men's locker room.

The kids' room, with mural painted by Karen Reisdorf.


New fitness center downtown slated to open Dec. 1

By Howard B. Owens

Next Level Fitness, the new fitness center Ken Mistler has been constructing at the corner of E. Main and Jackson streets, will open Tuesday, Dec. 1, Mistler said in a message on Facebook.

Doors will open for the first time at 8 a.m. on that day.

Memberships will be $19.95 per month with a $14.95 annual fee on a one-year contract.

Child care will be available for $2 for an hour-and-a-half (there will be some restrictions).

Fitness classes will also be available at an additional cost, though Mistler said the cost will be minimal.

There will be a separate workout floor for women.

The facility is completely remodeled inside using quality material. Members will be able to enjoy locker rooms with showers, as well as steam rooms.

Giant flag on Carr's building

By Howard B. Owens

As is his tradition, Ken Mistler hung a giant flag on the Carr's Building today to commemorate 9/11.

I spoke with Kenny a bit outside of "The Daily Grind," which will be his new coffee, tea and juice bar at the corner of Jackson and Main streets. He said he's about two weeks from opening because noisy work is still going on inside of the gym he's building adjacent to it.

Mistler closes on South Beach purchase this afternoon

By Howard B. Owens

I ran into Ken Mistler about 30 minutes ago entering The Insurance Center office on Main Street. He let me know he was closing on his purchase of South Beach, building and restaurant.

Mistler said there are two potential tenants looking at the location, but nothing is firm yet.

Ken Mistler working on project to bring new live theater to downtown Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

There may be a theater, possibly a dinner theater, in the future of the former Carr's Department Store location, if owner Ken Mistler can line up appropriate funding through the BID.

Mistler does not have many specifics on the proposal at this time, but has been working on putting together the project for several weeks.

In response to an e-mail, Mistler said:

I do not have any exact plans until the Engineers get back to me... Engineer hopes to give me my plans/answers early next week.

In a comment on The Batavian, Mislter acknowledged that he paid only $10,000 for the Carr's building, but has spent a good deal of money renovating it.

  • $214,000 on the Jackson Street façade
  • $22,000 on replacing windows
  • $87,000 on the back façade, which helped preserve the structure
  • $58,000 on new roofs
  • $42,000 on the front façade
  • $150,000 on repairs from leaks due to broken pipes (the elevator and dry wall were damaged)
  • $20,000 on a new sprinkler system
  • $15,000 on heating and air conditioning

In another comment, he said:

I offered Old Navy 4 years free rent on a 7-year lease. After 4 attempts they finally replied. They are not currently seeking any type of retail location in your (our) demographic. Now I will look toward entertainment.

Ken Mistler set to purchase 10th building downtown -- former South Beach location

By Howard B. Owens

Ken Mislter, who currently owns 9 buildings in Downtown Batavia by his count, has reached a purchase agreement for the former South Beach Restaurant location.

The deal will close May 1. Mistler said the building will be immediately available to a lessee looking to open a restaurant.  It's turnkey ready, Mislter said.

"The guy (Alex Giuliani) left the salt and the pepper," Mistler said, explaining how the restaurant is ready to open now.

Alex and Barbara left the location in pristine condition, other sources tell me.

The asking price for the building was $425,000. Mistler said he paid something less than that, but won't disclose the price until after it becomes public record. Separately, he also bought all the equipment.

Alex and Barbara Giuliani closed the restaurant unexpectedly three months ago, and the abrupt closure was controversial.

Next Level Fitness slated to open in six weeks

By Howard B. Owens

Ken Mistler gave me a deluxe tour this morning of the gym at the corner of Jackson and Main he hopes to open in about six weeks.

The picture above is of a staircase that will lead to the lower level work out area and men's locker room. Mistler said a previous tenant built the staircase, but when the city would not let the business put an entrance to the building on Jackson, the staircase was floored over.

I copied the photo off the Facebook page Ken set up for Next Level.

Mistler seems to be putting forth the effort to create a first-class gym. The building is being completely renovated with new electrical (an upgrade required by new building codes implemented since the building's 1967 construction), new heating and cooling and such attention to detail as ceiling lights that defuse light so that people laying on a bench lifting weights won't have a bright light shining in their eyes.

There will also be a full sevice coffee bar accessible from Main Street.

The four-level building will also eventually serve as Mistler's home. He's building a residence on the fourth floor.

When I saw how much work is left to be done, I expressed surprise that it would take only six more weeks of work to get the facility open, but Mislter said the hard work is done (he did much of the jack-hammering in the cement floors himself to improve drainage (did you know there is an artesian well under that part of downtown?) and lay in new plumbing in the basement).

Previously, Ken told me a number of membership have already been sold -- and who can argue with the price? People can join for as little as $20 per month.

Mistler's gym looks like it's going to be a great addition to downtown, helping to bring a lot more people into the center of the city on a regular basis.

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