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Batavian Zach Watts sets sights on 'cutting-edge' Main Street barber shop

By Mike Pettinella

With a vision of owning a business that becomes “a staple of the community,” Batavian Zach Watts is in the process of converting a vacant Downtown store into the My Cut barber shop.

“This is a dream of mine,” said Watts, 36, who has spent the past two decades interacting with area residents as a restaurant server/manager, including the last 15 years as Victor Marchese’s “right hand man” at Main Street Pizza. “Now that I have the chance, I want to put my best foot forward into this, and give it everything I got.”

Watts said that he and a minority owner will be leasing nearly 900 square feet of space at the site of the former Pollyanna & Dot/Hidden Door at 202 Main St. The building is owned by David Howe, co-owner of the neighboring Charles Men’s Shop.

Howe said he sees the barber shop as a great fit.

“We’re (he and business partner Don Brown) are really excited about it,” Howe said. “I think it’s a perfect mix for Downtown, not that we don’t have good barbers in town, because we do, but I think the location and Main Street work very well. For us, it’s a nice addition to the building – being near our business, and also down the street from our other business, Batavia Bootery.”

Watts said he is looking for experienced barbers and hairstylists to rent a chair and get the business off the ground while he completes the training required to earn his license. The custom workstation being built by craftsman Conrado Caballero, of Le Roy, will accommodate four professionals.

“The opportunity to get this space was the determining factor of whether I was going to do this or not,” Watts said. “This location is prime. I’m kind of putting the cart before the horse here, and jumping into it without having the necessary education to be, quote, unquote, licensed. I still need to receive that certification.”

In the meantime, his goal is to attract men or women barbers/stylists who are “willing to learn and willing to teach, too.”

“We’re seeking people who want an opportunity to be part of something that hopefully will last forever. But for me, I’m looking for someone to come in – for the first six months – and make a name for themselves. Take walk-ins, take a lot of calls, and be put in a position where they can have the whole shop to themselves without the liability of owning the shop.”

Watts said he will continue to work at Main Street Pizza while going to school, which will cover about four and a half months.

“I realize it will be a balancing act – having a job and taking care of my kids – but it will be worth it,” he said. “I know it is a tough time to be starting a business – it’s a tough time to be alive, really, with all the uncertainty – but one thing I’ve learned is the only thing you can control is your effort … and hopefully you reap the benefits from it.”

Watts has two children, Jaslynne, 13, and Carson, 8, and a significant other, Haley Brown, of Elba.

Based on his employment history, putting forth the effort won’t be a problem for Watts.

“Things have been up and down but I’ve always worked, starting in the restaurant business when I was 14 (at Sunny’s Restaurant),” he said. “I was just blessed with an opportunity for somebody to give me work, and I’ve stayed in the restaurant business for a while – working at Alex’s Place for a few years before getting a huge break to get into Main Street Pizza on the ground level when Vic opened up.”

He gives much credit to Marchese for “putting me in this position” and his mother, Annie Watts, a longtime and well-known restaurant server, for his work ethic.

“Victor has done everything for me to get me into a position to succeed. He’s shown me what it is like to open a business, and to have it be sustainable and be successful,” Watts offered. “I’ve had the privilege of watching him for a long time and have seen him make some great decisions. He’s my mentor; he’s my guy.”

He said his mother is “one of the hardest working people I know and she taught us (he and brother, Nick Gaudy, who also works at Main Street Pizza) what it means to work,” he said. “Without that, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Watts said he wants his shop to establish its own personality -- a place that is inviting with a menu of offerings such as contemporary cuts for men and boys (and shorter cuts for women), as well as straight shaves and hot shaves. He is hoping to open around Sept. 1.

“This is Christmastime coming up, plus school cuts, and a lot of people, teachers, are starting work now, and they all want to look good,” he said. “And if you look good, you feel good. I want the community to take advantage of a different style that has become more popular with younger people, something that is missing in this town.”

