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stumblin' inn

June 14, 2021 - 4:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in stumblin' inn, arts, entertainment, music, elba, news, notify.

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Jim Goff, an icon of the local music scene for decades, passed away this weekend, according to an announcement by his family on The Stumblin' Inn's Facebook page.

Goff and his brother Stephen "Stork" Goff owned and operated the famous bar and music venue for nearly four decades, until a fire destroyed the 150-year-old building in Elba in July 2018.

Stork passed away in March.

An obituary about Jim Goff is not yet available.

According to his family's statement, Goff succumbed to cancer.

It reads, in part, "The Goff family has suffered so much loss this year but this one is the hardest to swallow. My dad was so incredibly kind, caring, compassionate, and selfless. He supported so many local bands and charities, he brought together so many friends and families, creating unforgettable memories for all of us."

Photos: File photos from a 2018 benefit for the Goffs

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April 2, 2020 - 3:13pm

A Batavia author has penned a paean to The Stumblin' Inn in Elba, the storied landmark that burned down two years ago this summer.

Daniel J. Crofts was to speak at the Holland Land Office Museum April 23 about his fictional short story "Ignis Invictus,* a Eulogy for the Stumblin' Inn" as participants noshed pastries and sipped hot coffee during the kaffeeklatsch known as Java with Joe E., cancelled because of coronavirus, naturally.

"I worked in Elba for a little over five years, and had passed by the Inn every day," Crofts said in a recent email. "But it wasn't until reading The Batavian's coverage following the July 2018 fire that I learned just how important it had been to the Elba community.

"I have always been interested in storytelling, and felt that a short story that would function as a sort of memorial for the Stumblin' Inn would be appropriate and, perhaps, welcomed."

Crofts said his tale is about a man from out of the area who drives into Elba, sees the wreck of the Stumblin' Inn (after the fire had occurred but before the debris was cleared), and treats it disrespectfully.

Then he meets a mysterious, supernatural guide (like the ghosts of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," or Virgil from Dante's "The Divine Comedy") who takes him on a journey through the history of the Stumblin' Inn, its predecessors, and Elba in general (insofar as it is relevant to the Inn).

Of course, Crofts' book ($10.50) is stocked at the Holland Land Office Museum, which is temporarily closed because of the pandemic.

HLOM Offers Online Book Sales

It is among a number of intriguing titles in the HLOM bookstore inventory, which are available for purchase online.

Also on the list: "The Story of the Muck as Told By Those Who Worked There," ($12) written by the late William F. Brown Jr., and researched by Anne Marie Starowitz; and "Up South -- Folk Stories Whispered on the Summer Wind and Seen Through the Green Leaves" ($24.99), by Lynda Breckenridge Gaetano; and "Transfiguration and Hope -- A Conversation About Time and Hope" ($21.99) by D. Gregory Van Dussen, about spiritual journeys infinite and eternal, and the power of grace.

There are battlefield maps for purchase and titles about wars and veterans, baseball, the Erie Canal, Buffalo gangsters, Native Americans and pioneers, railroads, Genesee County architecture, haunted places, leading citizens, lore, and WNY amusement park rides.

A tiny brass cannon collectible can be had 10 bucks. It spurs remembrance of the actual cannons that stood outside the museum for more than a century. Last November, those were carefully dismantled and sent to Altoona, Pa., for a $20,000 period-accurate restoration, half paid by the museum and half through funds from an ongoing fundraising campaign called "Ready. Aim. Donate."

And if you need some soap to wash your hands good and clean of COVID-19, the bookstore's online inventory also lists prettily wrapped, handmade goat's milk soap, three cakes for $12, with fragrances such as green tea, rose hip, and lavender mint.

Meanwhile, HLOM is using this time of closure to take stock of its operation and programs and is asking people to complete a survey to help them better serve the community.

(Ignis Invictus is Latin for: Fire or Passion + Invincible or Undefeated, etc.)

Editor's Note: Below is a YouTube video of the Stumblin' Inn fire July 8, 2018, by Elba resident Lucine Kauffman, along with our news partner WBTA:

Also, video of the cannons being loaded for their restoration trip.

Video Sponsor
October 1, 2018 - 10:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in stumblin' inn, news, elba, notify.

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"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone," Joni Mitchell told us in "Big Yellow Taxi."

The Stumblin' Inn is gone and Sunday, for seven hours, bands, fans, friends, and family gathered in Elba to celebrate a bar that was more than a watering hole, it became a community icon and second home for nearly every local musician.

"We didn't have a clue until the day of the fire," said Jim Goff, manager of the Stumblin'. "The day of the fire it's like we started to realize, with all the stories and people crying that we meant a lot to these people. We never thought about it or knew and then the day of the fire and then ever since then it's just been love."

The event at the Elba Fire Hall, with a tent and stage behind the fire hall and another stage in side, was a fundraiser for Jim and his brother Stork Goff, owner of the Stumblin' Inn. The funds will help them defray clean-up costs of the building site and any extra will help with any of their personal expenses.

The most recent count available from event organizers was $21,000 raised but that was an hour before the event ended.

"The support is unbelievable," Jim Goff said. "The love. It's a love fest. You know, it's awesome, the talking all day, hugging, kissing. It's been a really enjoyable day and hopefully we gave the folks some good music."

Savage Cabbage was there, a band that played the Stumblin' dozens and dozens of times over the past 20 years.

"There are people here I haven't seen in 20 years, some of the ones from the earlier days of the band," said Savage Cabbage member Frank Starowitz. "To see this kind of turnout today, you know, the sadness of losing the Stumblin', it's heartfelt. It almost brings a tear to your eye just seeing the melted the sign and the paint from the bathroom wall with the guys and all the stuff, the memories, and the times, it's like, you know, it's so sad it hurts. But, you know, we all come together for beers to support Jim and Stork."

The first hotel built at what became 1 S. Main St., Elba, was erected in 1815. It burned down in 1874. The next hotel opened its doors in 1875. It was known over the years as the Elba Hotel or Swartz Hotel. Steve Goff purchased the building in 1979 from the Zambito family and opened the Stumblin' Inn.

Jim ran the bar and as a music fan, he soon established what amounted to an open-door policy for bands and musicians to play in the bar, making the Stumblin' a haven for local muscians.

The Stumblin' Inn was destroyed by fire July 8.

The bar was also a community gathering place. Many people had their first beer there, including Starowitz.

"That was when I first turned 18 I started drinking at the Stumblin'," Starowitz said. "I'll be 55 tomorrow. So many years of good times drinking and having fun at the Stumblin' Inn."

Frank Zambito pretty much grew up in the Stumblin' Inn. His father was one of the owners. He and his wife gave framed prints of a picture by local artist Pat Burr of the 19th century version of the Swartz Hotel.

"I used to walk home from school with my cousin Chuckie Ajello," Zambito said. "We always stopped and walked in and my father would give us a grape pop and send us on our way. There's a lot of good memories. There's the time the Rochester Royals were there -- the basketball team in Rochester -- I remember going to see them. My father was friends with the owner."

Music was a big part of life at the Elba Hotel when the Zambitos owned it, Frank said, just as it was with the Goffs, but it was also always a place to meet up with friends.

"It was always a landmark," Zambito said. "You would always go by and look to see if you recognized any cars and if you recognized a car you might stop and have a drink with them. On Sunday mornings, we used to have  a fantasy football league. We'd always stop and then submit our teams. It was always a social place people could go and have a good time."

Zambito wasn't surprised by the turnout at the fundraiser. So many people had so many memories of the great old place, and such fondness for the Goffs, that of course they would show up.