Watts said he is hoping to find barbers/stylists who are “very technical with their styling.”

“A lot of the trends with the younger generation are about designs in their hair; they want their hair styled in a certain way,” he said. “We’re trying to develop a barber shop that becomes a staple in this community, and given its location and the incredible businesses surrounding it that have been here, we feel we have an excellent chance to succeed.”

He also thanked Howe for being “incredibly supportive … and giving me a couple months to get my feet on the ground and run with something.”

Howe said he believes in Watts’ business model and looks forward to working with him.

“I think he has a good game plan, and there are so many things that we can do together,” Howe said. “We do a lot of wedding parties, and just that mix, I think, can be really good. People get spruced up in their tuxedos and suits and suit rentals and that type of thing, and good grooming goes right along with that.”

Photo by Mike Pettinella.


For more information about My Cut, contact Watts at (585) 201-1335.

New store hosts kickoff party for new lines of p.w. minor shoes

By Howard B. Owens

Batavia-based p.w. minor held an official kickoff party for its two new lines of shoes on Tuesday night in the future home of its new retail store, the former Chamber of Commerce headquarters on East Main Street.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley were both in attendance and they tried on some new shoes.

The new shoe lines are Abram Boots, an affordable, steel-toed work boot, and a line of higher end men's fashion shoes, under the brand of the Batavia Boot and Shoe Company.

The store will be a joint venture between p.w. minor and Charles Men's Shop, run by owners Dave Howe and Don Brown.

Next year, p.w. minor will celebrate its 150th anniversary. It recently moved all of its production back to Batavia from China and the new store will stock only American-made products.

Howe said owner Pete Zeilff, his family and the rest of the team at p.w. minor have done something a lot of people talk about but few do: make a real investment and commitment to the local community.

"I will tell you," Howe said, "we need your commitment as a community to support us. We're hoping for a partnership that everyone can be proud of."

Brian Benedict, the new director of sales for p.w. minor who was lured from a good job in Chicago to return to his hometown and work for Zeliff, said he's amazed at how far p.w. minor has come as a company in a short time and that he's excited about the potential of these shoe lines.

"We have 86 people employed at p.w. minor, so when you buy a pair of shoes, a pair from the Batavia Boot and Shoe Company, seven people touched that shoe as it goes through production," Benedict said. "And, 94 percent of our employees live in Genesee County. It’s not buying an American-made shoe. You’re buying a shoe from people who are your neighbors, your friends, people you see in the street, you see at Tops.

"If you buy two pair we can actually hire more people," he added, which got a laugh from the invited guests in the room.

The kickoff party is the first of six such events over the next couple of months, including a factory tour and chance to check out the new shoe lines at the factory in late December. The invited guests for that event will be people who have liked p.w. minor on the company's Facebook page.

Zeliff said he doesn't think he could have better partners for this venture than Howe and Brown.

"I had to learn a new profession (in taking over p.w. minor) and a new way of making a living over the past two years," Zeliff said. "I really didn't think I would do that at my age, but I really didn't want to learn another one doing retail, so Dave and Don are great people to partner with. I'm happy we're able to do this with them."

Howe has been in the retail business for 50 years, and owned Charles Men's Shop for 31 years, a business that has been in Batavia for 70 years.

The new shoe lines were developed by Kristine McCarthy, a graduate of Batavia High School, who returned home after working in New York City, to join the team at p.w. minor.

Zeliff said he's excited to reach this point of growth for p.w. minor. He sees bright days ahead.

"We've finally turned a corner and we've got a new product out," Zeliff said. "We've got a lot of exciting things happening. I think in these next 12 months will really be the turning stone for us to become a proftable company again and grow more."

Charles Men's Shop and p.w. minor to team up on new downtown shoe store

By Howard B. Owens

It's been years since Downtown Batavia had a nice shoe store and it's a void in the Downtown retail space that Dave Howe has looked at since the day Thomas and Dwyer closed up shop.