"You know, they just want to be a part of it again," Zambito said. "I'm just sad that the place is gone but I'm glad that no one got hurt. And, Jim and Stork, they'll be all right. Everybody will be alright. It'll be worked out that way."

Top photo: Jim Goff with his daughter Jess Kertman and his granddaughter, Cali, age 5.

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Peggy Zambito, Jim Goff, Frank Zambito.

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July 27, 2018 - 11:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in stumblin' inn, elba, news, music, arts, entertainment, notify.

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Jim Goff never knew. For decades the Stumblin' Inn in Elba was a haven for local musicians. He knew he was having fun. He didn't know what it meant to the musicians he nurtured and the community that followed them.

Now he knows.

A fire destroyed the storied watering hole the second Sunday of the July, despite a valiant effort by the Elba Volunteer Fire Department and their mutual aid companies to save the 143-year-old building. Jim and his brother Steve, or Stork to everybody who knew him, were asleep upstairs when the alarm went out. They were alerted in time to make a safe escape.

They found themselves on the sidewalks of their small village surrounded by friends and neighbors sharing their tears.

"I never knew until this happened how much it meant to the community," Goff said shortly after arriving Thursday at an open mic night in a park across the street, next to the Elba Fire Hall.

More than 150 local musicians and music fans had gathered for what is likely the last open mic night for the Stumblin' Inn, a Thursday night tradition for years.

"Musicians have always been my people," Goff said. "That’s who I relate to, that’s who I feel comfortable around. We started an open mic in the 1980s and did it off and on. Musicians just liked to hang out there. It felt like home to everyone. We had a lot of bands who called that place home."

Standing next to Goff was local musician Doug Barnard. He said Barnard and his band Southbound were responsible for helping Goff recognize the value of local bands to his bar business.

"They said 'Give us a chance,' " Goff said. " 'We guarantee we'll pack this place.' They told me that about three times so I gave them a chance. They packed the place for five years. I realized maybe this local band thing is a pretty cool thing to embrace."

It all worked, Goff said, because he and his brother kept their priorities straight.

"It’s all about having fun," Goff said. "If you’re having fun, you’re going to make money. Money and fun, it all goes together."

As for the future, that's still a blank slate.

"All the experts say you don’t make big decisions right away," Goff said. "You let things sink in. There’s certainly some pressure to rebuild. Age is definitely a factor. We honestly don’t know. I would say we’re leaning toward probably not, but who knows? I’m not going to say no because I don’t know. I honestly don’t know."

Top photo: Goff as he arrived at Thursday's open mic night, hugging local musician Dylan Desmit, who helped organize the fundraiser for the Goffs with co-host Paul Draper.

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July 26, 2018 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in stumblin' inn, elba, music, entertainment, news, notify.

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The great thing about the Stumblin' Inn is that owners Steve and Jim Goff give every musician who walked through the door and had the courage to ask for a spot on the stage a chance to perform.

They did it for Dylan Desmit when he was first starting his music career.

"The first time we were here, my keyboard player put my amp through the window," Desmit said. "I was mortified. I thought for sure we would never play here again but Jim just kind of laughed it off. We’ve been playing here ever since and it just felt like a second home."

Desmit lost count of how many times he played the Stumblin', whether with one of his bands for an acoustic open mic night.

So many musicians have benefited from the largess of the Goffs that many of them are coming together for one more Thursday open mic nite in Elba where they will play music and pass the hat to raise money to assist Steve and Jim, who lost not just their business but their homes in a fire July 8.

Desmit and Paul Draper (who had last-minute work commitments that kept him from participating in the photo above) organized the event for tonight, starting at 8 p.m. in front of Chap's Elba Diner, and Desmit said the outpouring of musicians wanting to help Steve and Jim has been substantial.

The Stumblin' Inn was the place in the area for local musicians to congregate and get a chance to be heard and those musicians want to repay the favor.