He never added a shoe section to his store because of limited space, but two things have come together to make it possible for Howe and partner Don Brown to open up a shoe store just a few doors down from their current East Main Street location.

One, the Chamber of Commerce vacated its space in the City Church (former Mancuso Theater) building, opening up an attractive retail store front with lots of space and great visibility. Two, p.w. minor has two new fashionable shoe lines it wants to sell locally.

"We love the fact that Pete Zeliff and his family and all the family of p.w. minor decided to bring all of the production back from China to here in our own community," Howe said. "It seems like it's the perfect partnership to put together a hometown."

The move is the start of a business expansion for p.w. minor, said Brian Benedict, director of sales. The more than 150-year-old, Batavia-founded and Batavia-based company is going into shoe lines beyond the orthopedic shoes it's long been known for.

The Abrams Boot line is made up of fashionable work boots and the company will also introduce the Batavia Shoe and Boot line.

Bennett said the Downtown retail store will be the company's one-and-only retail location as it seeks new distribution channels for its new line with shoe retailers across the nation.

Howe said two factors will be hallmarks of the new store: quality and American-made products.

And there will be other products besides shoes, such as American-made workwear, belts, gloves and other accessories.

Howe thinks the shoe store will be a good complement to Charles Men's Shop.

The new store won't open until sometime in January, but people looking for shoes for themselves or as Christmas presents can stop into Charles Men's Shop to see the lines of shoes and be fitted for some of the first pairs to come out of the Batavia factory.

Charles Men's Shop wins Downtown Holiday Window Decorating Contest

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The Batavia Business Improvement District (BID) would like to announce the winner of the Downtown Batavia Holiday Window Decorating Contest. It is Charles Men’s Shop, located at 200 E. Main St.

As the winner of the contest, Charles Men’s Shop will receive $200 as the prize for the best window. Second and third place were Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, and Art Ah La Carte, respectively.

The annual contest is a chance for downtown businesses to not only put their best foot forward in decorating their windows, it is also an opportunity for them to encourage people to come downtown and walk around, hence “More Feet Downtown.”

Ten judges, who are senior ladies, were driven by bus, which was provided through the Genesee County Office for the Aging. Anita Dziekan, of Batavia, coordinated the group and provided them with Santa hats and made the experience a very merry morning. The judges walked around the downtown and viewed 16 windows.

Even before the official judging today, Dec. 21, the judges also looked at the windows at night to see the displays lit up. The judges were impressed not only by the display, but also admitted that their window looks wonderful and inviting even at night.

The judges ranked the windows based on certain criteria, such as creativity, attracted a person to want to go inside, or if the content was related to their business, among other criteria. For example, the judges liked that Councilperson Rosemary Christian took the time to decorate one of the Carr’s vacant windows.

“Given the great weather, they were able to walk around a lot more and discuss the windows and what they saw downtown. It was very insightful to hear their comments,” said Laurie Oltramari, BID executive director.

“Walkability is my primary focus for the downtown. If people do not want to walk around, they will not stay or even come. It is a simple answer to a complex set of challenges.”

You can post on the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District Facebook page or contact Laurie Oltramari at (585) 344-0900 or e-mail to share pictures or to ask questions about the contest. Please contact David Howe at Charles Men’s Shop at (585) 343-2086 to coordinate a time to take a picture of their windows!

Photo: Hometown Heroes

By Howard B. Owens

Charles Men's Shop always has interesting and attractive window displays, but the clothing featured are usually the in-season fashions for the sharp-dressed man.  For the past several weeks, the store has been featuring a line of clothing it doesn't even carry -- the uniforms of heroes. One window is dedicated to hometown heroes -- police and fire -- and the other to the U.S. military. Don Brown said he and Dave Howe saw the display as a way to give back to the community by showing appreciation for the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free.

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