"I saw someone compared it to the Penny Arcade in Rochester and that’s pretty much, yeah, every local band, ever, played here," Desmit said. "There’s so many musicians, and judging by the reaction on Facebook for the benefit, there are so many people devastated by losing it."

July 24, 2018 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, news, stumblin' inn, notify.

Statement by Norman Itjen, mayor, Village of Elba:

The Elba community lost an iconic landmark when the Stumblin’ Inn was destroyed by fire on July 8, 2018. This building sat at the corner of South Main and Mechanic Streets since 1875, known by several names, lastly as the Stumblin Inn’ owned and operated by brothers Steve (Stork) and Jim Goff for the last 39 years.

While we, the community and the Village, mourn the loss of this establishment, we can only guess the sorrow Jim and Steve are feeling as they have put much of their heart and soul into our community. A benefit for the Stumblin’ Inn is going to be held on Sunday, Sept. 30, from 12 to 7 p.m. at the Elba Fire Department’s Recreation Hall.*

Events like this often seem to bring out the best in everyone. I can’t say enough about the hard work and long day the Elba Fire Department, and other fire departments from Genesee and surrounding counties put in on this day. Their hours of training were well-evidenced through their organized and coordinated response to the fire of this magnitude in our downtown area. 

I also want to express my appreciation to the Elba community for the outpouring of support they provided the firemen by providing water and refreshments and to Chap’s, in particular, for the food and meals they so graciously donated that day.

* Also, local musicians Paul Draper and Dylan Desmit are organizing an open-air jam night at the former location of the Stumblin' Inn, 1 Main St., Elba, at 8 p.m., this Thursday (July 26). All musicians and music fans welcome. We expect to have more information tomorrow afternoon.

July 11, 2018 - 11:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in stumblin' inn, elba, news, notify.

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Steve and Jim Goff, owner and manager, respectively, of the Stumblin' Inn in Elba since 1979, have pretty much lost everything, according to a GoFundMe page set up by Jess Goff.

The goal of the page is to raise $10,000 but the page notes that excavation of the remains of the 143-year-old building will cost as much as $25,000. 

The appraised value of the property was only $67,700 and Jess Goff, on the GoFundMe page, said there was no fire insurance on the structure.

In addition to all of the personal belongings of Steve and Jim, including tools, was all the memorabilia that went with 40 years of ownership of a community landmark and a place that hosted countless local musicians for a countless number of shows.

"My dad says that these are all just things, but the saddest part of all of this is the death of so many memories for so many people," Jess Goss wrote.

Both Steven and Jim lived in the building and lost all of their personal belongings.

The Stumblin' Inn hosted many community fundraisers over the years.

There may be other fundraisers in the work but so far nothing definitive has been announced.

Fire investigators have determined the fire was accidental/non-intentional but the exact cause of the fire is unknown. Evidence indicates it started on the inside of the building and it's unknown how long it was burning before it was discovered.

Previously:

July 8, 2018 - 3:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in stumblin' inn, elba, fire, news, notify.

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An excavator is tearing down what remains of the Stumblin' Inn in Elba this afternoon while fire crews keep the smoldering wood wet and attack hot spots that flare up as they get air.

"The building was constructed in the late 19th century, balloon construction, and there was fire throughout the building," said Jim Bouton, deputy emergency management coordinator. "The only way to successful to get to the hot spots now is with heavy equipment to haul the building apart so they can get to these hot spots in the building, otherwise we’re going to leave here and there is a potential for this lighting back up and we don’t want that to occur."

Bouton explained that as the fire caused the roof to collapse, it created trapped hot spots that can't be reached without pulling the wood apart, and as that happens, air hits those pockets and feeds the fire.

Crews will keep working on the fire until there's no evidence of remaining hot spots.

Meanwhile, the Village of Elba remains closed to through traffic.

The cause of the fire is officially undetermined. Investigators suspect an electrical issue.

UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: In about a half hour, all equipment will be removed from the roadway, so it can be cleaned up, the chief says.

Previously:

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